June 26, 2008

Cats made great third-down progress

Want the bare-boned numbers? Kansas State finished 10th in the Big 12 in third-down percentage in 2007. But a closer examination shows the Wildcats made one of the bigger improvement rates in the league in the department a year ago. It also reveals no other K-State offense was better on third downs since 2002 - one season before a squad with the nation's sixth-ranked defense captured the Big 12 championship. The question: Could K-State be better on third down in 2008?

It will likely require a committee to replace the effectiveness of Jordy Nelson in third-down situations.

Fortunately, Josh Freeman will be in the pocket to deliver the ball after he made tremendous strides in his decision making in sustaining drives during his sophomore season.

K-State moved the chains on 72 of 179 third downs (40.2 percent) last season as compared to 61 of 176 (34.7) in 2006. That figure not only moved the Wildcats up a notch in the league rankings but it also marked their highest conversion rate since the Ell Roberson-Marc Dunn quarterback duo helped K-State to go 76 for 166 (45.8) in 2002.

Rewind the 2007 season and few key third-down situations come to mind.

Remember when Nelson hit running back Leon Patton with a 21-yard touchdown pass to open the third quarter, which gave the Wildcats a 10-6 lead in the opener at No. 14 Auburn? That was on third down.

So was Freeman's valiant effort late at Oklahoma State.

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