Lack of Run Game Dooms K-State

| November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Cole Manbeck


The headline of this blog speaks to Kansas State’s inability to run the football in a 41-20 loss at TCU on Saturday. And it’s true. Also true is the fact that K-State didn’t try to establish the run early, making it easy for the Horned Frogs stout defense to pin their ears back and get after Jake Waters in the pocket.


K-State’s offensive line wasn’t great by any means. But the game plan didn’t put the unit in a favorable position. In K-State’s first 16 offensive plays of the game, it handed the ball off to a running back one time (excluding the direct snap out of the Wildcat to Charles Jones that failed). The Wildcats handed the ball off to a running back on six occasions in the entire first half. It’s difficult to keep a defense honest running the ball at that low of a rate.


K-State’s best chance to win at TCU was to dictate pace. The Horned Frogs entered Saturday’s game averaging 82 offensive plays per game.  Against K-State, they ran 82 plays. The Wildcats offense entered Saturday averaging 69 plays per game. They ran 59 against TCU. As a result, the Horned Frogs dominated time of possession, 35:18 to K-State’s 24:42.


The Wildcats, who entered the game in the top-10 nationally in third-down offense, converting nearly 50 percent of their third downs, had seven third-down attempts in the first half. They needed at least 10 yards for a first down on four of those attempts. K-State’s average yardage needed for a first on third downs in the first half was 8.4 yards. K-State was constantly playing behind the chains, and you can’t do that against a physical and well-coached TCU defense. The Wildcats had three first downs in the entire opening half.


K-State’s defense looked gassed in the second half, and it’s easy to see why. Going into Saturday, the Wildcats’ opponents averaged 65 offensive plays per game. TCU’s 82 offensive snaps were the most against K-State’s defense this season. Early in the second quarter, TCU had run 29 plays to K-State’s 12. By halftime, the Horned Frogs had run 46 plays. To put that in perspective, Texas only ran 52 plays in the entire game against the Wildcats two weeks earlier. Add in Oklahoma State, and in K-State’s previous two games, its opponents ran an average of 57 plays per game.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like K-State hasn’t seen fast-paced offenses plenty of times in the past. But the Wildcats offense typically keeps the defense on the sideline for longer periods of time than it did at TCU. K-State had seven offensive possessions in the first half. Six of those drives were three plays or less. When you continue to put your defense back on the field after little rest, it will eventually break down. By the second half, TCU, a team loaded with fast skill-position players, was going against a tired defense.


Which gets us back to the running game. The Wildcats, just like most successful teams, can’t afford to be one-dimensional on offense. In K-State’s last three losses, including the 41-31 loss at home to Oklahoma last season, K-State has run the ball 71 times for a combined total of 98 yards, an average of 1.4 yards per rush. In K-State’s last 15 victories (including the entire 2013 season), it has rushed for 130 yards or more in every one of them.


K-State’s rushing stats in its last three losses


Opponent Rushing Stats
TCU 19 rushes, 34 yards (1.8 per rush)
Auburn 30 rushes, 40 yards (1.3 per rush)
Oklahoma (2013) 22 rushes, 24 yards (1.1 per rush)



Offensive game plan aside, it’s difficult to blame the coaches. Bill Snyder downplayed Jake Waters shoulder injury that he suffered at Oklahoma four weeks ago. Waters also downplayed it. But the numbers show there’s reason for concern.


Waters ran for 371 yards on 79 carries in K-State’s first seven games this season. During that time, he averaged 4.7 yards per rush and 54 yards per game. Since the injury, Waters has run the ball 23 times for 35 yards, an average of 1.5 yards per rush and 11.7 yards per game.


K-State’s running game as a whole has suffered. In the Wildcats’ first seven games, they ran for 1,107 yards on 241 carries, an average of 4.6 yards per rush and 158 yards per game. In its last three games, K-State has run for 311 yards on 95 carries, an average of 3.3 yards per rush and 104 yards per game.


Part of this is because K-State faced Texas and TCU during that time, two of the better defenses in the Big 12. But this is still a cause for concern. K-State’s offense cannot function at an optimal level if the quarterback is unable to be a threat in the running game. The Wildcats’ aren’t explosive enough at the running back position, particularly this season, to not have the threat of the quarterback-run game to help the backs out.


Consider this: Since 1990, K-State has had a running back run for at least 100 yards in at least one game in every season, including the Ron Prince era. Neither Charles Jones or DeMarcus Robinson have come close to the 100-yard mark in a game this season. Jones’ top number is 76 yards against UTEP, while Robinson has topped out at 66 yards at Oklahoma. Jones is averaging a respectable 4.5 yards per rush, but neither of them have even eclipsed the 100-yard mark in all-purpose yards in a game this season. There are three games remaining, plus the bowl game, so one of them could still pass the century mark, but the above stat speaks to two things: K-State needs to become more explosive at the running-back position, and secondly, the Wildcats need Waters to be a threat in the running game.


I’m not certain K-State would have had any more success had it committed to the running game early at TCU. The Wildcats walked into a buzz saw and were physically dominated. This season can still be special if K-State can win out. But in order for the Wildcats to accomplish that task, they must get their running game going.


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