Saturday at 6 p.m. can't come quick enough for Kansas State. The Wildcats know that the quickest way for one and all to forget last week's fiasco in Lubbock, Texas, is to strap on the helmet and prove to be a better football team.
That opportunity awaits the Wildcats with Texas A&M providing the opponent. K-State is 1-1 in the Big 12 and 3-3 overall; A&M is 0-1 and 3-2.
All eyes will be focused on K-State's defensive-11 after they gave up 739 yards to the Red Raiders. While not quite as explosive, the Aggies have a pass-run quarterback that is one of the elite in the country in Jerrod Johnson, who accounts for a Big 12-high 356 yards per game this year. Oh yes, he's also rifled 211 passes without an interception.
"He leads the world in total offense. He presents a lot of challenges for us. He is putting up some very good numbers, both through the air and on the ground. He is a very dangerous player in both of those aspects," said KSU coach Bill Snyder.
"He has the capability to do a lot of positives things. He also has a lot of good players around him. So it will be a good test for our defense this Saturday."
Wildcat defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald said of Johnson, "He is similar to the quarterback from Iowa State, but I think he will be a little more athletic, so we have to focus on getting a better pass rush against him." Pass rush!
K-State trails the Big 12 with its six QB sacks, while it also ranks last with its 13 sacks given up.
Now, throw A&M DE Von Miller into the mix, who personally has nine QB sacks himself. "He is maybe even more amazing than I originally thought. He is an inside rusher against extra points and field goals and he almost blocked a field goal attempt by going between a blocker's legs. That's how low he gets," Snyder said. "He is a very good player. He runs extremely well, he is very good with his hands and he gets upfield so quickly that he put a lot of pressure on offensive linemen. He is equally good against the run as he is against the pass." Not only must K-State show a pass rush, but it must play a total defensive game that starts with sue tackling, which it didn't have against Texas Tech.
"We are getting into Big 12 play, so we need to play better in space because that's how most teams in this conference are operating right now," said Snyder. "We are going to see a lot of one-on-one matchups in the coming weeks. We need to work on the fundamentals of defense in order to contend with the offenses we are going to face. I think our effort is there, but we need to focus on getting our mistakes cleaned up."
The Wildcat coach added, "The teams that we played prior to Texas Tech were a little more confined with their offensive schemes. Texas A&M has an offense similar to a lot of the teams that we are going to be going up against the rest of the season. Saturday will show us if we are going to be able to work through the numerous problems that we encountered against Texas Tech."
A&M'S NO. 99:
Spencer Nealy figures to play Saturday for Texas A&M as a backup defensive end. Spencer is the son of former Kansas State basketball great Ed Nealy. A true-freshman, Nealy prepped at Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas.