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Stevenson's K.K. Smith held to worst rushing performance of season
November 3, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT
Maybe even more shocking than Lycoming holding the nation's 12th-leading rusher to nearly half his season average was the fact that defensive coordinator Steve Wiser and his defense had a goal of holding Stevenson's K.K. Smith to even fewer yards.
It's hard to imagine the defense doing a better job than what the Warriors did against Smith on Saturday at David Person Field. But it was still the goal.
"We're not shocked. We were kind of hoping to hold him to maybe less than that because coach Wiser and the defense set very ambitious goals," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "But to hold that kid as their primary option, and as a kid with great speed and really good strength, to limit him to that is outstanding."
Smith had a 130-yard rushing average coming into Saturday's game and his standing as the MAC's leading rusher and only 1,000-yard rusher, was not founded on garbage-time carries. Smith is a compact, powerful, 5-foot-9, 199-pound running back with a deadly combination of speed, quickness, patience, vision and power.
He showed it all off yesterday, but never with a big play that he's come to get week in and week out for a one-win team against the best and worst teams in the MAC. His longest run of the day was a 14-yard carry in the fourth quarter. He also had runs of 7, 6, 8 and 9 yards. Those five carries accounted for 44 of his rushing yards. His other 19 carries gained just 22 total yards.
"I think right away off the bat we were thinking this kid is someone we can take down with a guy or two and maybe we can get another guy in there to strip the ball," said linebacker Jamie Reitzi, who filled in for an injured Kabongo Bukasa. "But give the guy credit because he is shifty. He makes people miss and he's a good player."
The Warriors bottled him up with a gang-tackling style that always had two or three defenders waiting should he slip out of a tackle. Defensive tackles Roger Jayne and Dwight Hentz blew up plays before they even began, playing in the Stevenson backfield and forcing Smith to make moves before he even reached the line of scrimmage.
A Mustangs offensive line which averages 6-foot-1, 280 pounds a man, couldn't handle a smaller and quicker Lycoming defensive line.
"Our defensive line is great. The whole defense starts through them," said Lycoming linebacker Kyle Sullivan who finished with eight tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss. "Once they get penetration through the offensive line, the offense goes nowhere. That's really what happened out there today."
Smith's 6 rushing yards were his second-worst in the first quarter this year. His 12 yards in the third quarter was tied for the fewest yards in the third quarter this year. His 33 rushing yards in the first half were his worst first-half performance this season.
Most of that defensive production came after middle linebacker Kabongo Bukasa was injured making a goal-line tackle on the second play of the second quarter. Bukasa, the league's fourth-leading tackler, has the speed, strength and athleticism Clark thought could be an equalizer to Smith's talents. But even after Bukasa left the game -- he did not return -- the Warriors defense never wavered.
Sullivan's eight tackles were a career-high, and Reitzi finished with four tackles.
"That's what this whole defense is about," Sullivan said. "The coaches always say it's not about he person, it's about the position. We have to do our responsibilities no matter who is in there."
Saturday, Lycoming handled those responsibilities to the tune of Smith's worst rushing day of the season.
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