Normally, Kansas State's players listen intently to their head coach. But this week is a touch different.
Yes, coach Bill Snyder likes the spirit and the enthusiasm of his football team entering Thursday's 6:30 p.m. kickoff against Nebraska at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, but as says, "I would like to think when this one is over that we understand that we have seven more to go."
But to the players, this one against the 4-0 and No. 6 ranked Cornhuskers is an opportunity to make a K-State statement.
Defensive end Antonio Felder said, "This is a game that can lead us to where we want to end up."
Zach Kendall added, "We're just out to prove that we're a good team. We're not worried about being No. 25 or No. 15, but we know that we will be judged by how we play on this game, and we want people to look at us as a good team."
OFFENSIVE CATEGORY KSU NU
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"They have a very good offensive line, good running back, and the wide receivers have good range and run well," said Bill Snyder of NU's offense. "It is pretty much a complete package."
Nebraska (309 yards per game) and K-State (216) rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in running the football. NU has rushed for 16 TDs and KSU 11. Nebraska is 5th in the nation in rushing; K-State is 23rd.
Daniel Thomas is K-State's feature back with an average of 157 yards, which ranks fifth nationally. Thomas averages 6.0 yards per carry, and has scored a half-dozen touchdowns.
NU counters with freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, who averages 9.4 yards per carry, 124 yards per game and has scored eight rushing TDs.
"He runs extremely well. He is elusive, he has good quickness, good speed and throws the ball well," detailed Snyder.
Nebraska (162) and K-State (162) rank 11-12 in the Big 12 in passing the football, but both with 61 percent completion ratios. The Cornhuskers (9.3) and the Wildcats (8.3) rank 2-4 in yards per passing attempt. Nebraska is 99th in the nation in passing and K-State 100th.
Carson Coffman has thrown five TDs to just two interceptions, while Martinez, a run-first QB, has only two TD passes to three picks.
Coffman's favorite target is Brodrick Smith with 14 catches and three TDs; Martinez's favorite target is Brandon Tinnie with 17 catches and no scores
DEFENSIVE CATEGORY KSU NU
"They are awfully good upfront. They play a different style of defense than what we see week-in and week-out," said Snyder. "They run well and everybody likes their secondary. Their cornerbacks are excellent cover guys, and they pursue and tackle well. Their numbers indicate that they do well against the run and the pass, and what I have seen on tape is pretty accurate."
Nebraska ranks first in the nation in pass defense, but only 56th against the run (139); KSU ranks seventh in pass defense, but only 100th against the run (195).
WHO TO WATCH: KSU's
DE Brandon Harold ranks second on the team with 26 tackles (Alex Hrebec has 39), plus has six tackles for negative yards, which includes two sacks. Harold also has two passes broken up, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. CB Terrence Sweeney has six passes broken up, one forced fumble and two interceptions. Nebraska's LB Lavonte David leads the Big 12 with 44 tackles.
Nebraska has sacked the QB 9 times to rank fourth high in the league, while K-State has allowed 11 sacks to rank 11th high. Can KSU's o-line protect Carson Coffman; can Coffman make decisions that will negate NU's pressure?
KSU and NU are even with a plus-0.50 turnover ratio. NU has forced 12 turnovers and given up 10; KSU has forced seven turnovers and given up five. NU has scored 10 interceptions this year with three going back for TDs. K-State being able to force the turnover could be huge as Nebraska has fumbled 16 times, losing seven of those, to KSU's six fumbles, three of which have been lost.
3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS:
NU ranks third in the league converting .455 of its third-down snaps; KSU ranks ninth converting .417. NU ranks fourth in the league allowing teams to convert third downs just .288 of the time; KSU ranks eighth allowing teams to convert third downs .375 percent of the time. Which side will convert/prevent conversions at a higher rate?
RED ZONE SCORING:
KSU ranks fourth in scoring points once moving inside the 20-yard line (.846, 11-of-13) with eight TDs and three field goals. NU ranks 12th in the league inside the 20 (.722, 13-of-18) with 11 TDs and two field goals.
K-State has been flagged only 19 times this year for 42 yards per game in penalties compared to Nebraska's 29 penalties accounting for 73 yards per game.