Kansas State coach Chris Klieman finished his opening statement with an honest assessment of his defense.
“Defensively, we have to tackle better,” Klieman said Oct. 5, after his team’s loss to Baylor. “It was an awful display of tackling downfield. We gave them a couple of scores because either we missed the cup and didn’t fit it right or they bounced off us.”
Even without watching the film, Klieman could tell. K-State had major missed tackles on only six of Baylor’s 55 plays, but they led to two touchdowns and set up two others in the Wildcats’ 31-12 home loss.
And they all came within about 30 minutes of game time of one another.
K-State’s first missed tackle came with 7:52 left in the second quarter. Its last meaningful one was with 10:34 to go in the fourth.
Here is a look at what went wrong.
K-State’s first fatal error came on Baylor’s first possession of the second half.
The Bears drove the field and handed off to running back John Lovett from the K-State 13 yard-line. On the snap, senior defensive end Kyle Ball had a good first step and ripped through the tight end, but he couldn’t catch Lovett from the back side.
Junior defensive tackle Drew Wiley had the first real shot on Lovett, but he couldn’t come off his block soon enough. He dove, but Lovett tore through an arm tackle.
Redshirt freshman Wayne Jones came down from his free safety spot, but redshirt freshman linebacker Daniel Green missed his fit. Green saw the hole forming through the A-gap, and tried to climb around the center. That gave Jones less space to make a play. They collided, and Lovett was already into the third level of the defense.
The near-side receiver ran a post route to pull cornerback A.J. Parker away, which left junior Elijah Sullivan alone in pursuit, starting away from the play. Green and Jones’ collision erased all chance of Sullivan getting there.
The other touchdown came early in the fourth quarter and sealed Klieman’s first stretch of back-to-back losses since 2005.
Two plays after Baylor starting quarterback Charlie Brewer was injured, backup Gerry Bohanon ran a simple zone read lead toward the weak sideline. The tight end got a kick-out on Jones, and sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert got sucked in on the zone read to the running back. Bohanon’s speed got around the corner.
That left senior linebacker Da’Quon Patton one-on-one with Bohanon on the edge. Patton took a poor pursuit angle and couldn’t get his helmet in front of Bohanon. Parker couldn’t come off his block. Bohanon strolled in.
Although the touchdown plays are easy to point at in regard to K-State’s tackling woes in the loss, there were several plays that set up the scores.
The most obvious came on Bohanon’s first snap after Brewer’s injury.
On third-and-22, down only 11 points with 11:03 to play, K-State had a chance to force a punt. It would have been Baylor’s third straight punt.
Bohanon threw to receiver R.J. Sneed on the Baylor sideline. Patton and Parker had Sneed cornered, but neither went for a wrap-up tackle. Patton had his helmet behind Sneed and tried to hit him out of bounds. Parker hit him straight-on but not hard enough to bring Sneed down.
Sneed ran seven more yards before finding another Wildcats defender. He still had six yards to go before reaching a first down. Jones had to make a one-on-one tackle, but he went flying past after over-pursuing the play.
That left junior Jahron McPherson to chase Sneed down. K-State needed to hold Baylor off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, and Sneed’s 38-yard reception on third-and-22 effectively guaranteed that wouldn’t happen.
Earlier in the game, K-State had another good chance to avoid allowing points.
On Baylor’s first drive of the second quarter, Wildcats punter Devin Anctil pinned the Bears at their own 2 yard-line, and a penalty backed them up to the 1.
After two plays, Baylor was at its own 11 yard-line and handed off to running back JaMycal Hasty. K-State had only two players, both on the defensive line, on the weak side of the field.
On the snap, Baylor’s center, guard and tackle covered up K-State’s defensive linemen. Green, the weak-side linebacker, was already head-up on the center before the snap. He had to shuffle across to the B-gap. By the time he got there, Hasty put his foot in the ground, and Green over-pursued.
Hasty’s cut and Green’s over-pursuit affected Jones, who was coming down from the strong safety spot. Hasty squeezed through and ran for a 33-yard gain.
Once backed up to its own goal line, Baylor was already to the 45 after three snaps. The Bears went on to score on a six-play, 98-yard drive to earn their first lead of the day, one they wouldn’t give up.
“The 98-yard drive was the big one,” Klieman said after the game. “That was a good job by those guys, obviously. Poor job by us not getting a critical stop — whether it’s three-and-out, five-and-out, we get the ball at midfield. But we didn’t.”