Kansas State University

Zach Smith, Baylor provide first true test for K-State secondary

K-State football players break down Baylor

K-State football players break down Baylor.
Up Next
K-State football players break down Baylor.

Bill Snyder doesn’t know what to think of Kansas State’s secondary. Not yet, anyway.

The Wildcats appear to be defending passes better than they did a year ago, when they allowed 272.7 yards through the air each week, but they have only played three games.

“The jury is still out,” Snyder said Tuesday.

Perhaps a matchup with Baylor will provide clarity.

The Wildcats will find out on Saturday just how good, or bad, they are against the pass when the Bears visit Snyder Family Stadium. Baylor quarterback Zach Smith is fresh off a scintillating effort against No. 3 Oklahoma in which he threw for 463 yards and four touchdowns in a near upset.

“I think it is a significant barometer,” Snyder said. “Their track record throwing the ball would certainly indicate that. I don’t think we are where we need to be by any stretch of the imagination. The numbers show up decent right now. We probably lead the conference in pass defense, somewhere in the upper echelon for sure, but we haven’t been in the conference with teams that do put the ball in the air.”

K-State’s secondary is off to an encouraging start, allowing 153.7 passing yards, but it’s hard to say how those statistics will hold up against Big 12 competition.

K-State players feel worse about Vanderbilt loss after watching Alabama beat Vandy 59-0.

It’s fair to say K-State defensive backs D.J. Reed, Duke Shelley, Cre Moore, Kendall Adams and Denzel Goolsby haven’t been tested yet.

In their first two games, the Wildcats played inferior opponents that mostly kept the ball on the ground. In their third game, the Wildcats held Vanderbilt to 14 points, but allowed Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur to complete 14 of 23 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown.

K-State hasn’t seen an up-tempo offense that uses spread formations.

Big 12 teams offer completely different, high-octane challenges. Baylor is first up.

“It is going to be a test,” K-State linebacker Jayd Kirby said. “I don’t think we have seen 50 pass plays in a game yet. It is going to be something new. We are going to have to prepare for it and defend it well.”

Baylor is the only winless team in the Big 12, but it has the look of an improving team, particularly on offense. After slogging through losses to Liberty and Texas-San Antonio with Anu Solomon at quarterback, the Bears switched to Smith and showed instant progress against Duke and Oklahoma.

Smith has done an excellent job finding receivers Denzel Mims and Chris Platt (out for the season with a knee injury) in space, connecting with them for six touchdowns in two games. The majority went for big yardage.

Baylor receivers have caught 11 touchdowns for an average of 47.6 yards.

“They are always a deep threat for you throwing the ball down the field,” Snyder said. “He does that pretty well. He has a nice touch on his deep ball. Probably 80 percent of their touchdowns this year have come on extended pass plays … You have got to be accurate when you throw those. They wouldn’t be doing that if they weren’t confident that he could.”

That was an area of weakness for K-State defensive backs last season, when the Wildcats ranked ninth in the Big 12 and 114th nationally against the pass. Too often, receivers beat them deep and caught passes for huge gains.

K-State defeated Baylor 42-21 last season in Waco, Texas, but Smith threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

Is that still an issue?

It hasn’t been in K-State’s first three games, but Baylor presents a new challenge.

“It definitely is time for that to change,” K-State linebacker Elijah Sullivan said. “We have to defend the pass a little better than we have in the past.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

  Comments