Preview: Kansas State at Texas A&M
Kansas State at Texas A&M
By Herbie Teope
The Kansas State Wildcats (2-1) open conference play on the road for the sixth straight season when they travel to College Station, Texas, on Saturday to face the Aggies (2-1) at Kyle Field.
The last time these two teams met was in Manhattan in 2001, which was a Texas A&M 31-24 victory. The Aggies lead the series 6-4-0, and have won the last three consecutive games. But this is Kyle Field the Wildcats head to on Saturday to play in what has been nominated and described as one of the most raucous places in America to play. The Aggies will certainly have their fans out en masse, and the Wildcats will have to focus on playing with the noise and distractions. Costly off-sides penalties and miscues will erode chances of a Purple victory.
Both teams are coming off byes following Sep. 18 victories. The Wildcats defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 40-20, and the Aggies beat Clemson 27-6.
Despite a 22-10 Big 12 road record the last eight years, K-State has lost three consecutive conference openers since 2001 and looks to head into Saturday's game to battle a Big 12 South division team desperate for a statement win over the defending Big 12 champions. It will take the Wildcats full interest and effort to offset home field advantage, take the crowd out of the game and grind out a victory.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:10 p.m and the game will be televised nationally on the Turner Broadcast System/Superstation. This will be the second time this season that the Wildcats will be seen nationally. The first was the Sep. 11 loss against Fresno State, which was seen nationally on the Fox Sports Network.
The game will be broadcast live on the Mid America Sports Network radio network.
Keys to the game
Establish the run
The last time Heisman candidate running back Darren Sproles faced the Aggies as a freshman in 2001, he gained 13 yards on four carries. That was then, this is now. Sproles is coming off a school-record 292 rushing yards, and has rushed for 550 yards through three games. An established running game will lead to plenty of play-action opportunities.
Passing game needed to balance the offense
The ground game was clicking on all cylinders against the Ragin' Cajuns. However, the Aggies are fast on defense and could place eight or nine players in the box in an attempt to stop Sproles. If they are successful in containing Sproles, the wide receivers will be in one-on-one coverage on the outside. Quarterback Dylan Meier, who attempted only 10 passes against the Ragin' Cajuns, must take advantage of this.
Contain Aggies quarterback Reggie McNeal
McNeal, who has rushed for three touchdowns through three games, is a double threat and can really hurt the Wildcats defensively if they don't maintain lane discipline rushing the quarterback. K-State should try to keep McNeal in the pocket and not allow him to get outside.
K-State defense must play an entire game
The missed tackles that plagued K-State against Louisiana-Lafayette can't rear its head Saturday at Kyle Field. The defense will be going after McNeal, but they must also account for Aggies running back Courtney Lewis, who is averaging 104.5 rushing yards-per-game. The play of the linebackers, especially weakside linebacker Marvin Simmons, will be a key factor. If either safety finishes the game leading the team in tackles, the linebackers didn't do their job.
Neutralize the crowd early
The Wildcats have to play mentally mistake free football. Some will make statements that playing in the hostile confines of Kyle field throws offensive timing off and leads to mental error. If the Wildcats are to be successful, they must limit all errors and find a way to keep the crowd quiet. Putting some points on the board early will be imperative as Kyle Field is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. For the new Wildcats, seniors need to step up and guide the youngsters and keep emotions in check. This will be a very involved crowd making a lot of noise and mental errors on defense or burned timeouts will prove costly.
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