Granted it came against a not-your-average Nebraska squad, but Iowa State's effort in late September should provide the blueprint for beating Kansas State. The Huskers and Wildcats employ similar philosophies on the offensive side of the ball, and have quarterbacks that aren't too adept as passers.
Defensive coordinator John Skladany's approach was very evident from the start—stack the front with as many players as possible and giving little respect to the pass. With the exception of a 90-yard touchdown pass by Jammal Lord, the plan worked to a tee. The Cyclones made Lord's day a miserable one, while putting a stranglehold on Nebraska's vaunted rushing attack.
Limiting K-State to 81 yards on 30 carries Saturday is probably out of the question, given K-State's recent history against Cyclone defenses. But if ISU sells out to the run and gets good man coverage on the outside from cornerbacks Atif Austin and Ellis Hobbs, it has a chance for a victory. Then it will take an offensive performance similar to the one Cyclone fans saw in September.
This is a must against Bill Snyder's team, as the Wildcats have won 60 of their last 62 games when getting on the board first. Even more impressive is the fact that the program has posted a 90-9 mark in the Snyder era when scoring first.
Getting on the board first again Saturday would have just as big of an effect on ISU's psyche, given the recent history of this series. Many of the players taking the field in Cyclone uniforms have seen all too often what happens after a fast start by K-State. Fast starts have catapulted Snyder's teams the past two seasons, as they've won by a combined 98-13 margin.
Slow starts have plagued the Cyclones at times this season. They have recovered from some, but couldn't crawl out of early holes against Florida State and Oklahoma. If the offense hits the field first on Saturday, Seneca Wallace and a group of receivers considered the best in recent history will have to take advantage. This unit must set the tone early and prevent the defense from going 42-plus minutes as it did at Oklahoma.
Getting at least a stalemate on special teams
Everyone remembers David Allen's game-turning punt return for touchdown in the 1999 clash at Jack Trice Stadium. Other ISU special teams meltdowns at inopportune times in recent history also come to mind. This can't happen if the Cyclones are to have a chance at winning their first game in Manhattan since 1988.
However, Marty Fine's special teams unit is coming off one of its worst performances of the season against Missouri. The punt team is mostly to blame for that distinction, as ISU gave up a blocked punt with its opponent in a ‘punt safe' formation and later surrendered a near game-turning punt return of 80 yards by Marcus James.
Special teams play has traditionally been a strong point of K-State teams under Snyder. That's no different this season, as the Wildcats have scored 10 times this season on special teams and defense.
Terence Newman heads into this game ranked first in the Big 12 as a kick returner and third taking back punts. He's averaging nearly 35 yards on nine kickoffs and has already returned one 95 for a touchdown. Newman has also scored on a punt return and averages 15.4 yards.
In doing so he's become just the second player in school history to return a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in the same season.