Our buddy, Brad Kellner has a passion for University of Texas
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This Saturday, the Texas Longhorns are looking to do something they haven’t done since 2002… Leave Manhattan, KS with a win. The last time UT beat Kansas State on the road, Chris Simms was the quarterback for Texas and Dusty Magnum kicked a game-winning field goal to give Texas a 17-14 win on October 19, 2002. To put things into perspective, LeBron James was a senior in high school the last time the Longhorns beat K State on the road.
The Longhorns (3-4, 2-2) are coming off a thrilling 48-45 win over Iowa State while the Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) enter Saturday’s contest as the lone unbeaten team in Big 12 play. K State upset Oklahoma 31-30 on the road last week and vaulted to No. 11 in the AP Top 25. Kansas State’s only loss of the season came at home to Auburn. The Wildcats lost 20-14 but were in that game until the very end. Three missed field goals and three turnovers prevented K State from pulling off the upset.
Last season, Texas knocked off Kansas State 31-21 at home behind a career day from Jonathan Gray. Gray rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in the win. Overall, the Longhorns ran for 227 yards and were able to move down the field against the Wildcats early and often. Texas went up 17-0 late in the first half and forced a couple of late turnovers to halt K State’s comeback bid and secure the W.
Here are a couple of things to look for in Saturday’s matchup:
When Texas Has the Ball:
There’s no doubt that sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has taken some big strides over the last two weeks. Swoopes has gone for back-to-back 300-yard passing games for the first time in his career. The Whitewright native followed up his career day against OU with another big performance in Saturday’s win over Iowa State. Swoopes became just the third player in UT history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 90 in the same game. Swoopes’s only turnover came early on, but it came in the red zone. The Longhorns were had mounted a seven play, 78-yard drive and pushed the ball to the Iowa State 8 yard line before Swoopes rolled out to his right and threw a pick while attempting to throw across his body. It was a bonehead play that showed that Swoopes still has some maturing to do as a quarterback. Despite that blunder, the sophomore was dominant throughout the contest. For the first time in his young career, Swoopes led Texas to victory and was the best player for the Longhorns.
Against Kansas State, however, Swoopes will have his work cut out for him. The Wildcats rank second in the Big 12, allowing just 22.5 points per game. Considering they’ve already played against the high-powered offenses of Auburn and Oklahoma, that’s a pretty impressive stat. The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in total defense (in terms of yards) and allow a league-best 100 yards per game on the ground. The biggest knock on the K State defense has been its inability to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Wildcats rank last in the Big 12 with only seven sacks in six games. The Texas offense needs to establish the running game early on to try to make Swoopes’s job easier, and if the offensive line can give Swoopes time in the pocket, hopefully the sophomore can build on his recent success with another strong performance.
Texas needs to come close to replicating the big day on the ground it had last year in the win against Kansas State. If the combination of Swoopes, Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown can combine for around 175-200 yards on the ground, Texas will be able to control time of possession and give itself a good chance to pull off the upset. However, the ground game has been a problem for this Texas offense all season long. Brown and Gray averaged just under 4 yards a carry against Iowa State, and the Longhorns still rank second to last in the Big 12 in rushing. The inexperience on the Texas O-line has been a factor in this team’s offensive woes, and the boys in the trenches need to play the game of their lives on Saturday.
The Wildcat defense features a couple of big-named players who could find themselves playing on Sundays. Senior DE/LB Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on, led the team with 18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season and was placed on the Bednarik Award watch list before the 2014 season began. While he hasn’t quite replicated his numbers of 2013 (2 sacks in six games), the senior still poses a big threat to wreak havoc in the Texas backfield. Junior cornerback Morgan Burns ranks second in the conference with three interceptions in only five games. On the other side of the secondary, junior Travis Green also has a couple of picks to his name. Senior linebacker Johnathan Truman leads the Wildcats with 60 tackles, ranking one spot behind Texas LB Jordan Hicks for third in tackles per game in the Big 12.
For Texas to knock off Kansas State, the Longhorn offense has to take care of the ball and avoid penalties. It seems obvious, but turnovers and penalties have killed the Longhorns in each of their four losses this season. If the Horns can establish their running game early, the playaction pass over the top should come into play. Swoopes has been much more accurate throwing the ball in the last two games, and he’ll need to have a similar performance if he hopes to lead Texas to the upset on the road. It’ll take a total team effort, but if the Horns come anywhere close to the 48 points they put up against Iowa State, they have a chance to knock off the 11th ranked team in the nation.
