Auburn, Ala.--One of the most important aspects for the No. 5 Auburn Tigers (2-0) heading into the first road trip of the season this week at No. 20 Kansas State (2-0) is experience. With loads of veterans on both sides of the ball, Coach Gus Malzahn’s club has already played at some of the toughest environments in the country.
The Tigers will face a new challenge on Thursday night on the road inside the tough confines of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, a place the Wildcats are 116-23 at under Snyder since he took over in Manhattan. With Kansas State expecting the largest crowd in school history, Malzahn said he recognizes the need to play well being away from home and especially in a new environment for everyone involved.
“It definitely affects you,” Malzahn said. “But, fortunately for us, Nick (Marshall) has played. A lot of our guys have played. We don't really have a young team, and it's like going into any hostile SEC environment.
"All I've heard is that Manhattan is the toughest place to play in the Big 12 so we know we've really got to be focused. We've been fortunate not to have any false start penalties in the first two games. Your attention to detail and your awareness really has to be raised when you're on the road in a hostile environment.”
Coming into the game ranked fifth in the country, Auburn is the highest-rated non-conference opponent to travel to Manhattan since No. 2 Penn State in 1969. That year the Nittany Lions escaped with a 17-14 victory. This time around the Wildcats are a much better team and program, one that Malzahn said he believes will challenge his team from start to finish.
“We’ve got a big test on the road this week, playing a Top 20 team,” Malzahn said. “It’ll be a good measuring stick to see where we are as a team this year. Offensively, they’re very balanced. Their quarterback is a dual-threat guy who runs the ball extremely well and can do some very unique things. What really stands out to me is they’ve only had one turnover all year. They do a really great job of protecting the football.
“Defensively, they’re good against the run. They’re very disciplined, very good at what they do. They make you earn it. They have a very scrappy defense that doesn’t give up a lot of big plays. That will be a big key. They are also one of the best teams in college football in time of possession. Being able to control the football will be a big factor in Thursday’s game.”
That is easier said than done against a Kansas State defense that is allowing just 87 yards rushing per game this season in wins over Stephen F. Austin and Iowa State. A team that is no stranger to facing high-powered offensive attacks in the Big 12, Kansas State will be ready and able to get the job done if the Tigers don’t execute said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
“One, when they play teams that offensively have been doing well, they don't do near as well at Kansas State,” Lashlee said. “You look at Baylor last year. OU. All those teams, they go in there and they score a considerably less amount of points than they did before heading into that game. I think that is just a great tribute to the way they coach. They are very simple, but they are very sound. They are not out of gaps. They are not out of position. They play as hard as any defense I've seen on film since we've been here.
“They have got 11 guys that are completely crazy going to the football, and that makes up for a lot of things, but they want to make you drive the whole field. There are a lot of times, as on offense, it's hard to execute without a false start, without a turnover, without a dropped pass, without a bad throw, without a missed assignment. Over time the odds go in their favor the longer the drive goes if you don't have explosive plays. And I think that's what they've been able to do--really limit explosive plays and make people earn it. I think that's what makes them really good. That's why, once again, we've got a big challenge ahead.”
Kickoff for Thursday night’s game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.
By The Numbers:
*Kansas State is 65-4 all-time under Bill Snyder against non-conference opponents at home
*A win would be the first over a Top 5 opponent since beating No. 4 Texas at home in 2006
*The Wildcats are 16-6 in mid-season bye weeks under Bill Snyder
*Kansas State has scored in 218 consecutive games dating back to the 1996 season
*Auburn has scored 30 points in 12 straight games while Kansas State’s streak stands at nine
*Since 1990 the Wildcats are 116-25 when having a 100-yard rusher