On Saturday, Kansas State will try to stop a TCU offense that ranks second nationally in yards and scoring. It will try to stop quarterback Trevone Boykin, a Heisman Trophy candidate. It will try to stop receiver Josh Doctson, the top deep threat in the Big 12.
In other words, K-State’s defense is about to be tested like never before.
“They have put up points all year against everyone,” K-State linebacker Will Davis said. “Every player on their offense is explosive. That presents problems for us, but we are excited for the challenge and we are ready to get going.”
Credit the Wildcats for enthusiasm. Their defense will certainly need to play better than they did a week ago against Oklahoma State if they hope to threaten the No. 2 Horned Frogs.
Oklahoma State hammered K-State’s secondary for 441 yards and four touchdowns passing, often doing little more than lobbing the ball to receivers on streak routes and letting them win jump balls. It’s never a good sign when defensive backs make the majority of a team’s tackles, yet Morgan Burns, Danzel McDaniel, Donnie Starks, Kaleb Prwett and Nate Jackson combined for 37 against the air raid in a 36-34 defeat to Oklahoma State.
K-State coach Bill Snyder was most displeased about the secondary on third downs, saying on his weekly TV show that it made no difference whether the Cowboys needed 2 inches or 2 miles, the Wildcats couldn’t prevent them from picking up first downs.
“I make jest of it, but in reality it just means we have got to play better,” Snyder said. “We have got to put them in the best positions that we can put them in and then they have to make plays. We let them just throw it up there and (they) went up and caught it. We have got to be able to go up there and compete for it and bat more of those balls down.”
Not the simplest of tasks against TCU, which averages 630 yards and 50.8 points per game.
Doctson averages 144.4 receiving yards, and running back Aaron Green leads the Big 12 with six rushing touchdowns.
Though the Horned Frogs are a passing offense, they also average 233 yards on the ground. K-State’s solid front seven will likely take its chances against the run.
“Going into the game (last year) they were throwing the ball a lot, and then they decided to run it against us,” Davis said. “And we gave up a lot of yards. We talked about that. Green is a great back. Boykin can pull it down and run at any time. It will be a great challenge for our run defense, but I think we are ready for it.”
Helping K-State will be the location of the game. Though the Wildcats have never defeated a team as highly ranked as TCU at home, they are always dangerous at Snyder Family Stadium.
“Maybe the homefield advantage will knock off some of those big-time plays,” linebacker Elijah Lee said. “Because they will not be able to communicate as well, and they will not be on the same page at times.”
Perhaps that, combined with enthusiasm, will help K-State’s defense bounce back from a down performance.
“This is exciting,” Davis said. “It gives us the opportunity to do something special here. That builds a lot of excitement for a lot of the guys.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett
No. 2 TCU at Kansas State
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
TV: Fox (Ch. 4)
Other story lines
1. Winning at home: K-State has defeated a team ranked No. 1 before, but it has never beaten a team as highly ranked as TCU at home. A victory over the Horned Frogs would go down as one of the top wins in stadium history.
2. Injury bug: The Wildcats do not release injury information to the public, but several players are expected to miss Saturday’s game with injuries, including defensive back Dante Barnett, whom Snyder described as doubtful. Receiver/quarterback Kody Cook is battling a shoulder injury and corner Morgan Burns was unable to finish the Oklahoma State game. Receiver Dominique Heath also missed action against the Cowboys, but signs point to him playing against TCU.
3. Boykin highlight: When K-State faced TCU a year ago, quarterback Trevone Boykin flipped over defenders for a highlight-reel touchdown that is still being replayed in Fort Worth. Does he have anything ready for an encore?