When Texas is on Defense:
The Horns will have a tough task taking care of the only team in the conference with a winning record against them (Kansas State leads the all-time series 8-6). K State features a high-powered offense that ranks 14th in the country in points per game. Senior quarterback Jake Waters has had a great start to the 2014 season. Waters is a dual-threat QB and leads the Wildcats in both passing and rushing. In recent history, dual-threat quarterbacks have caused problems for the Longhorn defense (see Taysom Hill). Waters has racked up over 1,800 yards of total offense by himself and has 16 touchdowns through six games. The Horns will have their hands full dealing with the run-pass option plays that K State loves to run.
Waters has a couple of great weapons on offense that have helped the Wildcat offense put up nearly 40 points per game. Sophomore running back Charles Jones is the lead man out of the backfield for K State. He’s totaled 339 yards and 8 touchdowns on only 69 carries this season. Jones averages 4.9 yards a carry compared to just 3.9 that the Longhorn backs average on the ground.
The receiving corps features a couple of standouts on the outside. Senior Tyler Lockett has explosive speed and is a big downfield threat for K State. He’s hauled in 35 catches and leads the Wildcats with 478 receiving yards on the season. The Tulsa native averages 14 yards per catch and about 81 yards receiving per game. Lockett’s best attribute, however, is his punt returning. He LEADS THE COUNTRY in punt return average (26.8) and has already taken a punt back for a score. On the other side of the field is senior wide out Curry Sexton, who leads K State with 36 receptions on the year. Sexton has come on strong as of late, going for 17 catches, 205 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. Despite being undersized at 5’11,” he has the ability to make some extremely difficult catches in traffic.
Kansas State’s offensive line has been solid in 2014. All five Wildcat starters are upperclassmen with good experience in the Big 12. K State has done some shuffling up front early on, but the Wildcats have a couple of solid backups that they can plug in at any time. Jake Waters ranks seventh in the Big 12 in rush yards and K State ranks fourth in the conference with 181 rushing yards per game. The big men up front deserve a lot of credit for K State’s high-powered offense.
The Texas defense struggled mightily against an average Iowa State offense on Saturday. After carrying the load for the first six weeks of the season, the Longhorn D was torched for 524 yards and 45 points. Sam B. Richardson threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns, while Aaron Wimberly ran for 110 yards on just 14 carries for the Cyclones. The Cyclones quickly pushed the ball down the field numerous times and none of Iowa State’s five touchdown drives lasted longer than 3:18. After it seemed that Texas would get the win following a Malcolm Brown touchdown with 1:19 to go, the Horns allowed Iowa State to go 75 yards in 51 seconds to tie the game at 45 with just under 30 seconds to play. The Longhorn defense had been the key to Texas’s moderate success in 2014, but Saturday’s performance was a major step back for Vance Bedford’s unit. The Longhorns are going to have to play much better defensively if they have any chance to pull off the upset in the Little Apple.
Kelly Clarkson had just become the first winner of “American Idol” the last time Texas beat Kansas State in Manhattan. The Wildcats have lost only three conference games at home since 2011, and Bill Snyder Family Stadium is known for being one of the most raucous atmospheres in the Big 12. To make things tougher for Texas, K State will be playing with a little extra incentive as the Wildcats are going for their 500th win in program history.
There’s a reason that K State sits alone atop the Big 12 right now, and unfortunately for the Longhorns, I don’t see that changing after this week. K State just owns Texas at home and they’ve looked much better than the Longhorns in all three faucets of the game in 2014. The Longhorn defense revealed a ton of flaws in last week’s win and I think Iowa State may have given the rest of the conference a blueprint to how to attack the Texas secondary. Offensively, despite Texas’s recent success, I don’t see the Longhorns being able to put up enough points to pull off the upset. The Horns haven’t faced a defense as good as K State’s all season, and I expect the Wildcat front seven to cause problems for Texas all game long. It’ll take a near-perfect performance for Texas to get the win and I just don’t see it happening.
Prediction: Kansas State 31, Texas 17