Fiesta Bowl Countdown: K-State’s defense will stick with fundamentals against Oregon

With Oregon only losing one game this season, it’s easy to sit back and say Kansas State should devise a defensive gameplan similar to the one Stanford used during a 17-14 victory in Eugene.

The Cardinal out-gained the Ducks that night and held Oregon well below its average scoring output. Heck, it scored at least 42 points in each of its other 11 games. Stanford must have been onto something, right?

Perhaps, but K-State coaches aren’t thinking that way.

“That would be a game that a lot of people would say, ‘You could feed off of that,’” coach Bill Snyder said. “But all teams are different. Our defense is different from Stanford’s defense and vice-versa. You have to be careful. You can’t say, ‘They did it, so we can do it.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

So what will K-State’s defensive strategy be against Oregon? Snyder runs far too tight a ship to come out and diagram his plans with the media. But after talking to Snyder and defensive coordinator Tom Hayes, it is clear they won’t be using any brand new schemes or formations.

“We are not going to gimmick and do a bunch of crazy things,” Hayes said. “Several of these teams that have gotten in trouble against Oregon gimmicked and got caught out of gaps – woosh, 50, 70 right over the top – misreads, misexecution if you will. Hopefully we stay away from that.”
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Oregon’s offense reminds K-State of Baylor

Kansas State safety Jarard Milo was asked to compare Oregon to a team he faced this season in the Big 12.

It didn’t take him long to answer.

“When we look at their film we kind of see Baylor,” Milo said. “We also see of the other teams we faced. They have a very fast-paced offense. They have good players, too, but when we look at them we see some of the other teams we have gone against.”

Preparing for a juggernaut offense is nothing new for the Wildcats. That’s part of life in the Big 12. Earlier this season, West Virginia looked so unstoppable behind Geno Smith that Bill Snyder joked his gameplan centered on him being kidnapped. Texas Tech throws the ball as well as anyone. Oklahoma State churned out yards despite three quarterbacks this year. And Baylor became an offensive force behind Nick Florence and Lache Seastrunk.

K-State fared well against most of that competition. It made West Virginia look bad, dominated Texas Tech and only needed Collin Klein for 35 minutes against Oklahoma State. But Baylor got the best of the Wildcats.

The Bears wasted no time between plays, rushing to the line and snapping the ball every few seconds (just like Oregon), and took advantage of Ty Zimmerman’s injury. Baylor threw deep, ran effectively and handed the Wildcats their only loss.

That could mean bad news for K-State in the Fiesta Bowl, but Milo thinks the defense learned a lot from that game.

“They have a good offense, but we aren’t going to get nervous about it,” Milo said. “A lot of the things they do are similar to some of the other teams we’ve already seen. With their spread offense, we are used to that.”
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Marcus Mariota makes Oregon’s offense go

At the heart of Oregon’s fast-paced, high-powered offense is Marcus Mariota, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Hawaii.

He is a dual-threat athlete who just finished an impressive season with the Ducks. Mariota threw for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 69.9 percent of his passes. The 6-foot-4, 211-pounder also averaged seven yards per carry while rushing for 690 yards and four touchdowns.

If not for sharing the spotlight with sensational running back Kenjon Barner all year, Mariota might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate this season.

For those reasons, some have compared him to Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

“I feel like if there’s one similarity I feel that it’s we’re both athletic,” Mariota told the Oregonian earlier this week.

Though both players are effective in several different areas and have put up good stats, I’m not sure that’s fair. They both get the job done, sure. But they are different quarterbacks.

Mariota is faster than Klein, and likes to throw quickly into plays and keep Oregon’s offense moving. Klein is a more powerful runner than Mariota, and prefers to let plays develop before throwing downfield or choosing a hole to run through. Mariota reminds me more of West Virginia’s Geno Smith.
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