Aggies will test defense

If the Wildcats had difficulty defensively against the Ragin' Cajuns' offense in last Saturday's 40-20 win, the Aggies' offense, led by junior quarterback Reggie McNeal, could present a bigger problem for the K-State maligned defense.


Aggies will test defense

Reggie McNeal could be trouble

By Herbie Teope

If the Wildcats had difficulty defensively against the Ragin' Cajuns' offense in last Saturday's 40-20 win, the Aggies' offense, led by junior quarterback Reggie McNeal, could present a bigger problem for the K-State maligned defense.

"I've had a chance the last three days to spend some time watching Texas A&M and I'm tremendously impressed," Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder said at Tuesday's press conference. "I think they have made a wealth of improvement over where they were a year ago. I think McNeal is really playing lights out. He's such a major threat running the football and he's throwing the ball very well."

McNeal, who is a double-threat with his arm and legs, has completed 45-of-85 passes for 686 yards with a touchdown against no interceptions. He's also averaging 85.7 rushing yards-per-game on 41 attempts with three rushing touchdowns.

Listed at 6-2 and 198 pounds, McNeal is currently ranked fifth in the nation in total offense with 943 yards, good for 314.3 yards-per-game.

"The statistics indicate that and you watch it on tape and see that he's very accurate," Snyder said of the Aggies starting quarterback. "He's reminiscent of some of the quarterback types that we've had at K-State, and they have that kind of an offense. It really is a well-balanced and very dangerous offense."

The Aggies (2-1) are indeed balanced on offense with sophomore running back Courtney Lewis, who is averaging 104 rushing yards-per-game, and wide receivers Terrence Murphy and Kerry Franks. As a team, the Aggies are ranked 17th in the nation averaging 473.3 yards-per-game. Moreover, they are averaging 26 points-per-game.

"The quarterback that we're going to face next Saturday is very athletic and fast, and he's a pretty big guy," junior defensive back Jesse Tetuan commented about McNeal. "And we can't be tackling high, and we can't leave our feet. We have to be in good position and that's stuff that we need to work on."

The sight of Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Jerry Babb, who isn't exactly known for his speed, ripping off an 80-yard run last Saturday against the Wildcats doesn't instill confidence in Kansas State's run defense or their ability to keep containment on the more versatile McNeal. Through three games, the defense has surrendered an average of 149 rushing yards-per-game, which is a far cry from the 105 yards-per-game in 2003.

Still, senior defensive tackle Jermaine Berry is optimistic that the defense can get the job done against McNeal.

"He is a very good mobile quarterback, but we played against a quarterback like that last year in Brad Smith [of Missouri]," Berry said. "We just have to make sure we keep contain [ment] and it shouldn't be a problem."

Another potential obstacle for the Wildcats is the loud exuberant crowd that awaits them at College Station, where the Aggies have surrendered a total of six points in two home games against Wyoming and Clemson while scoring 58 total points in that same span.

"They have a very hostile environment," senior center Mike Johnson commented. "I think they hold the record for being the loudest outdoor stadium with 134 decibels or something like that. It will definitely test our ability to play with crowd noise."

The Aggies offense and the road game aside, the Wildcats need to find balance on offense if they expect to win. In last Saturday's win, quarterback Dylan Meier attempted only 10 passes. Part of that had much to do with running back Darren Sproles record-breaking day, but the Wildcats can't afford to be one-dimensional on Oct. 2.

Meier is optimistic that the passing game will eventually come around.

"I think it will come along," he said. "Sooner or later, we are really are going to need to throw the ball a lot. I'm ready for it, and so are the receivers. There is a rhythm that we have in going through practice, and I feel real confident with all of them. They are sure-handed guys, and we need to get the ball into their hands a little more."

K-State fans are hopeful that scenario comes to fruition sooner than later. If the Aggies, who are ranked 25th in the nation against the run, are able to contain Sproles, Meier and the passing game will be needed.

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