The Red Raiders lost to the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday in what turned out to be a pretty bizarre game. Tech went to the locker rooms down 3, allowed only 13 points in the second half, and still lost. The offense didn’t carry the load like usual, but the defense did some things that deserve attention.
Defensive Line: B
Pipkins and Fehoko played well in the middle and the edge guys made several nice plays as well. This unit was especially impressive inside their own 10-yard line, where they came up huge twice by limiting the Wildcats to field goals. Although Kansas State averaged about 6 yards per carry, this group played well given the matchup.
Since spreading an extra 100 pounds out across the D-line isn’t an option right now, this group will continue to struggle against big, physical lines. Holding teams to field goals in the red zone is huge, though, and this group deserves credit for that. The pass rush wasn’t great, but Kansas State usually got the ball out quickly anyways, so there weren’t a ton of chances to get pressure.
This grade is more or less reflective of how frustrating it was to see this group left out to dry. Kansas State had essentially no passing game or deep threats yet continually spread the field and then ran around in the extra space they created. Forcing Tech to swap a linebacker out for a defensive back and then running the ball is going to be a strategy that every team uses this season.
Still, this crew as a whole seemed to hesitate more than usual and it cost them on the ground. Quarterback Jesse Ertz wasn’t a burner or a threat to throw deep, but he was athletic enough to take advantage of poor positioning and awareness in several situations. Wildcat runners were patient in letting holes develop and the linebackers weren’t always aggressive enough in filling those holes.
Defensive Backs: B
Kansas State was never going to torch Tech through the air, but fans on both sides probably expected more than 104 passing yards. Most passes were thrown short and the DBs mostly did a good job of tackling. Justis Nelson made a tremendous play in the end zone to save 4 points and nobody gave up a play of 20+ yards.
No Kansas State runners were fast enough to really get the edge and turn up field, so most of their success running toward the outside was a result of great blocking. This was an area that the secondary could have played better, but overall they were solid.
Overall Grade: B-
The defense only gave up 30 points and didn’t get tons of help from the offense or special teams in this one. Still, compared to the last road game, this was a massive improvement. Opening the second half by forcing three straight punts was very impressive and this group should be proud of their effort. I doubt Kansas or Kansas State finish in the top half of the conference, but this unit has shown real fight in two straight games. And fight is an improvement we should gladly accept.