Okay-State Holds Weekly Press Convention Earlier than Journey to Texas Tech

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman and select players met with members of the media on Tuesday at the Vanier Family Football Complex prior to the Wildcats’ trip to Lubbock, Texas to take on Texas Tech. A complete transcript of Klieman’s press conference (also streamed live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and archived here) are posted below, in addition to comments from select players.
 

The Wildcats and Red Raiders kick off at 11 a.m., on Saturday morning at Jones AT&T Stadium in a game televised by FS1 with Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman on the call.

CHRIS KLIEMAN, HEAD COACH

Opening Statement…

“Good afternoon, everyone. Big weekend for us heading down to Lubbock against a really good Texas Tech team. They’re playing well. Happy for Coach (Matt) Wells. He’s one of my close friends in the profession and happy to see him having success, doing it in a variety of ways, but an explosive offense, veteran quarterback, a lot of good skill players playing really well up front offensively. Defensively, people have gotten after them a little bit. I think they have some really good talent, some good athletes. They run to the football and they smack you, but they’ve run into a couple of teams that have been able to rush the football, and then they have to play catch up. That’s kind of where we’re at right now as far as we need to play from ahead more so than from behind, and that’s what we’ve done the last few weeks is play from behind. That’s probably not suited best for us. You see when we play ahead against Stanford or against Nevada, our ability to dictate some of the tempo and pace and calls we make both offensively and defensively. We’re playing from behind, we have probably been more aggressive on defense, which causes some bigger plays. Then, offensively, we’d like to be balanced. We’re better balanced right now. It’s a big week for us, an important week for us. Guys had good spirits and good energy yesterday and are excited for another opportunity.”

 

On the ability to run the football this week…

“That’s really important for us to be able to sustain the run, and then have balance and continue to be able to throw the ball because I think Skylar (Thompson) is playing at a really high level. So, I don’t want to take the ball out of his hands, and we also believe there’s going to be some wind out there on Saturday. So, based on that, you may have to be able to run the ball a little bit more into a breeze. Then the kicking game becomes a big factor too.”

 

On the importance of hybrid players on defense…

“Look at Iowa State, that number 23, the (Mike) Rose kid that’s been an all-conference player for a number of years. You can be an in-the-box player, you can be an edge and take the field away, you can rush, you can cover, all those things. So, that’s where the hybrid mix becomes such a huge factor, a guy that can be a linebacker, be a defensive end and be a safety.”

 

On the status of defensive end Bronson Massie

“It’s either going to be this week or next week. We’re still hoping for this week, and we’re just getting into practice today. He’s going to do a few things today. We’ll see how he responds, but we’ll feel confident whether it’s this Saturday and it’s a good chance it still could be, if not it should be the next Saturday.”

 

On the balance on offense…

“I think that’s why he’s (Skylar Thompson) able to make those plays because Deuce (Vaughn) is an active contributor and people are always knowing where Deuce is, which opens up a lot of guys in the pass game. I think it’s opened up Joe Ervin. Joe’s been playing really well. Excited for Joe because he’s getting stronger, and we got to find ways to get Joe the football, because Joe is doing some really good things. I like the fact that we have a couple of backs that are explosive guys as well as a really good passing game that you have to account for.”

 

On the message to the team…

“1-0 today, and 1-0 for the week.”

 

On seeing the potential of the wide receivers…

“I don’t know. We’ve got good wide receivers. Phillip (Brooks), Malik (Knowles), Landry (Weber) are good players. I think we saw Tyrone Howell can do some things. We’ve got good players at wide receiver.”

 

On getting the ball to the tight ends…

“If they’re open, we’re going to throw to them. We’ve got running backs that catch and wide receivers that catch it. It’s the design of the play and what the defense does. You can’t just say, ‘I’m only going to target Malik (Knowles), I’m only going to target Daniel (Imatorbhebhe), or I’m only going to target Deuce (Vaughn).’ Those guys are taken away. It’s why you have a sixth-year quarterback that can get the ball to the people that are open. So, it’s not necessarily by position. It’s just for that scheme and for that play call, who’s the body there that they’re either not defending or that we see where the coverage is rotated. We’ve got to go away and wherever that body is that’s where we’re going to throw it defensively.”

 

On getting pressure…

“You know, we rushed a decent amount last week. They picked guys up, and (Charlie) Kolar was a handful for us. But it’s a combination of rushing three, rushing four or rushing five.”

 

On the defensive ends without Bronson Massie

“They played all right. I think that’s kind of where we’re at with a lot of positions. We can play better. We’ve got to get them in positions to play better collectively on defense. There’s not one position right now that you’d say, ‘We’re just not getting any production out of that spot.’ But there’s not one position that I would say, ‘Boy, they’re maxed out, we’ve got to count on somebody else.’ We’ve got to get better play from every position, and we’ve got to put them in a better position as coaches. We, as coaches, have to do a better job of putting them in position to be successful.”

 

On defensive struggles on third down…

“It’s a little bit of both. When we want to pressure, we’re bringing people in 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. There’s some plays where we’re close, and all the sudden we have to bring somebody out of coverage because (Brock) Purdy scrambles out or (Spencer) Sanders scrambles out or (Spencer) Rattler scrambles out. Then there’s the opening. So, it’s just a combination of things. There’s not a bust as much as people are making plays against it.”

 

On the balance between attacking defensively and not giving up big plays…

“Yeah, we can’t have that second mindset at all as far as we can’t give up the big plays, because then you start playing on your heels, and then you’re tentative on things. So, we’ve got to get back to some of our basics. We’ve probably tried to do too much. We’ve talked about that on defense, trying to do too much. It’s easy to say that against Iowa State. You guys watched. I will say they’re in every formation known to mankind and really talented at doing that shift, trade, motion to get their playmakers the ball. 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 your kids play a little bit faster. So, we got to take ownership of that as a coaching staff.”

 

On spreading the ball around…

“We still have to take what the defense gives us. The most talented guy we have is the sixth-year senior quarterback that has to make the decisions of where the ball should go based on the coverage, based on the pressure, based on the look that he sees, and we’re confident that he can do that. If that means that Deuce (Vaughn) is taken out of something for a series or for a quarter and somebody else is making a play, be happy about it. We just want to find a way to win. It’s been fun to see guys like Landry (Weber) step up. It’s been fun to see guys like Tyrone (Howell) step up. I was happy with Phillip Brooks. That was a big-time route and a great play, and Iowa State doesn’t give up those 50-yard passes very often. We were able to hit a home run. So, I think it makes us more difficult to defend when we have so many guys that can beat you.”

 

On how far off he felt the team was on Saturday…

“There’s a play here and there, and I think that you can say that about every game. Even the games we won, we made a few plays that if we don’t make those plays, maybe you’re in a one-score game in games we won. The big series for us was essentially to tie it up at 10-10 or go up 14-10, and that’s close but we’re not there. I’m tired of being close. The guys are tired of being close, just like when we were down 20-7, we needed to put a drive together to go make it 20-14. We started the semblance of a drive, and we didn’t execute. It wasn’t play calls, and we just didn’t execute. Then we ended up going down by multiple scores. So, we’re close, but nobody wants to hear close. We need to get it done.”

 

On the potential to go no-huddle…

“Yeah, we have our turbo in. We were in turbo a decent amount. Some of it was personnel driven and hoping we get the first down in this play where we see the chain set and then roll, but it’s something we’re talking about as a staff.”

 

On if Texas Tech plays any differently now…

“Not really. They have a different offensive coordinator, but I know that Coach Wells still has a pretty good hand in it. So, there’s some things that are from last year’s Texas Tech. There’s some things that are from last year’s TCU. There’s a combination of some things that would get both the kids that they’ve played at quarterback, one played a ton for them last year, the other one transferred in that played a lot of football at Oregon. So, I think they’re confident in whoever’s playing quarterback to be able to get it done, and they have really good wide receivers and good running backs and an experienced offensive line. So, I think they’re probably pretty similar to us in the fact of them probably having their certain playmakers they want to get the ball to but they have a number of guys that can beat you.”

 

On seeing positives after the loss on Saturday…

“Yeah, I think everybody does and coaches included, and we took ownership on Sunday for some things that we had some mental errors on either side of the ball or on special teams, and you can’t put it on the kid. You have to look at yourself and put it on yourself as a coach first and say, ‘Are we putting these guys in the best position to be successful, and are we simplified enough so the kids can understand it and play fast?’ The first thing is, as coaches, we need to be better. We spent all day Sunday and half of Monday talking about that. Then we met with some guys on the leadership council on Monday afternoon. I met with the team Monday late afternoon to try to explain to those guys, ‘Hey we’ve got to take some ownership in this, too, as coaches and everybody needs to give a little bit more.’ Everybody can step up a little bit, and everybody can own their role a little bit more, but that’s coaches as well. This isn’t just the offense, just the defense, just one part of the offense, one part of the defense. This is a collective group, and it starts with us.”

 

On the team coming together after the tough conference start…

“Yeah, thank heavens we are a close team because you can be divided when you have adversity strike. I’ve been pleased with our leadership, our older guys, the council to be able to bring guys together. Guys know it, guys know that we need to take ownership and get this thing in the right direction. Pretty good schedule now, too. We have to take into consideration that we had an opportunity to win all three games and we didn’t. Now we have a chance to move forward in the next one, and you cannot trip on what’s behind you. We didn’t play well enough, and we got beat. If you keep thinking about the negative, you’re going to lose sight of what’s coming in front of you. I know that we have to challenge each other as coaches and challenge each other as players to be better, but you need to do that with a positive mindset. Sometimes we all have a tendency to take it from the negative standpoint. I’m telling you guys, 18- to 22-year olds can’t handle the negative side of things. I’m asking you guys. I’m asking for your help. We need to be more positive. I know we can play better. You know we can play better, but we’ve got to give these kids more positive things, because we got a great locker room. The kids do care about each other, kids that love each other, coaches that believe in these kids, and we can’t give up on them.”

 

On if the 3-3-5 allows the defense to stay close to its base…

“Yeah, and you also realize we’re decimated at the d-end position. So, how many more things can we go to and what can we do for the rest of the season to try to be successful? We don’t have Khalid Duke, and we don’t have Bronson Massie right now at that spot. We’re down some numbers. So, what our kids play fast is what we’re going to go with right now.”

 

On trying to make Texas Tech one dimensional…

“That’s an interesting question. They’re a big RPO team. This is the first true RPO team that we’ve played this year. Oklahoma does some. I would say everybody does a little bit of a version of this, but this is the first true RPO team that there is a pass option off of almost every run. Not every one, but a decent amount of them. So, it’s hard to make that one dimensional, because if you bring everybody to the run, it is run, but the ball is still being thrown. If you play them back, they’re just reading and saying, ‘You’re not going to come, we’ll just keep giving it because you don’t have enough players to play the run.’ So, our job as coaches is to figure out the best combination of coverages, combination of blitzes to make it as confusing as we can for the quarterback. This kid’s a special kid because he’s an experienced guy. I think that’s what makes their offense so tough to defend. They’ve put up a lot of points and a lot of yards against everybody because of their RPO scheme, and the ball is coming out, you’re gone. ‘That was a run, I know it was a run but the ball is still coming out.'”

 

On the Texas Tech wide receivers…

“Yeah, and they’ve got a big tight end too that’s about 6-foot-7 or 6-foor-9 or something. So, it’s a real challenge, because you can’t sit in soft zone, and you better be able to win some one-on-one matches, and that’s the thing. 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. We may not get home, whether we’re rushing three, four or five, but can we get our hands up and deflect a few of those balls because that’s the thing that sometimes affects an RPO team is the ball has got to come out, and they’ve got small windows to throw it through. Can we get our hands up and knock some balls down?”

 

On the challenges of the schedule so far…

“Yeah, it is difficult because you know our kids believe and we believe we’re one of the better teams in the conference, but we’ve not proven that every Saturday. That’s why I keep talking about that you cannot worry about what’s behind you. That’s over with. We want to go back to our win against Stanford and kind of replicate what our preparation was, replicate the film we watched, the walkthroughs, all those things that made that group successful. ‘Okay, thanks Coach, but now that’s over with. We got to get to the next one.’ It’s a delicate balance to say we’re good enough when we prepare like we did against Nevada, like we did against Stanford, but against teams that are really talented. You’ll prepare or not or be locked in, there’s some teams with some really special players out there that are going to make some plays. There’s a reason why their First Team All-American, are up for a Heisman or whatever it may be. So, continuing to get the guys to focus on the task at hand. That’s today, and I loved our leadership council because on Monday. They just kept saying, ‘Coach we just need to go 1-0 today,’ meaning Monday. That’s what we need to do today is we need to go 1-0 on Tuesday, and continue that preparation, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and not cram for the final on Friday.”

 

On wanting to rotate more on the offensive line…

“Yeah, we’ve had some guys probably behind the scenes nicked up that you guys don’t know about even that probably are practicing but not quite healthy enough for Coach (Conor) Riley to say, ‘No, I’ve got to go with this guy for another 15-20 snaps.’ I know the guy that has played the most the last three games that’s an extra guy is Hadley Panzer, and Hadley’s earned those. We’re continuing to look at Carver (Willis), and we lost KT (Leveston) for a week. We get KT back this week, whether it’s Logan, or Carver, or KT, we’ve got to try to continue to push those guys along.”

 

On Hadley Panzer being groomed to be a center…

“Hopefully. Hayden Gillum, we think is a good player too, but that’ll be something that – knock on wood we keep Noah (Johnson) healthy all season – that we’ll figure it out in the spring.”

 

On making progress in the secondary…

“Yeah, first you have to give those guys credit. We went against some good quarterbacks, good receivers, good tight ends, but we’re not maybe connecting in man coverage as well. If it’s against good players, they are going to pick you apart. Skylar (Thompson) has done that to a lot of teams. Oklahoma is pretty good, and Skylar picked those guys apart. It’s the man coverage stuff where Russ Yeast made a really good play on a 50-50 ball that was a vertical play, and we need to have more of those plays being made. We had J-Mac (Jahron McPherson) a couple times in a good spot, and J-Mac could knock that away. Same with TJ (Smith). I know that there’s a size matchup and stuff, but you’re a competitor. You want those competitive 50-50 situations, and I think Julius (Brents) is another example. Julius needs to make that play, and Julius knows it. 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 just have to continue to work on the techniques.”

 

On Felix Anudike-Uzomah

“He can be even better than that because I think he can still limit some of his technique or alignment or assignment errors, but I love the way that kid plays. He plays a million miles an hour and makes plays and does some things that we need a special player like that to do when you lose a couple special players that were in front of him and are older than him. He’s had to grow up quickly just to be the guy there. He’s a young player, so his future is really bright and he continues to improve. He knows he’s got to continue to get better.”

 

SKYLAR THOMPSON, SENIOR QUARTERBACK

On the team’s response…

“We had a leadership meeting yesterday with Coach Klieman, which is a leadership council that the coaches put together of guys on the team. There’s about 20-25 of us there. We met with Coach Klieman and Coach Tru (Trumain Carroll) as well and just kind of had an open discussion about where we were as players, what we felt like maybe needed to be adjusted throughout the week, what could help us out, and also what the coaches are thinking that maybe we can switch up a little bit to kind of help us out throughout the week. I’m very thankful to be part of a program where my coach listens to me, listens to us players, and is open to what we have to say. He often takes our advice and applies it to whatever we ask. I obviously haven’t been anywhere else, but I know it’s not like that everywhere. I know, as a player I’m very, very thankful for Coach Klieman and just the man that he is and the way that he represents himself along with Coach Tru. During tough times, your leaders have to step up and stand firm and not waver at all, and our coaches have done that. I know all of our leaders have done the same thing. Like I said before, we know we’re a good football team. We just have to make four or five more plays to win games, and understanding that is frustrating. Losing is not fun, but our locker room is full of a bunch of competitors that hate to lose. All we can do is control what we can control and be better throughout the week of preparation, and, ultimately, when Saturday comes, just cutting it loose and falling back on our training. You can’t rise to the occasion on Saturdays and expect to win. It all depends on how you carry yourself, how you train throughout the week, and over the offseason. That’s where that comes to light, and you’re able to fall back on your habits. So, that’s what we have to really work on.”

 

On getting the right plays in for the game plan…

“The coaches meet together, and then obviously watch third downs, just for an example, third and long and put together a game plan of what they like. Then we meet as quarterbacks with Coach (Collin) Klein, and he kind of discusses what they discussed throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll come and sit with them, too, while they’re game planning, and our coaching staff is very open with my opinion. Ultimately, they’re not going to run any plays that I don’t like and are not a fan of. Obviously, Coach (Courtney) Messingham isn’t my position coach, but we still have a great relationship, and we’re on the same page all the time. I think that’s very important for us and our offense. I truly think our passing game has taken a huge step in the right direction over the past couple of weeks. Some guys are gaining confidence, understanding the scheme, understanding what the defense is doing and how we’re going to attack it. We have to raise that bar even more, and we know that. We’re working and doing everything we can to do that.”

 

On if there’s any comfort to the conference schedule being so difficult so far…

“We know they’re really good football teams, but still in saying that, we believe that we make a play here and there that we put ourselves in a place for a chance to win. That’s the frustrating part. Each and every game is different, but they all are good football teams. OSU is undefeated. Oklahoma is undefeated. Iowa State is a really good football team, too. That’s a good gauge for us in knowing that we are a good football team and to not get discouraged in that aspect. Anytime you lose, it’s not fun and it’s discomforting, but it’s definitely something that we can build off of and know that there’s a lot of games left to be played. We can’t let the past dictate our future.”

 

COOPER BEEBE, SOPHOMORE OFFENSIVE LINE

On what needs to be improved on…

“Definitely working on those blocks, making those simple, easy blocks where we stay on a six- to seven-yard gain as opposed to three. I think those little things are something that we need to improve on.”

 

On establishing the run game…

“I believe so, yeah. We kind of talked about how we want to be a physical run game but also a pass game. We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team like when we were playing Nevada and stuff like that. We want to be a two-dimensional team. We don’t want to be stuck just running the ball, but sometimes it’s just what it is.”

 

On facing the three-man front…

“I think I did pretty well. Going against our defense at practice really prepared me to go against the string of entrants that we see. It’s a little different than four men, especially for the tackle position. It’s more physical, but that’s something I like to do. I like being physical, so I like playing with three-man fronts.”

 

JULIUS BRENTS, JUNIOR DEFENSIVE BACK

On what the team is focusing most on…

“Making sure we’re communicating a lot better. That’s one thing we’ve been focusing on in practice. Communicating calls and making sure we’re on the same page. Communication is a big thing for us right now.”

 

On what Iowa State did to cause them trouble…

“They did a good job of disguising things, moving guys around and getting guys in position to get the ball.”

 

On already playing three of the top teams in the conference…

“For sure. The first three teams we played in Big 12 play definitely have good offenses. We just need to get better and move in the right direction and learn from the mistakes we made.”

 

RUSS YEAST, SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK

On a pass knocked down during the ISU game…

“Oh yeah, that was cool. It was a corner-post, and I kind of just ran with it. I wish I could have picked it off, but I saw I couldn’t so I just had to knock it down.”

 

On the mood of the locker room…

“Everybody is doing good. Most people are in a great mood, and everybody thinks that we can still be a great team.”

 

On numbers other quarterbacks have been able to put up…

“Yeah definitely. We see other quarterbacks are doing pretty good. We have just got to be better on defense and get that ball.”

 

PHILLIP BROOKS, JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER

On Skylar Thompson

“Skylar is a great quarterback, so he just kind of reads the defense and reads how I went on the route. He just kind of did his thing and threw the ball, and I did my thing and caught the ball.”

 

On how important this game is…

“Every game is important, but I think this game is important, too, because we haven’t won a conference game this year. We just need to win. We’ve worked too hard to go through the season like this, and I think we have a great team. We are this close to doing something special. So, I know every game is huge, but this is the next game, so it’s very important.”

 

On how much more dynamic this offense is capable of being…

“I think our offense is great. We have a great running back, we have weapons on the outside, we have tight end weapons, Skylar’s back. We are very dynamic. We can do a lot of things. We can run the ball. We can throw the ball. It just comes down to executing our plays and things like that.”

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