There’s no sugar-coating the way Kansas State’s receivers performed during last week’s 26-13 loss at Oklahoma State.
They weren’t good.
Without top playmaker Malik Knowles in the lineup, the Cowboys focused on stopping K-State’s running attack and invited the Wildcats to beat them by throwing against man-to-man coverage on the perimeter. They couldn’t take advantage.
Skylar Thompson tried to hit his receivers for big gains but often ended up scrambling out of the pocket when he couldn’t find anyone open. He completed 11 of 23 passes for 118 yards, but his best biggest throws went to tight ends and running backs. He only connected with his receivers six times for 38 yards.
“When you go back and look at the film it kind of hurts, for me especially,” senior K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said after catching three passes for 23 yards. “It is sickening to watch, because I didn’t do a good job winning against that man-to-man coverage.”
Odds are good Baylor will try to copy Oklahoma State’s defensive strategy and force the Wildcats to beat them through the air on Saturday. That won’t be easy without Knowles, who is expected to remain sidelined this week while he recovers from a foot injury.
Four of K-State’s top six healthy receivers are former walk-ons (Phillip Brooks, Landry Weber, Wykeen Gill and Schoen) that lack deep-threat potential, and the other two (Chabastin Taylor and Joshua Youngblood) have combined for nine career catches in their college careers.
The unit appears low on both talent and experience at the moment. K-State coach Chris Klieman has said he may look at using new players at receiver in hopes of changing that.
But that can only help so much. When asked what could be done to improve K-State’s passing attack, Thompson needed several seconds to gather his thoughts and then stumbled through his answer. At one point, he said “all those guys have not really played before” and “you have to take that into consideration.”
“I would just say on my part, just trusting my guys,” Thompson said. “There are a lot of different ways to go about it, but, at the end of the day, we have got to get open and I have got to make the right reads and get them the ball. I feel like there were a lot of things up and down going wrong (at Oklahoma State), trouble getting separation, I was getting off a read too quick or we were missing a block up front and getting pressured. We couldn’t get it clicking on on all cylinders.”
Weber, a sophomore from Lenexa, is confident K-State’s receivers will bounce back.
The entire unit stayed late after practice on Monday and had a receivers-only meeting to talk about what they can do better the next time they see man-to-man coverage.
“You just have to be great at the line with your feet and your hands, be tight around them and get his hands off of you,” Weber said. “We believe we can beat it. We aren’t worried about that. We just have to execute it better. We believe in each other 100 percent. That’s no problem. If we believe in each other we will be fine.”
Klieman will help this week in practice by asking K-State defenders to press receivers in man coverage.
The Wildcats saw lots of zone coverage in their first three games, and they rarely went against cornerbacks as aggressive and physical as the ones they faced at Oklahoma State.
They hope they can use that as a learning experience and respond better the next time they play against man coverage.
“It all goes back to working on fundamental type things and beating man coverage and beating more of that press man that we probably weren’t used to seeing,” Schoen said. “Our guys play more of an inch technique. That is what we are more used to seeing. But we knew going into the game they were going to play us with that press man and try to clamp us down at the line. It’s one thing to say, ‘Hey, we are going to see this,’ and another to be prepared to beat it and actually go and beat it.”