COMING OFF A LOSS
With Ell Roberson on the sideline, Kansas State fell to Marshall, 27-20, just before its bye week before Texas. It was the Wildcats' first home loss since falling to the Longhorns, 17-14, on Oct. 19 last season.
"Theyre going to be pissed off," Texas QB Chance Mock said. "Theyve had two weeks to get ready for us and I think that will make it twice as hard on us. With K-State losing to Marshall, I dont think people realize how much tougher that makes it on us. The good thing is we got them coming to our place and I think were starting to click a little bit."
In the Marshall loss, QB Jeff Schwinn was responsible for three turnovers (2 INT, 1 fumble) while diminutive RB Darren Sproles rushed for just 77 yards on 14 carries. Marshall returned Schwinns fumble for an 84-yard TD and rushed for 210 yards.
Kansas State is the Big 12s best road team with a 20-8 mark (Texas is third at 15-9) and has a 10-2 record following a bye week. Since none of us likes those trends, Kansas State is 2-3 when making its Big 12 debut on enemy soil while Texas has not lost a conference home opener since 1967.
"I think Kansas State is going to play Texas as hard as they can regardless of what happened before the game," Mack Brown said. "Obviously, they scheduled the open date right before our game for a reason. I think were going to see a great effort out of them, but we would have seen the great effort if they were undefeated. Im sure theyll respond like our guys (after Arkansas). People have been hard on them for two weeks. You never want to have an open date after you lose. It means youve been beat up for two weeks instead of one."
KANSAS STATE OFFENSE
QB Roberson returned to practice during K-States off-week and is expected to make his first start since injuring his non-throwing wrist three weeks ago. The only question is whether the senior will emerge rusty or refreshed following the layoff. Texas, of course, is preparing for his best shot.
"Hes a seasoned quarterback," Brown said. "Hes well taught. He can beat you with the quarterback draw, the quarterback option, the counter, he can beat you scrambling, he can beat you sprinting out, with boots and nakeds, and then he can beat you with his arm. Hes a guy that can give us as big a challenge as well have the rest of the year."
In short, K-State comes at you hard and fast from multiple sets intended to exploit its speed at QB and at RB. Both Roberson and Sproles eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground during 2002, marking the first time KSU has produced two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
"The problem with them is you have to stop them from running right at your face," Brown said, "and then you have to stop them from running sideways. And then you have to be able to use the guys that youre using to help stop the option to make sure you play pass."
Backup senior QB Schwinn is naturally a drop back passer but is ill suited (relative to Roberson) to facilitate K-States power running attack. But even with Schwinn behind center for virtually half of the young season, the Wildcats check in this week with the Big 12s second-best rushing offense (218.8 ypg, NCAA No. 10) while Texas ground game is not far behind at 213.5 ypg (NCAA No. 12).
"Theyll do it with a fullback and with Ell in the backfield so its like an I-formation out of one back," Brown said, "and then theyll run the option attack with Sproles and get him in space for sweep, an option or a screen. Then theyll go back and run the traditional I power attack. They get a lot of free yards out of the option and were trying to do more of those type things."
Roberson is the only player in Wildcat history to rush for more than 2,000 yards and pass for more than 2,000 yards. Had the senior appeared in the NCAA mandated 75 percent of the games to qualify for statistical consideration, his 83.7 rushing ypg would lead the nation. Prior to his injury against McNeese State on Sept. 6, Roberson rushed for 251 yards and passed for 502 yards in nine quarters of play.
"(Roberson is) like a running back, but hes got the ability to change the game with his arm," Brown added. "Hes their leader. When youve got to try to stop both he and Sproles at tailback, it makes it much more difficult when both of them are in the game because you cant just focus on one."
Sproles is the Big 12s second-leading rusher with 110.8 ypg (NCAA No. 17). With 2,229 career yards, the 5-7, 170-pound junior needs just 37 yards against Texas to become the second-leading rusher in school history and requires 308 on the season to surpass Eric Hicksons record.
"People talk about him being a little guy but he plays like a big guy," Brown said. "Hes thick, hes got really strong legs and hes really hard to tackle."
DT Rodrique Wright saw Sproles early and often in Texas 17-14 win at Manhattan last year. The K-State game is generally considered Wrights coming out party, even though he would later post a career-best 11 tackles at Nebraska. Sproles rushed for 136 yards on 20 carries against Texas, including a 61-yard burst that set up K-States first TD.
"If you blink, Sproles is going to be through that hole," Wright said. "Penetration is going to stop all of that. We all just penetrate, push the lineman back, make that hit in the backfield, thats what we need."
Senior WR James Terry (6-5, 180) leads the team with 465 yards on 20 receptions. His 93 ypg is just a half-yard off Roy Williams' pace. Freshman Jermaine Moriera is averaging 18.8 yards on 10 grabs to rank second on the team. He has also taken over K-States punt and kick return duties
Moving the pile up front is senior Texan C Nick Leckey. With 31 career starts dating back to the 2001 season opener, Leckey is a preseason All-American and on the watch list for both the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award.
The Cats are averaging 39.2 ppg (NCAA No. 11) while Texas leads the nation in scoring with 51.3 ppg.
KANSAS STATE DEFENSE
Kansas State has fielded a Top 5 run defense during seven of the past eight seasons. The unit was uncharacteristically generous against Marshall but is limiting opponents to 92 rushing ypg (second best in Big 12, NCAA No. 19). By comparison, Texas has the nations No. 93 run defense (thats no misprint, friends) surrendering 184 ypg.
"Theyre one of the more physical defenses in the country," Mock said. "I think Bill Snyder is just hard on his guys being tough players. They play smashmouth football with their option, and theyre big, strong guys."
The Cats will bring their linebackers and safeties close to the line of scrimmage while typically playing man defense in the secondary. (This is why Roy Williams is smiling this week.)
"Its gonna be a battle," Williams said. "We beat them last year in their house and theyve had two weeks to prepare for us. Theyre gonna be jacked up and ready to play."
Kansas State will be a Top 10 defensive team by the end of the season, but checks in this week at No. 11 NCAA in total defense at 270.4 ypg. The Cats are giving up an average of 178.4 ypg through the air.
"Theyre gonna hit you in the mouth and dare you to throw it," Brown said. "Its just the way theyve been since Bill got to Kansas State. They just knock your head off and thats what theyve always done."
The chief head knocker is outside linebacker (and Texan) Josh Buhl. The senior has started 27 of the last 30 games and tied his career high for tackles for the third straight week with 18 against Marshall. He leads the team in total stops with 77 (46 unassisted). Senior LB (and Texan) Bryan Hickman has 18 consecutive starts and ranks second on the team in tackles (47).
The Cats have an experienced LDE in senior Andrew Shull who was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2002.
KSU, of course, sent All-American CB Terrance Newman to the Dallas Cowboys but will counter with senior CB Randy Jordan (started 14 of last 18), SS Rashad Washington (18 straight starts), junior CB Cedrick Williams (earned his first career start against Marshall instead of Louis Lavender) and sophomore FS Jesse Tetuan (seven total starts).
"Theyve got some great DBs," said FL B. J. Johnson, not one to readily praise an opponents secondary. "Theyve got pretty good speed. We want to make sure that weve got a chance to take advantage of the one-on-one. They play a lot of man and thats what we like to see."