Biggest reason for Kansas State football's 3-0 start? Look to Wildcats' swarming defense

Arne Green
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas State linebacker Daniel Green (22) breaks up a pass intended for Nevada running back Toa Taua (35) during the fourth quarter Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

MANHATTAN — Through three games, Kansas State's defense has shown three different sides — defiance, cockiness and humility.

An unlikely combination, perhaps, but it's hard to argue with the results.

After holding down an explosive Nevada offense Saturday in a 38-17 victory that vaulted them into the Associated Press national rankings at No. 25, the Wildcats are making believers of others, not just themselves.

"There was never a doubt about us being a solid defense," said sophomore cornerback Tee Denson, whose second-quarter interception led to a K-State field goal against Nevada. "We've been believing this since January since winter workouts and we've just finally had the opportunity to show the crowd all the hard work we put in through this offseason.

"It's great to be out there with the guys and bringing the mob back. It's just a fun experience and we can't wait to do it (again) next week."

Yes, the word "mob" has become pervasive again, a nod to K-State's defenses of the not-too-distant past.

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"It's always fun going out and competing," junior middle linebacker Daniel Green said after the Wildcats held Nevada and star quarterback Carson Strong to 331 yards total offense and shut the Wolf Pack out in a pivotal fourth quarter. "As a defense, we call it a 'mob mentality,' so when we have a challenge in front of us we take that personally like we've got to go out there and execute.

"I think the coaches came out with a great game plan and we played it well."

So far, the Wildcats rank 15th nationally in total defense, allowing 280 yards per game. They're also 22nd against the run and 50th against the pass.

Nevada managed just 25 rushing yards on 23 carries.

"We were so mad that they scored 17 points," said senior safety Reggie Stubblefield. "They should have scored nothing.

"That's our mentality, though. We haven't scratched the surface yet."

In the Wildcats' season-opening 24-7 victory over Stanford and a 31-23 come-from-behind win against Southern Illinois, the defense did not give up any explosive plays, a point of emphasis the entire offseason. But 10 of Nevada's points were set up on a 55-yard pass from Carson Strong to Romeo Doubs in the first quarter and a 44-yarder on a trick play that led to a field goal in the third.

More:Kansas State's 'Revenge Tour' keeps rolling in 38-17 victory over Nevada: 'We're sending a message'

Still, the fact that they rebounded from the wide receiver pass in the third period with to limit the damage was critical. They then came up with a pair of even bigger fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.

"What we believe in is the bend-don't-break mentality," Stubblefield said. "In football, like in life, something's going to happen. It's all about how you respond.

"I think that's big because it sends a statement about our defense and a statement about our team. If we get punched, we're going to come back and punch harder. Even if we give up and explosive play, line up, let's go. Next play."

Green agreed.

"We call it adversity, and we knew coming into the game, playing football there's always going to be some type of adversity.

"I feel like we responded pretty well."

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And that feeds into the humility, as K-State prepares for Saturday's 6 p.m. Big 12 opener at No. 22-ranked Oklahoma State.

"We call it 'eating crumbs' right now," Green said. "We haven't done anything yet.

"We're going into the Big 12 and we've really got to elevate our game."

That said, they remain defiant as well.

"We kind of like being the underdog," Green added. "Like (Saturday) I found out after the game — I didn't really know — but they had us losing.

"I kind of like having that chip on our shoulder. That's why we call it Revenge Tour.

A lot of people doubt us, so we've got to show them."