April 1, 2008

Defense hungry to make things right

Once Kansas State coach Ron Prince completed his pre-spring news conference on Thursday, a parade of assistant coaches sauntered through the door for a rare opportunity to speak to media. It wasn't difficult to spot Tim Tibesar, who embarks on his second campaign as defensive coordinator. Surrounded by reporters and TV cameras, he was one of the most popular guys in the room. But for all the wrong reasons.

Asked to describe his frustration level as the Wildcats' defense, which was so promising early in the season, crumpled in November in giving up gobs of yardage and points in bunches, Tibesar said, "We were frustrated."

So how are you feeling right now entering spring?

"Hungry and humble," he replied, smiling.

While Prince has labeled the Wildcats' official motto as Ad Astra Per Aspera -- a Latin phrase that means "To the stars through hardships" -- the unofficial theme for a defense that finished eighth in the Big 12 and 69th nationally in total defense (400.6 yards per game) appears to be "hungry and humble." Several returners and even mid-year transfer Hansen Sekona, a star linebacker from College of San Mateo (Calif.), echoed the phrase while speaking publicly for the first time prior to spring practice, which began at around noon on Saturday.

Prince apparently coined the alternate theme when he met with players last Sunday night after they returned from spring break.

"Be hungry and humble," Sekona said. "That was (Prince's) message."

The end of the 2007 season was incredible, really. The defense has ample reason to be hungry - and humble. Consider K-State allowed 347.6 yards and 21.5 points as the Wildcats were 5-3 with a second straight bowl within sight. In the final four games at Iowa State, at Nebraska, against No. 6 Missouri at home, and at Fresno State, the scores went something like this - 20-31, 31-73, 32-49 and 29-45 - as opposing offenses put up an amazing 506.5 yards per contest. The Wildcats, who allowed 172 points in their first eight games, gave up 198 in month of November, the most points given up by K-State in a four-game stretch since 1988.

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