(Photo: USA Today)
The bye week has passed and it is time for Texas to get back on the field as they look to stay in contention for an appearance in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns for face another tough test on Saturday as they travel to Manhattan to face a Kansas State team coming off a 48-0 beatdown of Oklahoma State, who beat Texas the week prior. Despite some injuries, the Wildcats are playing their best football of the season right now and will test the Longhorns in a number of different areas.
The Kansas State offense has taken a big step forward this year under new offensive coordinator and former player, Collin Klein. Klein, who was previously on staff as QB coach, brought in some fresh ideas for the Wildcats offense and has the unit playing good football. Interestingly enough, the best offensive output of the season came last week against Oklahoma State with backup QB Will Howard at the helm for injured Adrian Martinez. Howard has thrown for 6 touchdowns in 2 games since taking over for Martinez and has shown the ability the push the ball down the field with more regularity than he has done in previous years when pressed into duty. It is unknown if Martinez will be healthy enough to play Saturday, but it would not be surprising to see Kansas State choose to roll with Howard regardless.
RB Deuce Vaughn is the most dangerous player on the Kansas State offense. The junior has 902 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns to go along with 23 receptions. They get Vaughn the ball in a variety of different ways and he is the workhorse of the offense. WR Malik Knowles has been in Manhattan for seemingly 8 years and is a good player (32 catches for 447 yards). Slot receiver Phillip Brooks is another player who possesses good ability in the open field and can make guys miss. Kade Warner, son of Kurt Warner, leads the team with 4 touchdown receptions.
Kansas State is very solid up front along the offensive line. The Wildcats start 3 redshirt seniors, a redshirt junior and a sophomore. LG Cooper Beebe is one of the better guards in the Big 12 and does an excellent job in both run and pass blocking. The unit is experienced, physical and does a good job of opening up holes for Vaughn. They can be somewhat shaky if forced into obvious passing downs, but overall they are a good unit.
Another week, another team with a very good pass rusher. Felix Anudike-Uzomah is a future NFL player who has 7.5 sacks on the year and has given opposing teams fits. Nose Guard Eli Huggins is an experienced player who gives them quality snaps.
Linebacker is an interesting position for Kansas State heading into this game. Starting middle linebacker Daniel Green missed the Oklahoma State game due to injury, and Chris Kleiman said earlier this week that he was making progress towards a potential return. Green is an extremely active player who knows the defense inside and out. Fellow linebacker Austin Moore leads the team in tackles with 55 and had a great game against Oklahoma State.
In the backend, Iowa transfer Julius Brents serves as the Kansas State version of Ryan Watts. Brents stands at 6'4 and uses his length well. Opposite of Brents is Ekow Boye-Doe. Kansas State is probably about league average at the safety position. The Wildcats will run a lot of the 3-safety looks that have given Texas some problems against Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
It's tiring to say at this point, but this is another matchup where if Texas plays up their ability they should be in position to win the game in the 4th quarter. It's wild to think that Texas has held 4th quarter leads in all 3 of their losses. Kansas State has the experience at key spots to give Texas some issues, but the Longhorns have shown the ability to shut down some of what the Wildcats do well.
As usual with this team, it likely comes down to a possession or two in the fourth quarter. Can Texas finally find a way to win one of these games?