Texas-sized task awaits Wildcats
AUSTIN, Texas - Kansas State defensive end Andrew Shull says, "This team is ready to go. We see the challenge in front of us and we're ready to step up."
Step up after the smarting loss to Marshall two weeks ago.
"We lost a little pride in that game, but it's nothing we can't get back," Shull said.
With that said, it's time for some No. 13 Texas Longhorn versus No. 16 Kansas State Wildcat football Saturday at 2:30 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Yes, the 2003 Big 12 opener ... on the road: "That just makes the game more exciting," Shull said. "All those people cheering against you, it's a great atmosphere."
Here are three Wildcat keys when 4-1 Kansas State plays 3-1 Texas on Saturday.
Controlling Roy and B.J.
Bob Elliott remembers going out in pre-game warm-ups last year at KSU Stadium and standing by the chiseled 6-foot-4, 210-pound Roy Williams.
"I went back to the locker room and about threw up," Elliott quipped. "This year I'm not going out there."
While a gimpy Williams had modest numbers of three catches for 16 yards in a 17-14 win over K-State, it was B.J. Johnson, a 6-1, 220-pounder who punished the Wildcat secondary for four catches, 132 yards and a touchdown.
As a third weapon, the Longhorns trot 6-2, 200-pound Sloan Thomas out onto the field.
"They've got three wide receivers that can get in the end zone any time they put the ball in the air," said KSU coach Bill Snyder. "They've got great range, great speed and are very athletic, so it's a real concern."
This year, Williams has 23 catches with five TDs, Johnson receptions with two scores, and Thomas four catches for a 27.5 yard per catch average.
"Roy Williams is all that he's cracked up to be," Snyder said, "but you can't spend all your time on him or those other guys will light up every scoreboard in the country."
Of Williams, Elliott said, "We had a guy (Terence Newman) who could match up with him last year, but this year we're going to have to mix it up ... and hope they don't throw to him."
Elliott added, "But they have so many weapons. That's why they're putting 50 points up on the board."
Hoping to match talents will the Williams in Burnt Orange will be Cedrick Williams in the Purple and White. UT's No. 4 versus KSU's No. 4.
"If you're intimidates you shouldn't be out there," said the 5-9, 165-pound KSU cornerback. "By the end of the day we'll see who's the last Williams standing."
On his Williams, UT quarterback Chance Mock said, "He's an absolute freak. Throw the ball in his direction and it will get caught and he'll do something with it."
Just for the record, Williams ranks No. 1 in Texas history in catches (194), yards (3,161), touchdowns (32) and 100-yard receiving games (14).
Johnson is No. 4 in receptions (130), No. 4 in yardage (1,963), No. 4 in touchdowns (14) and No. 3 in 100-yard games (8).
Running, stopping the run
Remember this statistic: Texas has scored 13 rushing touchdowns in four games; K-State has not allowed a rushing score in five games played in 2003.
The Wildcats are allowing just 92 rushing yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry; Texas averages 3.8 per carry and 184 yards per game.
After a 38-28 loss to Arkansas, UT refocused on its rushing attack and has rushed for 624 yards and 10 touchdowns in victories over Rice and Tulane.
In those two games, Cedric Benson, the eighth leading rusher in UT history has rushed for 216 yards and scored five times, while backup quarterback Vincent Young has rushed for 184 yards on just 15 carries.
"He's a slasher ... a north-south guy who we have to stop," Elliott said of Benson. "He's not a dancer, but just a good hard runner."
With four 305- to 330-pounders in the offensive line, Snyder simplifies of UT's running game, "They hand it to a guy, they knock everybody down and the guy runs down the field."
K-State will counter with its 1-2 punch of Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson. While each has a nicked-up left hand, their feet are fine.
"He's like a running back, he breaks so many tackles," Texas coach Mack Brown said of Roberson's abilities.
With Roberson's, and Kansas State's inside-outside game, Brown said, "This will be a linebacker's game. You'd better be a war daddy at linebacker this week."
But for the linebackers to succeed, Texas must have penetration from its tandem of 300-pound defensive tackles - Marcus Tubbs (310) and Rodrique Wright (315) - plus ends Kalen Thornton and Bryan Pickryl.
If not Roberson, Texas' next concern comes in the package of 5-foot-7, 188-pound Darren Sproles, who ranks second in the Big 12 with his 111 rushing yards per game.
"One word comes to mind: Fast," said Wright of Sproles. "If you blink, Sproles is going to be through that hole. Penetration is going to stop all that. We will have to push the line back."
On his biggest concern entering the game, KSU offensive coordinator Del Miller said, "We have to negate their speed, which won't be easy. They are very fast and very athletic. They're going to put pressure in your face."
Special game for special teams
Snyder calls Texas' cover units "excellent" and its kickoff unit "probably the best that I can recall having seen in an awful long time. Their kicker can do whatever he wants to with the ball. He can make it dance, he can hit it out, and he can place it wherever he wants to."
Throw in the fact that UT's punt return game ranks third in the nation at 20.3 yards per return and Snyder says, "They've got the full package. When you've got great athletes, you can do a lot of that stuff."
Nathan Vasher headlines UT's special teams play averaging 19.5 yards on six punt returns, while Selvin Young has averaged 43.3 yards on three kickoff returns.
Richmond McGee serves as the Longhorns kicker and has 11 touchbacks on 32 kickoffs and Dusty Mangum as the field goal specialist hitting his only attempt from 28 yards plus adding 22 consecutive PATs.
K-State will counter with Joe Rheem, who has been perfect on his 23 PATs, plus has been true on 7 of 8 field goals with a long of 44 yards.
Jermaine Moriera is the Wildcats return specialist, but with modest numbers of 20 yards per kickoff and 8.8 yards on punts.
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