'Must win' might be right
STILLWATER, Okla. - There are story lines aplenty Saturday when Kansas State travels here for an 11:40 a.m. Fox Sports Net kickoff against Oklahoma State University.
0-1 vs. 0-1
Sure, K-State is 4-2 and ranked No. 22 in the country and Okie-State 4-1 and winners of four in a row, but more importantly is the fact that the Wildcats and Cowboys are each 0-1 in Big 12 Conference play.
OSU lost at Nebraska in the season opener 17-7, while KSU lost at Texas last week 24-20.
Coach Bill Snyder says with each league loss "... there becomes a sense of urgency to become a better team. There is always a reason why you lose, so the most important thing is to determine why and overcome what the issues might be."
Of late, O-State has had few things to correct having won its last three games - Southwest Missouri State, SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette - by a combined score of 150-12.
Just for the record, only once in the first seven years of Big 12 Conference history has the winner of the North Division lost more than one game. That was in 2000 when KSU and NU went 6-2.
Oklahoma State can read the numbers: .400.
That's Ell Roberson's league-low for starting quarterbacks pass completion percentage, which includes a 5-of-18 effort last week against Texas.
Oklahoma State can read the numbers: 84.5.
That's what Ell Roberson averages per game in running the football, which leads the nation for quarterbacks.
"You have to contain him," said OSU defensive tackle Clay Coe. "You can't let him get outside the end and you can't let him get up the middle. Our ends are going to have to get up field and it's our job in the middle not to let him run straight up the middle on a scramble."
Roberson rushed for a season-high 145 yards in the season-opener against California and had 87 yards and a pair of scores last week against Texas.
Through the air, he's completed just 17 of 47 passes in his last three games.
"We want to make them throw the ball so that we can have the opportunity to rush the passer," said OSU defensive end Greg Richmond.
Just for the record, O-State has recorded 15 sacks this year for a negative-100 yards.
Rashaun Woods holds O-State receivig records with 248 catches for 3,586 yards and 36 touchdowns.
"As good as I've seen," Snyder said of Woods. "He's a very fine athlete, who runs extremely well and has tremendous hands. You say that about a lot of wide receivers, but in addition to that, he's such a physical receiver. If he gets in a shoving match, he's going to win against those he lines up against."
How do you stop him?
"Tackle him before he gets off the line of scrimmage," quipped Snyder.
Seriously, Snyder said, "If he's 6-2, you play him like he's 5-11. You can't back off and get caught on your heels. You have to stand in there and battle him for it."
Defensive coordinator Bob Elliott added, "He's the best I've seen at concentrating on the ball and getting his body in position to make the tough catch."
Plus, with Josh Fields, Snyder says that good passing decisions are made with a variety of passes.
One of those passes is what Elliott calls a "moon ball" that is lobbed high with Woods using his 4.4 speed and 36-inch vertical jump to go up for the catch.
Just for the record, Woods caught a record seven touchdowns in a single game against SMU three weeks ago and has a streak of 38 straight games of catching at least two passes. A string of 28 straight games with at least four catches ended last week.
IF NOT WOODS
To complement Mr. Woods, O-State has a running game that averages 222 yards per game to rank No. 10 in the nation.
Three-prong attack includes senior Tatum Bell (5-11, 205), junior Seymore Shaw (5-11, 215) and sophomore Vernand Morency (5-10, 225).
Bell entered last week's game leading the Big 12. Fumbling early, Bell was benched after just two carries for nine yards. Bell is averaging 101 yards per game, 6.1 per carry and has seven touchdowns.
Shaw averages 39 yards per game and 6.2 per carry.
Morency is averaging 51 yards per game and 8.6 per carry. With Bell benched, Morency rushed for 189 yards in last week's game.
"He's strong as an ox. The kid is amazing," said OSU offensive lineman Sam Mayes. "He's kind of like having Tatum and Seymore in the same body. He has the breakaway speed, but he also has the ability to pound the ball."
Just for the record, OSU has scored 14 rushing TDs while KSU has given up just one.
O-State has gone 12 straight quarters without allowing a touchdown in posting wins by 42-3, 52-6 and 56-3 counts over Southwest Missouri State, SMU and La.-Lafayette, respectively.
"I think it's one hand feeding the other," Snyder said of the Cowboys' defense. "Their special teams are good, which helps the defense; their offense is good, which helps the defense; and their defense is good, which helps the defense.
"They're a team that will play hard. That's an easy thing to say, but some teams do and some teams don't," Snyder said. "You're not able to say that here's a guy who truly out-classes all the other players on defense. They all play pretty well and collectively they are a good defensive football team.
Just for the record, O-State has allowed just six touchdowns in five games with its 10.6 defensive scoring average ranking fourth in the nation.