Commentary

Wildcats defense puts smackdown on McCoy, Longhorns

Updated: September 30, 2007, 1:32 AM ET
By Tim Griffin | Special to ESPN.com

AUSTIN, Texas -- It was a long time coming, but Kansas State linebacker Ian Campbell finally believes his defense is playing like some of the other great ones in Wildcats history.

It's why Campbell made a quick hand gesture to several Wildcats fans on his way out of Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday. It was a signal to them that the "The Lynch Mob" had returned during his team's stunning 41-21 victory over Texas.

"I wasn't going to pull that out until I felt like we deserved it," Campbell said. "We finally played like it. I felt like we got after them and played defense like we're capable of playing."

The Lynch Mob was the nickname KSU defensive players gave themselves after the 1995 season and continued through the program's salad days of the late 1990s. It was never meant to offend opponents, but instead symbolized the swarming, aggressive defense the program produced for many years.

The Wildcats played like that Saturday, harassing Texas quarterback Colt McCoy throughout the game. They forced the sophomore quarterback into a career-worst four interceptions and knocked him out of the game in the fourth quarter with what Texas officials called a mild concussion.

McCoy was sacked only once, but he took numerous hits in the pocket from a ferocious KSU pass rush. By the end of the game, he was vomiting along the sidelines as backup John Chiles finished the game.

"We kind of beat down on them and really got after them as the game went on," KSU linebacker Justin Roland said. "Every drive, we wanted to make them earn it. Our defense played well, we forced turnovers and were able to eventually shut them down."

After Texas' narrow 35-32 triumph at Central Florida, Roland said, "They're really vulnerable now. I wouldn't mind playing them, because I don't think they're playing very good football."

Colt McCoy
Brendan Maloney/USPRESSWIRETexas QB Colt McCoy is going to have nightmares about the Kansas State defense.

The Wildcats' stunning victory vindicated Roland's soothsaying abilities. In the process, it also marked Mack Brown's worst home-field defeat in his Texas coaching tenure and worst UT home loss since the infamous "Route 66" defeat to UCLA in John Mackovic's last season in 1997.

"It's always great when you can say something and then it happens," Roland said. "I just thought with our game plan, we could come in and play with them. We pride ourselves on getting a rush and maybe being able to rattle him a little as the game went on.

"Tonight, we were able to do that."

The Wildcats notched 13 quarterback hurries and seven tipped passes, including four at the line of scrimmage. It made for a long day for McCoy, who was rattled shortly before the end of the first half by KSU defensive end Clayton Cox. McCoy continued playing in the second half, despite leaving for the locker room before his teammates at the end of the first half.

McCoy, who tied the NCAA freshman record with 29 touchdown passes in 2006, continues to struggle this season, with nine interceptions, after throwing only seven last year.

"Anytime you can take a shot like that and get up like he did and then come back and try to rally your team, that tells me we haven't lost confidence in him," Texas offensive lineman Tony Hills said. "He's our guy and we're going to ride with him throughout the rest of the season. He's going to do a great job for us."

UT offensive coordinator Greg Davis blamed himself for his team's offensive struggles.

"We had some miscommunication obviously and it's probably my fault," Davis said. "I've been giving [the offense] too much and allowing them too much flexibility within the system. You get batted balls, and things are going to happen badly when you get things batted."

KSU coach Ron Prince credited a schematic change before the game for his team's opportunistic defensive performance. The Wildcats ranked 97th nationally in turnover margin coming into the game, with only two interceptions.

"We were very concerned because we weren't turning the ball over much or getting a lot of sacks," Prince said. "We played more zone coverages today because it allows you to see the ball better, get a break, maybe intercept it or knock it out. Our players bought into the idea we had to get the ball back."

Prince knew he would have to come up with big plays in order to notch the upset.

"We felt we would need four turnovers and two special teams touchdowns in order to win," Prince said. "Our players worked and we tried to practice that way in order to set that up."

The disappearance of big plays on special teams was particularly galling. KSU led the nation last season in kickoff returns, but had ranked only 77th coming into the game.

"One of our goals was to bring the kick return back from the dead," Prince said. "It's something we've got a lot of confidence in and we'd gotten nothing from it this year. We had been stymied and knew we had to get something back in order to be successful."

The extra work obviously worked. KSU produced two huge plays on special teams with James Johnson's 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Jordy Nelson's 89-yard punt return for another score .

"We really tried to put ourselves to be a fast team and we wanted to build on our special teams and our defense," Prince said. "Today, for the first time since we've been here, we played well in both phases."

Before the season started, Brown hinted that a changing of the guard might be occurring in the Big 12.

"I think this is the best chance for somebody to win the league that nobody would expect," Brown said at the time. "I think people are going to quit talking about us and Oklahoma."

But Brown probably never thought his words would end up being true just one week into the conference schedule. Colorado's upset over Oklahoma and the Wildcats' victory in Austin has turned the Big 12 on its ear.

Even as bad as this week might have been for Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione in terms of controversy, their game next week will be the one for first place in the South Division.

Texas and Oklahoma will slug it out at the Cotton Bowl with 0-1 conference records for the first time since 1997. It will be a battle to climb out of the Big 12 South Division cellar.

"We can't let this game whup us twice," Texas defensive tackle Derek Lokey said. "We're going to be pretty down tonight, but tomorrow we're going to watch the film and get this one out of our system. We're not going to let them beat us twice."

Tim Griffin covers the Big 12 for the San Antonio Express-News.

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