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What Chris Klieman is Saying Ahead of Kansas State’s Game at Missouri

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By Zac Carlson, 247Sports.com

 

Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman speaks to the media ahead of the Wildcats’ game at Missouri on Saturday, September 16, 2023.

Opening Statement…

“Well, good afternoon, everyone. After looking at Saturday’s game throughout the day on Sunday, we beat a really good football team in Troy. I thought we did some really good things on both sides of the ball at times. I thought that we are still making some mental errors, making some alignment errors, making some communication errors. Little things that you may or may not see on film or from the stands that we need to continue to get better at and shore up. I liked what we did at times offensively with being an explosive team and scoring at some critical times. We missed a number of opportunities that we could have gotten points. I credit Troy on that because I thought they had a really good plan. Then, on defense, we had a little lull in the second quarter where we couldn’t get off the field on third down and had some penalties and one explosive play, but I thought the second half of defense really played exceptional football. We’re continuing to learn. We’re continuing to get better. We still have to continue to improve. We are by no means a finished product. We have to continue to get better as these weeks in September go by leading us into our conference play. We’ve got a tremendous challenge this week going on the road, a great environment to play Missouri, and they got a really good football team. So, it’ll be a big challenge for us.”

On the status of Christian Duffie…

I would probably caution that maybe Thursday we would know, he did practice yesterday, which was a great sight to see, today and tomorrow will be the telling days when we go a little bit faster and go a little bit harder with our pads on, he’s gonna get some work and then we’ll have to evaluate and see where he’s at on Thursday.

On how the running game can get better…

Sustaining blocks, I would say. IDing the right people in the scheme and then sustaining blocks. If flipped it and said they did a tremendous job of changing targets by slanting and angling and then they got off blocks and did a really good job. And so, you know, we can say we’ve got to sustain blocks better and communicate better. And that’s something that we’ve got to focus on because there was not as many creases as we’d like.

On Missouri wide receiver Luther Burden…

Huge focus, tremendously talented player, can beat you in a lot of ways and I know that I watched with Coach Klanderman and the staff quite a bit this morning whether it’s just stretching the field vertically because he’s got such great speed and such great ball skills on vertical balls, as well as you know, quick screens, jet sweeps, the return game, everything. I think he’s a really good player.

On if Missouri’s offense still has more to show this season..

I think they’ve got much more that they can do. But I think everybody, I think we do too, both sides of the ball. I think that’s the unique thing about the game this year. I went back and looked at last year’s game, there’s a lot of guys on both sides that have played in this game and veteran guys, veteran guys up front on both sides of the ball, veteran quarterbacks that you don’t just watch last year’s game and the first two games of this year, you got to watch a lot of last year’s games as well to dive in deeper and deeper to see of any advantages you could have or tendencies so to speak. But with the veteran quarterbacks that each team has, as well as really good players on both sides of the line of scrimmage, O line and D line. I don’t think either team has probably scratched the surface of what they can do.

On Missouri’s defense…

Really good. They’re very physical. They don’t stay blocked, they do a great job of block destruction. And then, they’re really fast and they play really good man coverage. They break on the ball well in zone. You know, once again, there’s a lot of guys that have played a lot of football on that side of the ball for them on defense and, you know, it’s gonna be a big challenge for us. We have to find ways, we have to be able to rush the football, you can’t say you’re gonna go in there and throw it 50 times now. You know, can we find ways to rush the football, it’s Tuesday afternoon, and we’re still seeing how we can do those things.

On the way the Missouri game ended last year…

I never even thought about that. Now that you say that, I never even thought about that. Just a weird, weird day in general with the amount of delays that we had and how hard it was raining. I know it was very difficult for us to throw the football. I know it had to be really difficult for them to throw the football, I mean it was it was pouring and so it was just a very, very strange day.

On the defense so far this season…

They’re playing well. I think there’s more on defense. For sure. A couple things I’d say about that is, you know, we were better in block destruction on the perimeter this Saturday than we were the Saturday before with some of the bubbles and some of the perimeter run where we’re able to get off blocks. We still are missing a few too many tackles. And, you know some of the things that we’re showing people, you’re not running into that and if you are running into it, we’re probably going to stop it. We’ve probably got to flip the script a little bit because of, you know, some people, whether or not we’re exposed a little bit in the passing game, haven’t played as well in the passing game. Some of that is because we’re just short in the passing game trying out a number of them in the run. And it’s a great philosophy of that, make people one dimensional. Don’t let them run the football. We’re now facing a group that can do both. I think they’ve got great balance to run the pass. So Coach Klanderman is going to do a great job of disguising looks and changing pictures.

