Felix Anudike-Uzomah encouraged by growth of Wildcats’ pass rush
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Back in July the junior edge rusher was named the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
And rightfully so, considering Felix Anudike-Uzomah fell one sack short of breaking Kansas State’s single-season record in 2021. Not to mention he tied the program’s single-game record with four sacks against TCU.
Anudike-Uzomah has pretty much picked up where he left off this fall, and been wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.
The Kansas City native is coming off a three-sack performance in last week’s victory over Texas Tech. For his heroics on the gridiron Anudike-Uzomah was named Lott Impact Trophy Player of the week.
He’s proud of his stellar outing and the production from the Wildcats’ defensive line. After all, Kansas State’s pass rush has been ferocious. The Wildcats are currently tied for third in the Big 12 with 14 sacks.
The emergence of Khalid Duke has made the unit stronger up front in Joe Klanderman’s 3-3-5 scheme. It’s the quality and production Anudike-Uzomah appreciates, because he understands the physicality in the trenches of the Big 12.
Anudike-Uzomah and Duke combined for a jaw-dropping, six sacks against the Red Raiders. Those video game numbers didn’t surprise Anudike-Uzomah though, because he knew his teammate’s potential.
“Before the season we were telling each other how lethal both of us on the same boat can be, and it just showed on the field,” Anudike-Uzomah said. “It showed everybody how great of pass rushers me and Khalid Duke are.”
The six-foot-four, 255-pounder leads the conference and is fifth in the FBS in sacks. He already put the quarterback to the turf against South Dakota and Tulane, plus he wants Kansas State’s defense to carry that momentum into Ames against Iowa State Saturday night.
However, Anudike-Uzomah knows the defense can improve in a lot of areas approaching the matchup.
The Wildcats are 68th in the country in passing and total defense, plus they’re 72nd against the run. Which is why Anudike-Uzomah is anticipating another scrappy battle with the Cyclones.
Iowa State has won the last two games in the series, including a 45-point shutout in Kansas State’s last trip to Ames. Breece Hall ran all over the Wildcats’ defense. So practice has been intense this week for the players, and the star defensive end has kept everyone dialed in.
“We’re very motivated, especially how they embarrassed us in 2020, I was there too, and it was cold,” he said. “I just know it’s a big chip on our shoulder, so it’s going to be a great game.”
Kansas State (4-1) is undefeated in Big 12 play and wants to keep it that way. Meanwhile Iowa State has lost two-straight, and still looking for its’ first conference victory of the season. Although, the Wildcats are ranked 20th in the AP Poll and the favorites in this matchup, they’re still not overlooking the Cyclones.
Kansas State hasn’t won at Jack Trice Stadium since 2016, and Iowa State always plays inspired under the lights at home, especially in black uniforms. Cyclone quarterback Hunter Dekkers has struggled over the past two games, with three interceptions.
Iowa State’s offense is tied for 88th in the nation in sacks allowed too, which has Anudike-Uzomah and his fellow defensive linemen licking their chops. The former three-star prospect is confident in the Wildcats’ pass rush and what they can accomplish this weekend. He’s prepared to set the tone up front, while the rest of the defense blankets Iowa State’s skill position players.
“It’s basically the back end, having all those people out there covering, that allows us enough time to get back there and get a sack.”