MANHATTAN — If you go by the numbers, Kansas State's defense is excelling.
Through five games, the Wildcats are averaging 267 yards allowed — only 15 teams nationally have allowed less.
Impressive statistics, to be sure, and compared to last year's defense that gave up 50 or more points four times, they signify a tremendous improvement.
But coach Bill Snyder doesn't go by numbers. Not exclusively, anyway. He looks at everything. How his players tackle, how they cover receivers, who they've played and even how they look in practice go into his evaluations.
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So after watching Iowa State, a team not known for having an explosive spread offense, gain 372 yards against the Wildcats last Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., he was not complimentary of his defensive players — even in a 24-23 victory.
"We played soft," he said, referring to missed tackles that helped Iowa State rush for 207 yards. "We need to become a little more physical."
The Wildcats will need to do so quickly, going up against Texas Tech and its high-powered passing game on Saturday in Lubbock.
Through five games, the Red Raiders are averaging 421 passing yards and 478 yards of total offense.
A year ago, K-State could do little against them and lost 58-28 in Manhattan. The Wildcats are hoping for better this time with their 4-2-5 defense, which Snyder believes best handles spread offenses.
But no matter the formation, Snyder thinks a good defensive showing has to start with tackling.
"You still have to tackle whether they are running or throwing it," he said. "Now we're going to have to tackle in open space. That will be a real test."
That means a lot of pressure will fall upon Kansas State's secondary. Not just to stay with Texas Tech's speedy receivers on routes, but to come up and stop them on slant and screen passes.
"We're all eager," sophomore safety Tysyn Hartman said. "What better opportunity for a defensive secondary to go out and play against a team like this that likes to throw the ball so much?"
He thinks having five defensive backs on the field could play to K-State's advantage.
"This is kind of what our defense is designed for," Hartman said. "(Texas Tech) likes to spread us out, get a lot of skill guys on the field. I think we have the skill guys to match."
But even if K-State's secondary is up for the task, the Wildcats still need to worry about putting pressure on Texas Tech's quarterback and stopping its running game.
Tech starter Taylor Potts suffered a concussion in Saturday's win over New Mexico, Texas newspapers reported, though Red Raiders coach Mike Leach will not discuss his status for Saturday's game.
Snyder thinks there is nothing more dangerous than an unhurried Texas Tech quarterback and that the Red Raiders' rushing attack "will keep you honest."
Trouble is, K-State hasn't pressured opposing quarterbacks all season and struggled stopping the run against Iowa State. Snyder said dropping more defenders into coverage than normal is a possibility against Texas Tech.
There are certainly many possibilities out there. Practically anything can happen when Texas Tech is involved, and much can be learned from the experience.
At the least, Snyder should find out if K-State's defense is as good as the numbers indicate.
Why watch when you did it? —Television replays of Emmanuel Lamur's block of Iowa State's extra-point attempt at the end of Saturday's game were plentiful, but Lamur didn't tune in to watch.
If not for a few family members texting to tell him about the publicity, he said he wouldn't have known about it.
"I try to stay away from all that media," Lamur said. "I try to never let that distract me. I just keep focused on my school and work."
Harold practicing — Snyder said injured sophomore defensive end Brandon Harold is performing drills in practice again, but stopped short of saying he could rejoin the defensive line anytime soon.
Snyder said he was considering leaving Harold out for the year and using a redshirt on him, but would not elaborate on the possibility.
Etc. —Senior linebacker Ulla Pomele has recovered from an injury, Snyder said, and should be available against Texas Tech.... The Big 12 announced Kansas State's Oct. 17 home game against Texas A&M is scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff and will be televised by Fox College Sports.