The Kansas State Wildcats will be facing a familiar opponent this week, the Texas Longhorns. Both teams are experiencing their most difficult part of the season. For the Wildcats, they are coming off back to back heartbreakers to Baylor and Oklahoma State. Texas is coming off two straight home losses to Iowa State and Baylor. The difference between the two is that Texas was expected to win, and Kansas State was in fact the underdog in both of their games.
K-State has been fortunate to have some good luck against the Longhorns in the past. They have only met 6 times in their respective histories, and Kansas State owns a slight 4-2 edge. But those four wins were not close battles (other than the epic game in Manhattan in 2006 where K-State squeaked by Texas 45-42). The 48-7 win in 1998, the 35-17 win in 1999, or the shocking 41-21 win at Texas in 2007.
These games, plus recent success against the Horns in other sports (notably basketball) has led to the chant “we own Texas”. Sure, this chant is a little premature, but it creates something that wasn’t there before, an actual rivalry. Granted, this game isn’t the Red River Rivalry, or Nebraska/Texas game, but it is a game that people get excited about in Manhattan. Texas wants to shut the K-State fans mouths, and K-State wants to keep running theirs. The next chapter in this young rivalry will kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday.
A Look at the Longhorns
This Texas team is a tricky team to judge. They have been overrated, and underrated both in the same season. But they are still the defending Big 12 Conference Champions, and a year removed from playing for a national title. They have already experienced major highs this season as they stunned Nebraska in Lincoln. As well as experiencing lows in losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor in Austin.
This is an extremely talented football team, and if you go by recruiting rankings has the best talent of any team in the country. Kansas State since 2007 has had 9 players rated 4 star or better on Rivals.com. Texas has had 65 rated four stars or better. Rivals ratings aren’t always accurate as some of the best players in conference history were rated 2 stars or below, but what it does show is the amount of speed and raw talent on the field. The bench for the Longhorns are high caliber athletes, they are fast, big, and have a lot of talent.
This Texas team has won at least ten straight games nine years in a row, they have won at least nine games twelve years in a row. That streak is in major jeopardy as the Longhorns are 4-4 this season, having gone 1-4 in their last 5 games. With a loss to Kansas State the Longhorns would fall to 4-5 and would still have to play teams such as Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and a pesky Florida Atlantic team. Texas has to win against K-State, and the rest of their opponents, plus their bowl games to keep the nine win a year streak alive.
The Longhorns offense is one of the youngest offenses in the Big 12. They lost superstar quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley to the NFL last season. They brought in a young sophomore quarterback to replace McCoy. Garrett Gilbert (6-4 215lb SO) has been up and down this season. To many Texas fans he has been a major disappointment, which obviously was going to happen when they went from being used to Vince Young and McCoy leading the team for the past 6-7 years. He has passed nearly 60% on the season, with 6 touchdowns. But he has been too careless with the football, as he has thrown 9 interceptions. He is an extremely talented quarterback, who has had a rough season. Gilbert still has the potential to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the Big 12, but this season he is still just an average quarterback.
The most frustrating aspect of the Longhorns’ offense has been the running game. Texas has had little to no production from their backs this season, which has led to passing the ball more often, which led to Gilbert making costly mistakes. The lead running backs for the longhorns have been Cody Johnson (5’11 250 lb JR halfback), and Foswhitt Whittaker (5’10 195 lb junior halfback). Those two backs have had a combined 566 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. The Longhorns had high hopes, for these highly touted halfbacks, but both have yet to standout.
The wideouts have truly missed Shipley so far this season. Malcolm Williams (6’3 225lb junior) was expected to be a major contributor this season, but thus far is the 5th leading receiver and only has one touchdown. The most impressive wide receiver this season has been James Kirkendoll (5’11 185lb senior) who leads the team in catches (31) and yards (389). Last season he had 6 receiving touchdowns, thus far in the season only has one.
The offensive line is a big and expierenced line. They have three senior leaders, Kyle Hix (6’7 325 lb senior tackle), Brett Mitchell (6’5 305 lb senior tackle), and Michael Huey (6’5 310 lb senior guard). They also have another upperclassmen in junior center David Snow (6’4 300 lb junior center).
