The praise for Texas running back Johnathan Gray was sincere, and it came at a steep price for the Kansas State defense.
“(Gray) is a great back, we knew that going in ... he’s got great vision,” K-State linebacker and Wichita native Jonathan Truman said. “Every time he saw something pop up, he took advantage of it. We’ll prepare for the future, obviously, but things didn’t work out with (Gray) the way we wanted it to.”
After gouging the Wildcats for 141 yards last Saturday in the Longhorns’ 31-21 win, Gray earned his kudos from Truman, along with Big 12 offensive player of the week honors. The key for K-State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) moving forward is making sure that more running backs — and offenses — don’t wind up with similar accolades.
“We need to improve in all dimensions,” K-State defensive lineman Travis Britz said. “Texas came out hard and played great ... what I liked about our defense is that we kept fighting. The unity is there. Looking at fundamentals and how we played, it’s very disappointing knowing that we didn’t execute like we should have.
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“We’re a young team. We’re inexperienced in some situations and now is a good time to focus on what we do well and also what we need to work on and improve on.”
A fix for K-State’s problems might be hard to come by — especially considering the Wildcats are eighth in the league in total defense at 377.8 yards per game and seventh in rushing defense at 185.5 yards. That’s in stark contrast to last year’s Big 12 co-champion defense led by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Arthur Brown. They finished first in the league in scoring defense (22.1 points), second in pass defense (128.0 yards) and third in total defense (376.5 yards).
“It’s the discipline to do what you’re supposed to be doing and do it the right way on every single play,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “Turnovers, penalties, missed assignments are all the byproduct of what we’re talking about. Stay focused so you execute things the right way. We’re not consistent in that respect. (Against Texas) it was a combination of getting knocked off the line of scrimmage and we played higher than we should have. Texas has a very experienced, very fine offensive line.”
The Wildcats were off Saturday and travel to No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 before Saturday’s game at West Virginia) on Oct. 5 before home games against Baylor and West Virginia — that’s also a 28-day stretch between games in Manhattan.
After the loss to the Longhorns, K-State junior defensive end Ryan Mueller gave an impassioned speech that several players mentioned this week.
“It was along the lines of, ‘We’re not losing anymore, get that through your heads,’” K-State linebacker Charmeachealle Moore said. “Nobody likes to lose, everybody was hurt. Everybody was fired up. I was already heated at that point ... that fire we have won’t burn out. We’ll still have in when we play (Oklahoma State). The adversity is going to make our team a whole lot better.”
That’s not to say the Wildcats didn’t do anything good against Texas. With the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter and time winding down, K-State picked up two key stops as the Longhorns were trying to run out the clock and gave the ball back to the offense. Two turnovers sealed the team’s fate, however.
So for now, they’ll just have to watch and wait.
“It’s probably not a bad assessment that it’s a good week for us to have a bye,” Snyder said. “We don’t like to have to sit (on a loss), but by the same token there’s a number of things that are going to take some time that we have to work on.”