K-State has rushed for eight touchdowns this season. That's the same number receiver Jordy Nelson has scored. A rushing attack that has not been able to find any offensive rhythm since the start of Big 12 play will attempt to rediscover their rushing attack against a stellar Colorado run defense this Saturday.
Right tackle Jeromey Clary said facing a defensive unit like Colorado's, ranked fifth in the nation at defending the run, provides the offensive line with a little more motivation heading into the game. "It does for me," Clary said. "I hope it does for the rest of them, and I'm confident that it does."
Linebacker Thaddaeus Washington and safety J.J. Billingsley lead the Colorado defense in tackles, with 59 and 58 respectively. Washington, who has registered four games with ten-or-more tackles, leads the Buffalos in tackles for loss with seven. Billingsley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2004, is second with six tackles for loss.
What will be the key for the Wildcats to get their running attack working on Saturday? Fullback Victor Mann said it's all about the little things. "They come play physical," Mann said, "but we can come play physical, too, and be successful. If we can just be assignment sound and execute, we'll be all right in the run game."
Mann said he thought the rushing attack showed some progress last week, but the numbers didn't show it because of the situation they were put in. "We came out running the ball pretty well, but then we got down 14-0," Mann said. "Then 16-0. It's kind of hard to keep running that ball, killing that clock, when you need to be putting up points."
The Wildcats totaled just 27 rushing yards against A&M, but those numbers don't reflect starting running back Thomas Clayton's production. Clayton rushed for 47 yards on 12 carries, nearly a 4-yard per carry average. Such numbers may be nothing to write home about, but they show progress from the game against Kansas where Clayton rushed 16 times for 13 yards.
Some players may be using Colorado's defensive rankings as motivation, but others are ignoring them completely. "We're not really worried about the rating of their defense," Mann said, "because on any give day, anything can happen."
The Wildcats will have to show remarkable improvement if they hope to be the Buffs with the run. Only two teams this season have rushed for over 100 yards against Colorado. Which two? Nationally ranked powers Texas and Miami. The Longhorns, who have the top rushing offense in the Big 12, rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns against the Buffalos.
Nevertheless, the Cats remain confident that the run game can make an impact on Saturday. "Knowing that they're a really good run defense is a huge challenge for all of us as an offense," Clayton said. "I think we'll be ready for this challenge."