AUSTIN, Texas — Gritty, stingy, physical.
Those are a few ways to describe the Kansas State defense.
It’s a unit that entered the season with a solid foundation but questions due to major losses on all three levels with the departures of defensive end Jordan Willis, linebackers Elijah Lee and Charmeachealle Moore and safety Dante Barnett.
The Wildcats are just getting into the meat of the schedule, but through four games the defense is performing at an unexpected level. K-State leads the Big 12 in total defense and scoring, giving up 308.5 yards and 15.0 points.
K-State has held each of its four opponents to fewer than 21 points, a feat last accomplished 15 years ago and only six times since 1990.
“It just shows how gritty our defense is,” cornerback D.J. Reed said. “Our defense is obviously pretty good, I think. Obviously, we can improve but we’re playing really well as a defensive unit.”
K-State (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) plays Texas (2-2, 1-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday looking to join the 1994, ’98 and 2000 teams that had five straight games of allowing 21 points or fewer to start a season.
“We run to the ball, we’re fast,” Reed said. “We just feel like a lot of teams can’t score on us, and if they do score they won’t score again. That’s our mindset. We just want to keep teams out of the end zone.”
Is coach Bill Snyder surprised at this level of production?
“Nothing exceeds my expectations, but we have done some very good things defensively,” Snyder said. “We have some things we still have to work on and get corrected, but I think we’re making progress. We’ve probably gotten a little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better throughout, but not without our faults.
“We had two major plays against us last week which would have made a dynamic difference in the vast amount of improvement made with our defense,” Snyder said of Baylor touchdowns on a 74-yard run and 70-yard pass. “There was a big play in the running game and a big play in the passing game, and you don’t get them back. It happened so we have to do something about getting that fixed.”
Reed noted some areas of improvement that could come into play against Texas, which ranks No. 7 in the Big 12 in total offense (443.5) and scoring (34.5).
“We need to tighten our coverage and be more physical,” he said. “They like to throw a lot of short passes and flares and screens so we have to run to the ball, which we’ve been doing really well.
“If we do our job and run to the ball, which is what K-State does, and we’re physical we’re going to be successful.”
KANSAS STATE AT TEXAS
Kickoff: 6 p.m. Saturday, Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas.
Records: K-State 3-1, 1-0 Big 12; Texas 2-2, 1-0
Line: Texas by 4
TV/Radio: FS1/WIBW-AM (580)
Next: TCU, Oct. 14, 11 a.m. (FS1)
TEXAS TECH AT KANSAS
Kickoff: 11 a.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence
Records: Texas Tech 3-1, 0-1 Big 12; Kansas 1-3, 0-1
Line: Texas Tech by 16
TV/Radio: FS1/KTMAJ-AM (1440)
Next: At Iowa State, Oct. 14, 11 a.m. (FSN)
Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.