Kansas State’s defense is off to a terrific start this season.
With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, here’s a look at three key stats for the Wildcats defense after a quarter of the regular season and what it would mean for Bill Snyder’s team if they can carry that production into the remainder of the 2014 campaign.
Yards per play allowed
Only TCU (3.94) is allowing fewer yards per play against Power 5 opponents than K-State's 4.64. The Wildcats strong per-play average has been built upon a strong run defense. K-State allowed 2.84 yards per carry combined against Auburn and Iowa State.
Moving forward: Baylor and Oklahoma, the Big 12’s favorites, each build their offensive success around the running game. Other Big 12 schools, such as Oklahoma State and West Virginia, aim to feature great balance. If the Wildcats can make Big 12 opponents one-dimensional and force longer third-down conversion attempts, Kansas State should find itself in the middle of the Big 12 title race.
Yards after the catch
Limiting big plays through the air has been a big piece of the puzzle this season. Kansas State is second in the Big 12 in yards after the catch per reception average at 4.85. It’s a terrific early sign for a secondary that lost three starters. Senior Randall Evans has been a rock in the secondary and newcomer Danzel McDaniel was excellent against Auburn. He is emerging as a key part of the Wildcats defense. Granted, Kansas State hasn't faced an offense with the explosive passing games they will see in the Big 12, but it's still a positive sign for a secondary that looked relatively uncertain before the season.
Moving forward: Good tackling and keeping a five-yard reception from turning into a 55-yard touchdown is one of the keys to good defense, and the Big 12 is full of teams that make a living on explosive plays. The Wildcats will need this trend to continue.
Percentage of running plays that result in zero or negative yards
The Big 12 is full of quality defensive lines, and the Wildcats’ defensive front, led by defensive tackle Travis Britz, is definitely among them. Power 5 opponents have gained zero or negative yards on 25.6 percent of their running plays, third in the Big 12. And the Wildcats lead the conference with 21 of their opponents' running plays resulting in zero or negative yards.
Moving forward: As the competition continues to become stronger, Kansas State's defense, which is averaging six tackles per loss per game, will have to continue winning individual battles at the line of scrimmage. This could be where K-State’s overall defensive line depth is tested as the season progresses.