Frisbie -- Welcome to Hell Week. Or, make that a double.
This is the two-week stretch for Texas football that fans and analysts have pointed to since schedules were released -- its just that no one thought that wed also be pointing to a loss on both sides of the ball. Now, each time Texas and Kansas State take the field, a season is on the brink.
We can talk about schemes and formations and game plans until the steers come home, but a tough, wise coach once said something about angry men winning football games. There are times when the M.O. is finally reduced to its most primal, gut level and the victors are those who delved deepest into untapped levels of intestinal fortitude and heart.
That was Texas at Kansas State last season and, in all likelihood, that will also be Kansas State this Saturday at DKR as the Cats are coming off both a loss and a bye week. The Horns, of course, have rolled two outmanned opponents since Arkansas -- but now comes the litmus test of the "new attitude" that they insisted was in place before the start of the season.
This is the week that we find out what this Texas team is really made of. This is the gutcheck where the 2003 Horns not only establish their identity but also (potentially) forge a legacy. Does Texas have it in em? Do the angrier men wear Burnt Orange this weekend?
Hell if I know. Thats why Im hanging my hat on Roy Williams. He didnt come back for his senior season to be eliminated from all title consideration by the first Saturday in October. From what Ive seen, heard, and read, Roy (along with QB Chance Mock and OL Tillman Holloway) have been doing the kind of things to light a fire under this team that you sorta, kinda wish the coaches were doing).
Roy, were counting on you. Make it happen! Texas 30, Kansas State 23.
Pearle -- Tough, tough call. Are the Rice and Tulane blowouts a sign that Texas has gotten back on track and corrected the mistakes that led to the Arkansas loss, or will Kansas State stroll into Memorial, run all over the confused Horn D and waltz out with a W? As I say, its tough to know. What we do know is that Texas must play vastly better defense than it did against the Pigs to have a chance in this one.
Tulane and Rice proved little about the defenses improvement. Ell Roberson is back and he can create havoc. His effectiveness is a question mark after a couple-week layoff due to a wrist injury, but theres nothing wrong with his wheels. And one thing that does worry me: last year, Texas got a destructive game from its defensive front, led by Cory Redding. With Redding moved on, I am not sure Texas has the talent at LDE to put the type of heat on Roberson and RB Darren Sproles that collapsed the Cat O last season. Plus, according to Mack Brown, with Roberson and the Cats' ability to take it inside and outside, "this will be a linebacker's game. You'd better be a war daddy at linebacker this week." Well, Texas has one of those in Derrick Johnson. The Horns other two have not exactly struck me as "war-daddys" up until now. Point is, I dont think the Horn defense is nearly as stout as the unit that busted up K-State last season, and it needs to be. Does it have that potential? Yes, but Reed Boyd and Brian Robison must play hard, nasty, missed-tackle-free football, and Rod Wright and Kalen Thornton must repeat their performances from last year to give Texas a chance in this one. Meantime, the Texas offense seems to be getting in a nice groove. The running game has been gaining confidence, the passing game has been lethal, and the one-two punch of Mock-Young is beginning to take on an unstoppable look. K-State is going to score, but so is Texas.
The Texas players have said Arkansas was a wake-up call. That loss shattered their apparent belief that "Were Texas and we can walk on the filed and youre beaten," which is a good thing, and theyve looked awake at least the last couple of weeks. And thank goodness this game is at home. The home crowd didnt seem to matter in the Arkansas loss, but I think it will in this one. It should be loud and rowdy in Austin Saturday. Plus, the Horns are 1-0 with Fowler, Corso and Herbstreit on campus. So, I am gonna take a deep breath and convince myself that this Texas team, the one that so many thought had BCS written all over it, simply cannot lose two before even lining up against the Sooners. As they have in past years, I think the Horns will continue their rebound from an earlier defeat and keep scratching forward. I think itll be the Horns in a heart-stopper. Texas 28, K-State 24.
Ross -- Just a day before the Arkansas game, we learned that Pig QB Matt Jones had suffered an injury and would not be at 100-percent against Texas, if he played at all. The chances for a Hog victory over the favored Horns, already thought to be small, seemed to slip even further into the realm of the unlikely. The "injured" Jones, of course, along with Cedric Cobbs and a physical, pounding offense and defense, went on to engineer a dominating Arkansas performance three weeks ago that re-exposed multiple cracks in the Longhorns' football foundation. Don't be fooled into believing that, with big wins over slooooooooow, small Rice and out-manned Tulane, those cracks have been filled.
K-State brings a similar football team to the one that beat Texas, in its house, on Sept. 13. Wildcat QB Ell Roberson, coming off an injury and potentially playing at less than 100-percent vs. the Horns, is on the same level (and perhaps even better as a dual threat) as Jones. KSU's Darren Sproles isn't as big as Cobbs, but he's a bruising back despite his stature and is capable of equaling or bettering the performance Cobbs turned in against the Horns three weeks ago. In Manhattan last October, Sproles sprinted for 136 yards on 20 carries vs. UT. That's almost seven yards per carry, folks, and this year's Texas rush defense is shaping up to be far less stingy than last year's porous bunch.
Kansas State, of course, has its share of problems as well, which could also tilt this game in the Horns' direction. In both teams' opener, Cal exposed the 'Cats pass defense to the tune of 378 yards, and then two weeks ago Marshall (that's two-win, three-loss Marshall if you're keeping score at home) waltzed into Manhattan and walked out with a shocking 27-20 upset win. Actually, I should say the Herd ran out with a W after they torched the K-State D for 210 yards rushing at almost 5 yards per clip.
The Longhorn offense has played well enough all season -- even against Arkansas, if it had received any help at all from the D -- for Texas to be undefeated, and I expect a similar performance against the Wildcats. What leads me to give the edge to K-State in this one is the play of the UT D. I have visions of Arkansas all over again, with the 'Cats simply outscoring the Horns' offense with Roberson and Sproles running over, around and through the Orange and White defense, with an occasional dose of back-breakers through the air. Come on defense, prove me wrong. Kansas State 34, Texas 27.