Kansas State center Adam Holtorf was prepared for the question, but that didn’t make it easy to answer.
How do you respond to Bill Snyder’s assertion that K-State’s offensive line is playing “soft” this season?
“That is tough to take,” Holtorf said, shaking his head in disappointment. “But I don’t think that is unearned. We are definitely struggling and not necessarily living up to the expectations that were placed on us, so that is tough to take.
“But, at the same time, I don’t think it is unwarranted. A lot of guys understand that and are working to correct it. We know we need to get more movement at the line of scrimmage. No offensive line wants to be known as (soft).”
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Fair or not, K-State’s offensive line has been a major disappointment. With All-America candidate Dalton Risner leading five returning starters up front at right tackle, most expected the Wildcats to own the line of scrimmage this season.
Instead, they are struggling to sustain blocks and failing to generate offense. K-State currently ranks 58th nationally in rushing yards (184.5 per game), 118th in passing yards (126 per game) and 115th in scoring (18.5 points per game).
Most alarming of all: It hasn’t rushed for a single touchdown.
“There is not one area of the offensive game that we are doing well,” Risner said. “So we have to work on every aspect of the offensive game. That starts with up front being more physical, moving guys off the line of scrimmage.”
The Wildcats looked anything but dominant up front against South Dakota. Then Mississippi State’s defensive line outclassed them, coming up with four sacks and seven hurries while holding K-State to 213 yards.
“We aren’t playing physical enough,” Snyder said. “We have been a little soft in terms of our pass protection, which has maybe softened us up some against the run.”
It’s hard to assess exactly where K-State is faltering on the offensive line. But a CBS Sports analysis suggested Risner held his own against Mississippi State star defensive Montez Sweat. K-State players suggested they didn’t play as poorly as it seemed at the time, blaming most of their errors on communication gaffes and a handful of missed blocks.
They said they were also surprised by some stunts and blitzes from Mississippi State, which led to most of the QB hurries.
Holtorf and Risner said they felt better about the game after watching replays.
“There were so many plays that were one block away from busting it for 25 yards and being a momentum changer,” Risner said. “We’re on the 30-yard line and we get tackled behind the line. But if we bust that run we are the 5 ... There is one guy doing something wrong, and that one guy making that mistake — including me, I had mistakes — makes the play go wrong. We have to clean that up and have all 11 of us doing our job.”
Risner and company seem willing to do whatever it takes to improve.
K-State’s offensive line wants to be known as one of the best blocking units in the Big 12, not “soft.”
“It is a little unexpected that we are having some of these issues, but at the same time I don’t think that has derailed any of our aspirations,” Holtorf said. “We still know we have the opportunity to be something special, and we are working to achieve that still.”