On Khalid Duke…

He’s just hard to block one on one. He really is and we do some different things to try to get him in one on one looks. And he’s just very aggressive, very tenacious, rushing the passer he’s got a lot of different moves. He’s not just a speed rusher, he’s a power rusher. He can be a finesse guy and he’s a guy that just refuses to stay blocked and he does a great job with extension and getting off blocks and then he can really run and you know he made a couple of sacks that were really big time plays in three man rushes where, you know, it’s one on one and he can beat somebody on the edge.

On the long run Troy had on Saturday…

Coach Klanderman would say he wants the call back. But in the same respect. We made the call and we got somebody cut off that was not supposed to get cut off but give their guys credit. I think Troy is really good and then we maybe overplayed it a little bit and so we just didn’t have somebody in that gap because it was a blitz, we got caught in the blitz and they creased us and that back, I thought he was a terrific player and I thought we did a phenomenal job shutting him down for a number of carries and he got two on us. One on a second and long where we played pass and he got us for about 15. And then that big one that he got us on and I was happy VJ Payne ran him down or he might have scored on it but they just got caught in a blitz but that’s gonna happen.

On Missouri’s speed on defense…

They’re really fast. But you combine that with the fact that they’re really physical and dominant upfront and at linebacker, you know, they don’t probably need to always have the extra player in the run fit because they do a really good job of getting off blocks. And then they can lock you up and play man coverage. There’s a lot of veteran guys that have played a lot of football for them. So yeah, they’ve got great team speed, but then throw on the fact that they’re really physical upfront.

On Brendan Mott…

He’s playing well, we talk about Duke. Mott and Nate Matlack are playing really well. And to be able to have those guys and Cody Stufflebean rotate four guys, we’re keeping those guys really fresh, but Mott made a couple of really good plays, on Will Lee’s interception. It’s not an interception if Mott doesn’t split a double team and get a hit on the quarterback. And that doesn’t get noticed a lot other than when you’re watching it with us and our guys are congratulating Will Lee and we’re saying, hey, great play by Mott. And Nate’s doing some really good things. It’s fun to have a healthy Nate.

On Tobi Osunsanmi…

We’re continuing to experiment. So to speak, you know, when he’s on the field, maybe Duke’s not. We’ve got to be smart on that too, he’s an exceptional pass rusher. Now, can we get him on the field? Are we going to have him as a defensive end, can he play linebacker, he’s improving so much as a linebacker right now and that’s our focus is to make sure he can back up Des Purnell but then find different situations. He’s helping us out on special teams. He’s doing a really good job on kickoff, even though he made one play, has not had a couple opportunities but he’s really handling his side of the field. Just because he’s got so much speed but a young player that’s continuing to improve and he’s a guy that we’re talking about of those young guys that needs to continue to make the next step.

On Keagan Johnson…

Last week, he was very limited in practice, and was able to play and play really well. I think it was the spots that we played him in to make sure that we weren’t gonna have him sit and be cool for a long time. So let’s see how it goes Tuesday and Wednesday. He moved around fine yesterday. You know, that was probably the biggest benefit of coming out of Saturday is we didn’t have anybody that played Saturday not practice yesterday. That was big for us to not lose anybody.

On the cornerback play so far this season…

All that stuff’s much better when you’re getting a pass rush, for sure. And we’re doing a really good job whether we’re rushing 3, 4, 5 or 6 of putting pressure on the quarterback. Jacob Parrish has been phenomenal. He’s been dynamite and whether he’s playing in zone, playing in man, getting his hands on a lot of balls, being really disruptive at the line of scrimmage, been really pleased with him. Will Lee, playing his second game I thought really got into a comfort zone of understanding what we’re doing defensively. I really was happy with the way Will played the run. Made a couple tackles for loss. Did a great job in block destruction. Played really good man coverage on their one touchdown. I don’t know who was going to defend that one. That was a great throw and catch. Keenan Garber came in and is also playing well. And you know, those three guys are kind of taking most of the reps right now. We’re still got a couple guys that we’re pushing that we need to continue to improve to give those guys a little bit of a break.

On the safeties…

Marques Sigle, having him back was really good. He’s a good player and made a lot of impact plays and even when he doesn’t show up, it’s probably a good thing because he’s playing his responsibility. And that side of the field is pretty shut down, continuing to work with VJ, playing a new position. And he’s getting more and more comfortable and making more and more plays and getting more active. Kobe is still working his way back from injury and I think we haven’t seen Kobe’s best but I know we’re going to because he just has not played football for a number of months coming off of his injury and then we’re still a work in progress in the backups at all those spots.

On Des Purnell…

He plays every play as hard as you can play and he is so smart, so crafty and he’s physical. I thought they made a great call on the fourth and one where the quarterback acted like he didn’t know the ball was going to be snapped. And we were on our heels, exception of really two guys that played it really well. Uso and Des just came in and flew down the line of scrimmage made a big hit and kept them from a first down. But Des is gaining more and more confidence as a full time starter and a full time player that we saw glimpses of last year and then have seen him really take off this fall camp and then first part of the season.

On Treshaun Ward…

I think he’s a great slashing running back. We haven’t probably used him in the pass game like I know we will, in time, gained a lot of yards, grinding some things out, physical runner, I was so impressed with our drive after Jadon makes the unbelievable catch. To get us out of the hole of us just pounding the football and taking a five or six minute drive where we were able to rush for four, rush for five, rush for three and keep the keep the drive alive by running the football and Treshaun was a big part of that.

On if he thought about playing a backup quarterback against Troy late in the game…

Not at that time. You know, based on some of the things that coach Klein and I have discussed. We wanted to stay with Will, part of it was there’s some formations and some calls that we want. I never thought the game was in hand either. You know it was 28-13 in the fourth quarter and they kick a field goal to cut it to a two score game and at that time. I think some people were comfortable but as a head coach you never are because it’s down to a two score game. And if we don’t make the big throw to Jadon and have to punt the football, it could be a one score game so even though the score was what it was, the game didn’t go like that. And so other than the last series on defense, where Tobi had the strip sack, we kept most of the older starters in.

On Missouri quarterback Brady Cook…

Last year, you can throw that game out because that’s not him. I think he’s a terrific quarterback. I don’t know him at all, but just watching him play. He’s a tremendous competitor. I think he’s a tough kid. I think he throws the ball exceptionally well. He’s a very underrated runner. And I say that because I don’t know him as what they had him as a recruit and all that stuff that. That kid is are very talented runner that worries us running the football, but I think he throws the ball really well. I remember the game last year and Adrian saying, you know, Coach, we’re calling these pass plays and it’s hard to grip that ball, it was waterlogged. So I know that Brady couldn’t grip the ball any better than Adrian could. So I take that game out of it and granted we made some good plays. But some of that, a lot of that had to do with the weather and so we have taken a lot of the plays of that game but not the results of the plays. Because I think there’s some of the things that we are susceptible to that they’ll probably come back to.

On cornerback Jacob Parrish’s growth…

We thought he was a phenomenal recruit coming out of high school that just needed an opportunity. And we gave him the opportunity because we saw him at camp and he dominated our camp when he was here, and I thought he did a tremendous job as a freshman saying, okay, I know I’m not quite where Ekow and Julius are. I’m gonna keep learning and then take whatever reps I can get and make the most of those and as the season went on, he got more comfortable of our knowing our defense, more comfortable of knowing what offenses do and then I saw him take off in the spring, saw him take off during the fall, put on some muscle mass, put on some weight. I think the sky’s the limit for him because I think he is one of the special corners in the conference.

On Missouri’s wide receivers…

That’s gonna be the challenge. We hae Keagan and Phil and RJ that are you would say smaller guys. I don’t consider Luther Burden to be small, he’s 210 pounds or something and he’s six foot and he’s a tremendous runner with the ball in his hands but he is not six foot five like some of the guys that we’ve gone against, but we need to know where he’s at at all times because he’s one of the premier players in the country. Wide receiver, return, catching the jet sweeps, whatever. He’s one of the premier players in college football.

On K-State staying with Nike…

Excited to continue the partnership. You know, we’ve been in Nike ever since I’ve been here. And I know that some other conversations were had probably more with Gene and our administration than with myself. But I’m excited. I know our kids are excited and to continue the partnership and the guys liked the products and you know, I don’t think we’re going to change to lavender or black uniforms tomorrow. But now we at least can start having some conversations, you know, but those still take time.

On the atmosphere at Missouri…

I think it’s gonna be a great environment for college football. I think this is a great game, a regional nonconference game and rivalry. It’s going to be a great test for our guys. Because we’re going to go into these types of environments as we get into the Big 12. And it’s a great measuring stick. I don’t know how the game is going to go, it’s gonna be a great opportunity for our guys to measure themselves against a tremendous football team on the road, hostile environment, using all of our different snap counts. Things that we’re gonna have to practice this week. I think there’ll be some purple there. You guys would know better than I would as far as some of the fans but our fans will find some tickets. I know they will. We’ve got great a fan base, but it’s a great opportunity for our guys. Because for us to be successful in our league we have to be successful on the road. So it’s a great test.

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