Opposing quarterbacks have torched Kansas State football. Here's how the Wildcats can put an end to that.

Arne Green
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas State defensive back Russ Yeast (2) breaks up a pass intended for Iowa State's Tarique Milton (1) during last Saturday's game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.

MANHATTAN — Kansas State has experienced its share of defensive issues on the way to a 0-3 start in the Big 12.

Notably, running backs Jaylen Warren of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma's Kennedy Brooks were a handful, while Iowa State All-American Breece Hall gashed the Wildcats for 197 yards.

But an equally disturbing trend has developed against the pass, where in back-to-back games, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler and Iowa State's Brock Purdy both were 22 of 25, a completion rate of 88%. The Wildcats rank 102nd nationally in pass defense.

Those numbers certainly haven't escaped the attention of K-State's secondary.

"We definitely take that very personal," cornerback Julius Brents said. "(There are) some very competitive guys in our back end, so when we have things like that happen, it puts a fire in us, and the team just wants to get better.

"We're doing everything in our power to make sure things like that don't continue to happen."

They Wildcats (3-3 overall, 0-3 Big 12) face another defensive challenge Saturday, with an 11 a.m. game against Texas Tech (5-2, 2-2). Henry Colombi, who took over at quarterback for the Red Raiders when starter Tyler Shough broke his collarbone against Texas on Sept. 25, has had two 300-yard passing games since then.

While Colombi has yet to approach the kind of accuracy Rattler and Purdy demonstrated, he is no slouch at 65.8%.

More:'I'm asking for your help': Kansas State coach Chris Klieman implores media to spread positive message

While it is easy to point to K-State's secondary as the culprit in the struggles against the pass, there are other factors at play. The Wildcats lost pass-rush specialist Khalid Duke for the season and were without senior end Bronson Massie for much of the past two games.

Even bringing extra pressure, the pass rush was not nearly as effective out of the three-man front. They sacked Rattler once and never did get to Purdy last week.

"It's a little bit of both," K-State coach Chris Klieman said of the Wildcats' struggles, especially in third-down situations. "When we want to pressure, we're bringing people and people are beating us in man coverage.

"Then, on the zone side of it, we aren't getting home with a three-man or sometimes a four-man rush, which gives a kid more time to throw or scramble out of the pocket and guys are sliding open."

Safety Russ Yeast, who had the Wildcats' lone pass breakup against Iowa State, refused to blame a diminished pass rush.

"As a DB, our mindset should always be not to let the receivers catch the ball," he said. "It doesn't matter what anybody else does on the field.

"It's a total effort. It's everybody. It's (one person's) fault. Everybody's just got to be better. DBs, we just have to be better at playing the ball."

More:Kansas State football determined to right the ship after three straight Big 12 losses

Rattler's and Purdy's passing numbers certainly has the Wildcats' attention, Yeast added.

"We're not getting a lot of incompletions and that's something we've got to change and tighten the coverage up," he said. "We've got to be better when we're in coverage and competing for balls."

Up front, Felix Anudike-Uzomah has been solid at one end position, while Spencer Trussell, Nate Matlack and Cartez Crook-Jones have taken on expanded roles off the bench.

"Those guys, I know they're up there working their tails off every day, every rep," Brents said. "They don't take any rep off, so I know things eventually going to start to click and move in the right direction for them.

"I know they're working hard like we all are, so I know it will eventually click for them and we'll get on the right track."

More:What channel is the Kansas State vs. Texas Tech football game on? How to watch, stream

The challenge for the coaching staff, Klieman said, is to get the most possible out of the players available.

"We've got to get back to some of our basics. We've probably tried to do too much," he said. "We've talked about that on defense, trying to do too much.

"We need to continue to simplify so that we are playing faster, more attacking, whether that is bringing more pressure. If we simplify the plan, simplify the calls, maybe our kids play a little bit faster. So, we got to take ownership of that as a coaching staff.”

It's not all on his players, Klieman added.

"For starters, give those (quarterbacks) credit," he said. "We went against some good quarterbacks, good receivers, good tight ends, but we're not maybe connecting in man coverage as well.

"The key for us is to be able to win some one-on-one matchups and to be able to get our hands on some balls. That's the thing that I know, those kids are frustrated, but there's no reason to beat the kid down when you know they're doing all they can. We've just got to continue to work on the techniques.”