Kansas State is one of the best defenses in the country. They had national title hopes and nobody really expected Baylor to run away with things and dominate this unit. So what happened here?
Prior to playing Baylor KSU was:
-Ranked #34 in the nation in total defense despite facing 4 top 13 offenses,
-14th in scoring defense
-#9 against the run by allowing an average of 98.9 yards per game
This is a defense that was able to hold Big 12 rushing leader Joseph Randle under 3 yards per carry yet Baylor was able to completely dismantle them. What did Baylor do that left KSU so vulnerable?
The question makes sense as many other offenses including run heavy Iowa State, TCU, and Oklahoma State had not performed well at all against Snyder's defense this season and all have good personnel for it.
To begin answering the question we need to understand what KSU wants to do on defense and what have they been able to do with it. KSU wanted to keep 2 safeties deep to prevent big passing plays and force opponents to execute repeatedly and earn their points.
Due to this you would expect an offense to have numbers in the box to block KSU however they tend to cheat in their linebackers against spread formations to gain an advantage. They were able to slide their linebackers inside against OSU to limit Justin Randle in their recent matchup and were planning on doing the same to us.
In the first play I will break down Baylor lines up with four wideouts and one running back and KSU has their typical nickel personnel in. You have their corners lined up on the 3 outermost wide receivers and their safeties 10 yards deep and well outside of our offensive tackles.
Circled in red you can see this leaves the following in the box to decide whether a run would be successful:
- Linebacker Jarrell Childs
- KSU's four defensive linemen
-Baylor's five offensive linemen
With only 5 blockers and 5 defenders it seems ideal for Baylor to run against them here until you notice Arthur Brown's alignment. He isn't "in the box" but he's close enough to cause problems.
I have circled middle linebacker Arthur Brown in yellow and he is trying to split the distance between inside slot receiver Tevin Reese (circled in yellow) and the offensive tackle. KSU does this so that they can use Brown's outstanding mobility to essentially be two places at once if he has a chance to read his keys.
- When it's a run he can read his keys and fill his gap easily.
- When the opponent passes he can help the deep safety by denying the underneath throw to the slot receiver
In the second picture you can see how Baylor began to take advantage of KSU's tactics.
-Trying to attack the run play Arthur Brown (circled in red) moves towards the line.
- Inside Slot Tevin Reese stops and presents an easy target to Nick Florence
- Nick keeps his eyes on Brown and decides whether or not to hand the ball off. Seeing Brown creeping inside he decides to pull the ball and make Brown pay for leaving Reese uncovered. In the picture the ball is already on it's way and Brown and the deep safety are in no position to stop Reese.
Baylor picked up an average of over 6 yards every time they completed this simple throw and it eventually had an effect on Kansas State's defense. The next play I will show you is an example of this. It is later in the game and it's pretty much the same formations as before.
- Four wide receivers with three to one side
- One running back
- Five defenders in the box with Brown splitting the distance between Reese and the offensive tackle
The play sets up the exact same only this time we see Brown drift towards Tevin Reese after the snap and Nick sees it. In the following picture you can see:
- Brown (circled in red) bending his knees to redirect towards the run after trying to slide out to Tevin Reese
- Baylor's offensive line in position to block all 5 of the defenders in the box
- The tailback has already taken the handoff
Due to Baylor's bubble read they now have taken Arthur Brown completely out of the play. Instead of being in position to fill his gap and stuff the running back at the line he is now unable to even contact him until he can tackle him after a 10 yard gain.
It was this way all night for Baylor and Kansas State. When KSU could not outnumber Baylor at the point of attack they could not stop Baylor. On runs where KSU did not have a +1 advantage in the first half Baylor averaged almost seven yards per carry.
When KSU was able to get an extra defender against the run they held Baylor under three yards per carry but those opportunities were few and far between and Art Briles schemed it that way.
Now somebody is going to ask why Kansas State did not adjust and that is a fair question. The simple answer is that they did try to bring more people against the run and possibly blitz but they didn't like what happened when they did.
KSU had struggled even in their conservative coverages to stop us and more risky coverage is not what they want. To their credit they tried it and promptly saw Terrance Williams burn a very good corner in Nigel Malone for a 22 yard touchdown.
Baylor's game against KSU was simply a game where the receivers were better than the cover guys and the defensive line was not able to match up against the offensive line. With a good scheme and smart quarterback that usually ends poorly for the defense.