Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder was asked a wide-ranging question earlier this week about the challenges that come with facing Texas.
His answer said a lot about the current state of the Longhorns.
“They’ve got a kicker,” Snyder said, “that will kick it out of the end zone to prevent returns.”
Snyder went on to praise the Longhorns in many areas, saying they are strong on defense and improving on offense. He went so far as to finish his response by saying, “They’re a pretty complete team.” Still, when looking at a Texas roster filled with once heralded recruits, he singled out kicker Nick Rose first.
This isn’t your older brother’s Texas team. The Longhorns (3-4, 2-2 Big 12) aren’t contending for a conference championship and they aren’t a lock to qualify for a bowl game, either. New coach Charlie Strong is in his first season with the Longhorns, and so far he is better known for his five core values than the on-field product.
“I don’t think we’ve hit on all cylinders,” Texas receiver Jaxon Shipley said earlier this week. “The thing is, one game we’ll have a really good game on offense, one game we’ll have a really good game on defense. It seems like there hasn’t been a fully complete game yet, but I think we’ve showed that we can be explosive on all sides of the ball and once we get that together, I think we can be a really explosive team and a dangerous team.”
K-State is also showing Texas respect. The No. 11 Wildcats love hearing their fans chant, “We own Texas” at the end of games. They have won five of the last six meetings, losing last season in Austin, and would like nothing more than to start another winning streak in the series.
Motivation won’t be hard to find.
“Regardless of their record or what they’ve done, they are always going to be a competitor,” K-State cornerback Morgan Burns said. “They are one of the best teams in college football just because of their history and what they are known for. I think they are an easy team to get motivated for.”
Added defensive tackle Travis Britz: “Everyone knows them and talks about them. Even if they don’t have a great season, everyone knows they do have great athletes. It is just a matter of sometime down the line figuring it out. They are going to be a tough challenge.”
The biggest challenge will come on defense. Though the Longhorns have made offensive strides the past two weeks, averaging nearly 500 yards, and Rose kicked a last-second field goal to beat Iowa State, they are strongest when they don’t possess the ball. Behind a stout pass rush, Texas allows an average of 163 passing yards.
“They are probably as good of a front four as you will find in the game today – big, physical and run well,” Snyder said. “You take a guy like Malcom Brown and he is 320 pounds … He is athletic and he can do all of it. He can knock you around and run you down when you try to run away from him. They have a very physical, mobile and athletic front.”
Still, Texas ranks 91st nationally against the run, surrendering an average of 182 rushing yards. It isn’t a complete team, but it does have potential beyond its kicker.
Texas at No. 11 Kansas State
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
Other story lines
▪ MILESTONE VICTORY: Kansas State will reach 500 all-time victories if it defeats Texas on Saturday. Before Bill Snyder arrived in 1989, the Wildcats had won 299 games.
▪ OWNING TEXAS: The Longhorns broke a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats last year, but they haven't won in Manhattan since Snyder's first stint as coach.
▪ BIG-PLAY CONNECTION: Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett connected for more than 200 yards against Texas last year. Can the K-State duo do big things again?