MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Two weeks ago, Kansas State stacked up across the line of scrimmage, daring Auburn to run. When the Tigers did, the Wildcats promptly bottled them up.
Last week against UTEP, they did the same thing against Aaron Jones, one of the nation’s top rushers. By the time the game ended, Jones had 47 yards on 19 carries.
This week? Well, a little different challenge.
Texas Tech and its perpetually high-scoring offense is rolling into town to face No. 23 Kansas State, and you can bet that the Red Raiders won’t be trying to run it up and down the field. Even with quarterback Davis Webb questionable with a shoulder injury, Wildcats coach Bill Snyder still expects them to fling it all over the place.
“It’s a matter of discipline, staying focused, putting your eyes in the right place and responding rapidly to what you see,” Snyder said. “UTEP threw the ball 28 times in the ballgame, so there were 28 times in the game that you had a chance to react to the pass as opposed to the run. It just goes with the territory, and it is going to happen every week.”
No kidding. Oklahoma, which looms on the horizon, does many of the same things.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said this week that Webb will be a game-time decision, and it ultimately could boil down to how well his quarterback can protect himself.
Webb has practiced this week, a good sign for the Red Raiders.
“We’ll see how Davis is feeling” on game day,” Kingsbury said, adding that his ability to “operate at a level we need him to operate” will also be a deciding factor.
If Webb is unable to go, Patrick Mahomes will get the start.
Rather than the upright pocket-passer that Webb and many other Texas Tech quarterbacks have been over the years, Mahomes is a dual-threat signal caller. He can still throw the ball downfield and operate the Red Raiders’ offense, but he also can use his legs.
“It’s not something that we’re really worried about,” Texas Tech wide receiver Bradley Marquez said. “Whoever is in there on Saturday, we’ll rally behind.”
And if it’s Mahomes, maybe the Wildcats will have to stop the run after all.
“We just have to prepare the way we always do,” Kansas State linebacker Jonathan Truman said. “Our coaches do a great job with game planning. We just have to prepare and play.”
Here are a few keys to Saturday’s game between Kansas State (3-1) and Texas Tech (2-2):
SPRINGBOARD GAME: Texas Tech will need to beat a Top 25-caliber team to improve its bowl hopes. Kansas State would love nothing more than to be 2-0 in the Big 12 heading into its game against the Sooners in two weeks.
DEFENSIVE WOES: Texas Tech was gouged by Oklahoma State, allowing 370 yards through the air and nearly 200 on the ground. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are coming off a blowout of UTEP in which they put up more than 450 yards and 58 points. “They obviously can do a little bit of everything,” Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters said, “so our defense is going to have to come ready to play again. Offensively, we are going to have to do the same thing because of the potential of their offense.”
CHARLES IN CHARGE: Charles Jones has run for only 228 yards, splitting time with a couple of other Kansas State running backs. But when the Wildcats get to the goal line, he gets the ball — often out of the wildcat. He has eight TD runs, tied for fourth among FBS players.
SPEEDING UP: Texas Tech would prefer to run at a quick tempo, and at times Kansas State has struggled with no-huddle attacks. “Texas Tech is in the process of becoming maybe the quickest-tempo team in the conference,” Snyder said. “You know, it is pretty close between them, Baylor and Oklahoma now. So many teams do it, and we have had experience with it.”
FLAGS FLYING: Texas Tech committed 16 penalties for 158 yards against Oklahoma State, and it leads the Big 12 in both categories. Kansas State is among the nation’s most disciplined teams, not getting flagged once against Auburn. “It just comes down to the individual and being able to go out there and not commit these mistakes,” Marquez said.