Three Keys to Victory: K-State

Iowa State will be fighting to remain in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 North Saturday in Manhattan when it face an old nemesis in Kansas State.'s senior writer offers up his three keys to a Cyclone victory.

Plant a seed of doubt

This almost goes without saying, but the Cyclones will need a good start to make sure some early adversity sets in for Kansas State. On Senior Day, the Wildcats have no hopes of going bowling, and only have pride to play for. There have been some reports of divisiveness among players and coaches, since Bill Snyder's decision not to award his team the Big 12 championship rings they earned last December.

But getting off to a fast start might be easily said than done, especially in a series that has been dominated by the ‘Cats. Iowa State's offense needs to continue its run of efficiency out of the quarterback position, and not give K-State any momentum or short fields. Getting off to a good start and taking a lead heading into the locker room at halftime will be a huge key in coming out of Manhattan one step closer to a Big 12 North championship.

No holes for Sproles

One of the major reasons for K-State's downfall this season has been the loss of quarterback Ell Roberson, who was a perfect fit for the offensive system in Manhattan. The Dylan Meier and Allen Webb quarterback carousel haven't been the answer for an inconsistent offense, and were unable to get it done again last week in Boulder.

Expect the Wildcats to go back to their bread-and-butter Saturday, and that's preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Darren Sproles. Even though the veteran senior has failed to approach his 2,000-yard season of 2003, he remains the team's best offensive threat with 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns.

As our insider Jack Whitver said this morning, this game could set up much like the Nebraska game of 2002 did. The Huskers came into Jack Trice Stadium with an inconsistent quarterback in Jammal Lord and tried a smash-mouth approach. K-State might try the same thing against a beat up Cyclone defense that will be playing without inside linebacker Brandon Brown and rush end Tyson Smith. ISU's ability to contain Sproles will be a key to winning this game.

Limit 'momentum' plays

The biggest difference in this year's K-State defense has been the inability to make big plays. It has made just 18 sacks, 49 tackles-for-loss, and 10 interceptions through 10 games this season. Those numbers pale in comparison to their defense of 2003. As a result, the Wildcats have slumped in many conference statistical categories. They enter Saturday's contest ranked 11th in scoring defense (30 points/game), fifth in total defense (345.1 yards), and seventh in rushing defense (147.0). Those are all very uncharacteristic of a Bobby Elliott-coached unit.

On the other hand, ISU quarterback Bret Meyer has shown to be very efficient during his team's three-game winning streak, and Stevie Hicks and Jason Scales are following in the ball-security tradition of tailbacks in Ames. They will need to continue taking care of the ball in Manhattan.

However, one glaring statistic that could come into play is the offensive line's tendency to give up sacks. ISU is giving up an average of three sacks a game for 27 on the season, a mark that ranks last in the Big 12. This unit will need to clean up that area against Elliott's defense.

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