Texas football coach Tom Herman is expecting a different type of game from Kansas State.
“I don’t think it is any secret that K-State has been, and continues to be, one of the most physical teams in the Big 12,” Herman told reporters earlier this week. “That is a program we would like to pattern ourselves off of with the physical brand of football they play.”
With most Big 12 opponents, teams try to win shootouts. With the Wildcats, teams try to win any way they can.
That will certainly be the case for Texas when it hosts K-State on Saturday at Texas Memorial Stadium. Herman isn’t expecting 50 points from his offense. How could he? K-State coach Bill Snyder slows the game down way too much for that. The Wildcats haven’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season.
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Instead, Herman wants Texas to simply value every drive like it could make a difference in the final score.
“We understand offensively, probably not going to get a lot of possessions,” Herman said. “I think last year Texas only ran 66 plays against Kansas State, so they’re going to chew up some clock on offense, try to possess the football and play really sound fundamental defense on that side of the ball.”
Short, quick drives are fine as long as they end in points. Three-and-outs are the enemy. That’s the message Herman is trying to preach this week. Anytime you punt the ball away to the Wildcats, it might be a while before you see it again.
That makes for an interesting defensive challenge for the Longhorns. They looked abysmal in their opener against Maryland, allowing 51 points in a defeat that knocked them out of the top 25. But they have flexed their muscles since, allowing 34 points over the past three games.
Texas has been especially strong against the run, allowing 96.5 yards per game, and forcing teams to throw the ball.
The Longhorns made Iowa State look silly last Thursday during a 17-7 victory. The Cyclones had no trouble moving the ball in their nonconference games, but they struggled to get first downs against Texas.
K-State is a new challenge, though. Quarterback Jesse Ertz is better on the ground than he is through the air, and coach Bill Snyder likes to take as much time off the clock as possible between plays.
“There are a lot of single-wing principles to their offense, with their quarterback as the main ball carrier,” Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “There will be times when the quarterback and the fullback are the only people in the backfield, not even a tailback in the backfield.
“So I think toughness is probably the biggest thing. When you’re tough, you don’t go down easy and you turn what might be a four-or five yard gain into a 12-yard gain, or you step through that last arm tackle and turn it into a 25-yard gain.”
By all accounts, the Longhorns are improving defense. But are they ready make tough tackles against a physical offense?
We’re about to find out.
“Kansas State is going to come in physical,” Orlando said. “They’ve been physical for 30 years since Bill has been there. We’ll find out in this game where we’re at from a physical standpoint. That’s what I’m anxious to see. This is going to be a four-quarter war. We know it. They know it.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett