June 29, 2007

Wildcats need to keep drives alive

The ability for Kansas State to move the chains yielded minimal improvement in 2006. After finishing with a Big 12-worst 192 first downs in 2005, the Wildcats totaled 203, which ranked 11th in the league. We investigate some possible reasons why first-down markers remained in mud in part six of our troubleshooting series.

First, the Wildcats were famously dreadful in converting on third down. You already knew that. We'll unravel that story here in part eight of the series July 4. But in order to comprehend the Wildcats' 34.7-percent success rate on third down, it might help to start at the beginning.

Yes, we're going to focus on the production on first down.

On the surface, there's no issue here considering K-State averaged a healthy 4.7 yards on first down, including 5.7 yards per pass attempt and 4.0 on the ground. But the Wildcats went three-and-out on 41 out of 166 drives, which wasn't much of an improvement from 2005 (49 out of 167). That's a big issue. Getting ahead of the count early was still difficult last season. Here are a couple reasons why:

Consider K-State gained fewer than three yards on 175 first-down plays in 2006. Add in 22 offensive penalties on first down and that means the Wildcats put themselves in a second-and-7 situation or worse following 197 of 373 (52.8 percent) first-down plays. K-State gained fewer than three yards 85 times in passing situations and 90 times on the ground. The Wildcats lost yardage or only made it back to the line of scrimmage on 46 rushes on first down. That's one out of every three carries. Overall, the Wildcats moved the chains on 15-percent of their first-down plays.

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