By Mark Janssen
To Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, playing proper defense is no more complicated than this: "It's seeing what you're supposed to see, being where you're supposed to be, and doing what you're supposed to do."
In the last two games those three "supposed to's" have been lacking as Colorado touched the Wildcat defense for 476 yards and Missouri hit K-State for 440 yards. And before that in Big 12 losses, O-State ran up 511 yards, Baylor 683 and Nebraska 587.
"We're going through a pattern of growth, and we're struggling with it, quite obviously," said Snyder.
Colorado entered the game with the 10th-best total offense in the league at 368 yards per game, but gained 476 yards with five plays of at least 31 yards, and three more of at least 23 yards.
"I think we have not been able to mature enough to develop the consistent self-discipline, focus or concentration that is necessary to play snap after snap after snap. That is where we get into a little bit of a pickle."
The pickle comes with the fact that K-State's rushing defense of allowing 223 yards per game ranks 117th in the nation and the total defense of 440 yards per game ranks No. 107.
"We're struggling," admitted safety Tysyn Hartman. "We struggled against Missouri, and we struggled last week."
"It's all about execution," he continued. "It seems like every time we have a missed assignment, or don't read a key, that's where the ball is going. We're just not winning at the point of attack right now. We're not fitting gaps and making plays when they're there. The bottom line is that we're not executing."
While K-State has a plus-.27 turnover margin, which ranks in the middle of the Big 12, what has been lacking are arrests behind the line of scrimmage. K-State ranks 10th in the league in quarterback sacks at 1.45 per game, and its 4.27 tackles for loss per game ranks 12th in the league.
David Garrett, a 5-foot-8, 176-pound defensive back, has emerged as K-State's defensive leader with 82 tackles, plus two fumbles recovered. His 13 tackles for a loss are six more than any other Wildcat, and his three sacks are second-high on the team, as are his nine passes broken up.
"I appreciate David in so many ways. He plays well, he is an aggressive player, and while basically a quiet young person, he has stepped up and tried to promote some emotion and sprit not just to our defense, but to our entire team," said Snyder of Garrett, who had 16 tackles Saturday against the Buffs. "I appreciate that because that is not his nature, but he is putting himself out there and making that kind of sacrifice for his teammates."
Ironically, two other Wildcats playing well are true freshmen in safety Ty Zimmerman and linebacker Tre Walker.
Zimmerman is fourth on the team with 62 tackles, with three tackles for losses, two interceptions, two passes broken up and one fumble recovery, while Walker, who has started only the last two games for the injured Alex Hrebec, has 41 tackles with two for negative yardage, one QB sack and one interception.
Now entering the final Saturday of the regular season against North Texas in Denton, Walker says, "We feel backed in the corner, but we're going to fight until we can't fight any more. There's not a sign of anybody giving up."