FRISCO, Texas — In a conference stereotyped by fast-paced, high-scoring offenses, Kansas State enjoys standing out from other programs with its almost prehistoric style.
Tempo has ruled the Big 12 for several years. Big 12 games averaged 200 plays (including punts and kicks) in 2016, more than any other conference, according to Big 12 officiating coordinator Walt Anderson. So while K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days that he doesn’t care what style the Wildcats play, he admitted that it’s satisfying to force those fast-paced offenses to sit on the sideline.
“There’s nothing better than when you have 10-plus plays and you score,” Ertz said, “and it’s like, that was half the quarter and their offense is irrelevant right now.”
The Wildcats were sixth in the nation in time of possession (33:58) last season. They were 70th in offensive plays per game (72.5).
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder thinks the methodical approach gives them an edge. Five out of 10 teams in the league run variations of the Air Raid. Most Big 12 defenses don’t have to prepare any differently to face those programs. The Wildcats, meanwhile, present a unique challenge with their heavy sets and the way they utilize fullbacks and tight ends.
Much like the triple-option offenses at the service academies, the Wildcats have a scheme that opposing defenses aren’t used to facing, because they rarely see it.
“Well, I think there is an advantage in being able to — from an offensive or defensive standpoint — be different than all of your opponents, because it only gives them one week of preparation,” Snyder said.
Snyder said his offense doesn’t have to slow things down. The Wildcats’ playbook has collected strategies from other teams over the years. He said they could throw more passes and play more snaps.
But the strategy protects Kansas State’s defense as well. It means fewer plays, more rest for defenders, and fewer opportunities for opposing offenses. It’s no coincidence that the Wildcats led the Big 12 in total defense and scoring defense last season.
“I want to be out there,” safety D.J. Reed said. “But for the team, it’s good if our offense is out there and the defense is not playing. That’s the best defense you can play.”
Maybe one day Snyder will bring his offense into the 21st century. But for now, it seems like staying in the past is giving his team an edge.