Manhattan, Kan.--When Kansas State takes the field against the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers on Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the Wildcats say they will not be intimidated. Facing strong competition in the Big 12 Conference, Kansas State has seen what life in big-time college football is all about quarterback Jake Waters pointed out and this week is no different.
“We definitely respect them, but we also know that they are trying to come in here and smack us around and beat us,” Waters said. “We have to have that same attitude and that confidence that we can play with anyone in the country if we go out and prepare the way that we have been this past week and execute. We respect them, but we are not scared of them.”
While Kansas State is used to seeing Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State on a regular basis, Auburn’s offense is quite different than any they will see this season. A run-first system that relies on power, the Tigers can knock you off the ball and pound you into submission if the running game gets on track. Throw in the dynamic play of Nick Marshall at quarterback plus talented wide receivers and K-State coach Bill Snyder said it’s a huge challenge for his defense.
“He’s a talented young guy and he can do both--he can throw it and he can run it,” Snyder said of Marshall, a quarterback he tried to sign at Kansas State. “His numbers indicated exactly that. They say that (Auburn) is a team that likes to run the football and that is their first emphasis.
“They will throw the ball and try to cast it down the field because he has the ability to do that. He has a strong arm. They’ll see him running the ball and they’ll see him throwing it. He is a young, dedicated athlete and will play hard and compare well no matter who he plays.”
Defensively, Auburn is a group that has talent, size and speed, but is still adjusting to having three coordinators in the last four seasons. With a year-plus under Coach Ellis Johnson, the Tigers have made some strides early in 2014. That is showing up more and more with the speed and aggressiveness across the board, something that comes with more familiarity with a scheme and coaching staff.
“They are physical and fast--I think fast in the perimeter of people and physical and quick with the front people,” Snyder said. “They are a north and south football team defensively. Their defensive people, their front four are not necessarily readers, they are guys that get in their stance and get their pads down and get in the line of scrimmage and they make it a very physical game. And I would anticipate that’s what we will see.”
Kansas State will counter with an offensive attack designed to take advantage of what the defense gives you with Waters running the show. Behind a veteran offensive line the Wildcats have been on a roll since the middle of the 2013 season with eight wins in the last nine games. Along with that steady play is a building confidence, something junior offensive lineman Boston Stiverson said they’ll take into Thursday night’s game.
“We play TCU that has big and strong athletic guys,” Stiverson said. “We also play Oklahoma. There are teams in the Big 12 that are just as big and as good as these guys.
“We have big and athletic guys on our offensive line. With our schemes, we will be okay. We are just going to play physical football, stay on our blocks and try to open up holes for our running backs and our quarterback or for whoever is running the ball.”
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CDT with TV coverage on ESPN for one of the most anticipated games in Kansas State history. That could add more pressure for the Wildcats because a win would be a huge stepping stone in 2014 for a program trying to get into the hunt for the playoffs this year.
“It is a great experience, but we are trying to approach it like we do every game,” K-State offensive lineman Drew Liddle said. “It is a great opportunity and to come away with a victory against a quality opponent would be good for our program and our team.”