MANHATTAN — Following its massive 45-40 road win over then-No. 10 Oklahoma State Nov. 18, the K-State football team (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) is looking to finish the regular season strong as it hosts Iowa State (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) Saturday afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.
Senior linebacker Jayd Kirby talked about how important K-State’s win over Oklahoma State was in boosting the team’s confidence this week.
“It was a huge win. We were kind of down in a little hole (before the Oklahoma State game). People’s confidence maybe wasn’t as high as it was. We knew we needed a big win to get everyone back up and going. That’s what we did. We’re sitting good right now,” Kirby said.
K-State’s win Nov. 18 got the team to six wins on the season, which qualifies the Wildcats for postseason play. With that hurdle cleared, the K-State will try to keep momentum going in its regular season finale against Iowa State. The Cyclones will come into Manhattan with a much-improved team. Since earning six wins in the 2012 season, Iowa State has only won three games in three of the past four years. The team only won two games in the 2014 season. The current Iowa State team boasts two of the best wins in the Big 12 — a Oct. 7 road win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma by a final score of 38-31, and a Oct. 28 home win over then-No. 4 TCU by a final score of 14-7. During his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Vanier Family Football Complex in Manhattan, K-State head coach Bill Snyder talked about what has led to Iowa State’s improvement this season.
“I think it’s been growth over a period of time. I thought they were a very fine football team last year. I thought they were a very fine football team the year before that. I think (Iowa State’s coaching staff) has done a wonderful job of coaching them. I think they have the right approach to the development of their program. It’s not something that just happened. It’s been in development for a while. They’re doing it the right way,” Snyder said.
On offense, Iowa State is scoring an average of 30.9 points per game. The team is averaging 390.3 yards of total offense per game, which includes 120.3 rushing yards per game, and 270 passing yards per game. The Cyclones have two of the best offensive players in the Big 12. Senior wide receiver Allen Lazard has recorded 704 receiving yards on 55 catches, and has caught nine touchdowns. Through his career, Lazard has recorded 3,123 receiving yards on 225 catches, and has caught 25 career touchdown passes. Snyder talked about what makes Lazard tough to defend.
“(Defending Lazard) is tough for everybody. He’s 6-foot-5 and is a good athlete who can jump. There aren’t many people that play on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary that can (outjump) him. If the ball is well-thrown and is put up in exactly the right spot, then it’s a real challenge,” Snyder said.
Sophomore safety Denzel Goolsby talked about what makes Lazard tough to defend.
“I think it’s his size and his speed. A lot of big guys can’t necessarily move around like he does. It’s not just him running good routes. He has the speed and size to go with it. They like (throwing) jump balls to him, so we’re going to have to fight for it,” Goolsby said.
Another big weapon that will test K-State’s defense is Iowa State sophomore running back David Montgomery. Montgomery has rushed for 1,080 yards on 230 attempts and has scored 11 touchdowns. Montgomery is especially good a making defenders miss tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery has forced 101 missed tackles this season. That number is more than Florida State’s Dalvin Cook (89 in 2016), LSU’s Leonard Fournette (88 in 2015) and Toledo’s Kareem Hunt (88 in 2016). Kirby talked about what makes Montgomery tough to bring down.
“Looking at the film, he’s got this little thing where if you go to hit him, he has a quick spin. That gets him off a lot of tackles. He has enough shiftiness to make you miss. If you try to arm-tackle him, it’s not going to work. He runs hard and gets his pads low. It’s going to be big to wrap up and hang on for other guys to help bring him down,” Kirby said.
Senior linebacker Trent Tanking talked about what makes Montgomery hard to defend.
“He won’t go down. I compare him to (K-State junior cornerback) D.J. (Reed). He’s a competitive guy. He’ll try any way he can to stay on his feet, whether that’s putting a hand on the ground or spinning out of tackles. He’ll do it. He’s an incredibly competitive guy,” Tanking said.
Defensively, Iowa State allows an average of 21 points per game, which ranks second in the Big 12. The Cyclones also allow an average of 377.9 total yards of offense per game, which ranks third in the Big 12. Snyder gave his impressions of Iowa State’s defense.
“They’ve always been (tough defensively). They’ve just gotten better and better at it. They play as hard as anybody. They’re sound in what they do and play responsibly. Everybody is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. They execute what they do extremely well. They’re a physical football team. They run well across the defense. Their coverage schemes are a little different from what we’ve seen from any team. They’re sound in what they do and play aggressively hard,” Snyder said.
K-State and Iowa State kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.