Texas has not put up big numbers this season offensively. The most points they have scored was 34 twice, against Rice and Wyoming. They have struggled in every aspect of the offensive game. But one of the main factors to this has been the pressure put on their quarterback. Kansas State has struggled to stop the run, and they have failed to get to the quarterback this season. Texas should be intrigued by this match up, as if K-State plays like they have recently on defense, Texas should finally be able to move the ball. However, Kansas State should also be intrigued as all the teams that have moved the ball at will against them, has ran over every team they have faced thus far in the season (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Nebraska). This will be an interesting battle of who really wants to improve.
The Texas defense has been stout this year. They held an explosive Nebraska team to only 13 points, and an impressive Baylor team to only 30 (some of the points were caused by turnovers). Both of those teams put up 47 or more against Kansas State. The defense for Texas is easily their best part of the team.
The Longhorns have a very experienced front 7. The line has 2 seniors Eddie Jones (6’3 260 lb defensive end), Sam Acho (6’3 260 lb defensive end), and two juniors Kheeston Randall (6’5 295lb tackle), Tyrell Higgins (6’3 285 lb junior). The linebacking core consists of juniors Keenan Robinson(6’3 239lb linebacker), Emmanuel Acho (6’2 240 lb linebacker), and sophomore Dravannti Johnson (6’2 250lb linebacker). Jones and Sam Acho are tied for a team best 6 sacks each, and Emmanuel Acho is the team’s second leading tackler (57) even though he has missed a game this season, and Robinson is the teams leading tackler (74) as well as the team’s leader in interceptions (2). This front seven is very experienced and should be expected to put a lot of pressure on Carson Coffman.
The secondary for the longhorns is also very experienced. They return 2 seniors in Curtis Brown (6’0 184lb cornerback) and Chykie Brown (6’0 194lb cornerback), as well as 2 junior safeties in Christian Scott (6’1 215 lb safety) and Blake Gideon (6’1 205lb safety). Gideon leads the secondary in tackles (41), tied for interceptions (1). This secondary is solid, but mostly because of the great play of the front 7.
If the Kansas State line can hold back the Texas front 7 they should be able to pass on them. Coffman has played off and on this entire season, but if he has time he can play with this Texas defense. What K-State will have to do is release its horse in Thomas, and then pick apart the secondary. It won’t be an easy task, but it is doable.
Texas Special Teams
Like much of the Big 12, Texas has a very solid kicker in Justin Tucker (6’1 185 lb junior). He has connected on 18-22 field goals this year, including a 51 yarder. The punting duties for Texas have been split this year between Tucker, and John Gold (6’3 208lb senior). Both have done a very nice job averaging over 42 yards a punt each.
The kick and punt return game has hurt Texas a lot this season, especially in its loss to Baylor. They have yet to score a touchdown, and have had key fumles lost at that position.
3 Keys to a Wildcat Victory
- Big day for Daniel Thomas
Daniel has struggled of late, fumbling, and not picking up as many yards as many fans expect of him. It is vitale that K-State can get the run game going against Texas. If Kansas State cannot get the run game going, then Kansas State will have to pass against a team who sacks the quarterback a lot.
- Clog the holes
Texas has struggled rushing the ball this year, keep it that way. If K-State can force them to pass, the secondary is the best aspect of the Wildcats’ defense. Either way Texas has advantages on offense, even if the stats don’t show it.
- Be confident, not cocky
K-State self-proclaims to “own” Texas. Its cute, but not true. The players need to believe in themselves to be better than Texas, but not cocky to which we blow a game because K-State has success against them in the past.
Texas has struggled this season, but each week is a new game. Kansas State has struggled on defense against the run, and Texas wants to run the ball. K-State fans should hope that Texas is truly as bad as the stats say they are at running the ball, because if they aren’t they could run all over the Kansas States defense.
Offensively K-State’s biggest weakness has been when Coffman gets pressured. When he has time to throw, he has impressed and has made some pretty nice throws. But when he is pressured, he is arguably the worst quarterback in the conference. The problem is, Texas is superb at getting to the quarterback. Their strengths match up with K-States weaknesses.
Can K-State compete with Texas? Yes. But on paper it looks to be a very good matchup. Two struggling teams looking to change their season in front of a sold out crowd on national TV. I believe K-State comes up short on this one, though I would not be surprised if Kansas State won. We have had Texas’s number, we need a spark to put the season back on track and this might be it. My heart says K-State wins, but my head says Texas. I went with my heart on the Nebraska game, and that turned out poor for K-State, so maybe my head will be wrong on this one too. Texas 27 Kansas State 24