Kansas State University

Preventing big plays key for Kansas State against Oklahoma

K-State linebacker Elijah Lee celebrates an interception Saturday night against TCU.
K-State linebacker Elijah Lee celebrates an interception Saturday night against TCU. The Wichita Eagle

When TCU scored against Kansas State last week, the Horned Frogs did so with style.

Aaron Green had an 86-yard touchdown run, Trevone Boykin scored on a 69-yard keeper and Josh Doctson caught two long touchdown passes, including a 55-yarder that won the game late.

K-State coach Bill Snyder did the math. TCU gained 242 yards and scored 28 points on those four plays. Take them away, and it would have been a different game. TCU gained 301 yards and scored 17 points on its other 49 plays. Big plays hurt the Wildcats.

“That is probably the biggest hangup that we have right now,” Snyder said earlier this week.

The hangup is familiar. When Snyder first came out of retirement, his teams were susceptible to big gains. Even plays as simple as a running back draw, when defended incorrectly, had the potential to develop into monster gains.

Over time, the infusion of new coaching philosophies and disciplined players helped eliminate big plays.

But a rash of injuries — strong safety Dante Barnett and corners Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel have all missed games — have created a back slide.

“We went through this two or three years ago, and it was all about big plays, just giving up large chunks of yardage via the run or via the long throws,” Snyder said. “We have kind of drifted back that way. We have re-captured that issue. It is easy to say you are without a whole bunch of starters back there, but that isn’t the major, major issue. We just have to be better.”

K-State’s defense will once again be challenged against Oklahoma. The Sooners have big-play potential.

Baker Mayfield is one of the nation’s most accurate passers, receiver Sterling Shepard has a history of big catches against the Wildcats and running back Samaje Perine is difficult to tackle.

“You just have to stay focused on your key the entire play,” linebacker Will Davis said. “Big plays, that is what has been killing us. If we can just limit those. ... That is our focus of the week, limiting big plays. If we can do that we will be successful.”

Players think stopping big plays is an easy fix. Green’s long touchdown run could have been prevented.

“We should have had a player in the B gap, and we didn’t,” Davis said. “It was a play we hadn’t worked on with that particular defense against that particular play. It caught us off guard, but we came to the sideline and knew exactly what went wrong. They tried to run it later in the game and we shut it down. We have it corrected.”

Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett

No. 19 Oklahoma at Kansas State

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

TV: ABC (Chs. 2, 9)

Other story lines

Ending the streak: K-State has lost five straight games to Oklahoma in Manhattan. All five losses came by double digits. The last time the Wildcats beat the Sooners at home was 1996.

Winning with emotion: Many were shocked to see Texas upset Oklahoma last week, but Bill Snyder wasn’t among them. He said the Longhorns played with so much emotion and energy that it was clear they were going to win once the game started. He hopes K-State players respond to the Sooners the same way.

Defending the run: Oklahoma has ignored its running game at times this season while using a new Air Raid attack, but the Sooners have one of the Big 12’s best running backs in Samaje Perine. Bob Stoops tends to use new game plans following losses. Perhaps Oklahoma will show more of a commitment to the run Saturday.