Kansas State University

Polar opposites K-State, Texas Tech prepare for contrasting styles

Texas Tech running back Justin Stockton makes a touchdown run against K-State last season in Lubbock, Texas.
Texas Tech running back Justin Stockton makes a touchdown run against K-State last season in Lubbock, Texas. Associated Press

Peanuts and bubble gum, books and loud music, skis and summer heat: None of them go together, but they all seem like neighbors within their respective spectrums compared to Texas Tech and Kansas State on the football field.

The Red Raiders and Wildcats are polar opposite, with differences too numerous to list.

When they meet at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, it will be a game of shockingly contrasting styles.

“It makes you look at the game differently,” senior K-State defensive end Jordan Willis said. “After a while, against a team like this, it is like playing backyard football. Everything is so quick, you might not have time to get in your stance or worry about strategy. You are just playing to beat the guy in front of you.”

The Red Raiders enter as the nation’s top-rated offense, averaging 664.2 yards and 59.5 points. They are the only team in college football to score 55 or more points in all four of their games. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former quarterback, likes to go fast and overwhelm opponents with a barrage of intricate passes. So far, no one has even slowed his air-raid attack.

But Kingsbury is still a novice when it comes to defense. Texas Tech is surrendering 472.5 yards and 37.2 points, numbers that rank 111th nationally. Arizona State took advantage last month for a 68-55 victory.

Reverse those statistics and philosophies and you will find K-State. The Wildcats rank fourth nationally in total defense, giving up 239.8 yards and 12.5 points. They slowed Stanford, held West Virginia to 17 points and shut out Missouri State. With junior linebacker Elijah Lee, senior defensive back Dante Barnett and Willis leading the way, this has been the top defense in the Big 12.

“You don’t get these opportunities too often,” Lee said. “You want to make the most of it. You want to show that just because they are the No. 1 offense that doesn’t mean they can go through everyone.”

But K-State’s offense remains a work in progress. The Wildcats are 2-2 despite holding all four opponents below 27 points. Quarterback Jesse Ertz completed 10 of 30 passes in his last game, and the team has averaged 2.9 yards per rush against the tougher half of its schedule. Bill Snyder’s methodical offense, built to control possession time, ranks 109th nationally, averaging 346.5 yards and 31.8 points.

Something has to give.

Controlling the style and pace of the game will be more important than usual. A shootout favors Texas Tech. A defensive struggle favors K-State.

“We have played them the last few years, and it is definitely different,” Kingsbury said. “We have different philosophies. Both are effective in their own right. We know we have to maximize our possessions offensively, and they are not going to make mistakes. They are never going to beat themselves and we know that.

“So we are going to have to match their discipline and thief fundamentals their technique and their physicality. That is something we have talked about all week.”

Running the ball will be important for K-State. The Wildcats will probably have to defend more plays than usual against the Red Raiders, which means rest between series will be beneficial.

Teams have gained an average of 166.5 yards on the ground against Texas Tech.

“We have to control the ball,” K-State running back Charles Jones said. “When you run the ball, you can control the clock. As running backs and the offense line as a whole, we are going to take it upon ourselves to really try to run the ball and have great success in that part of the offense.”

But the Wildcats don’t feel added pressure to score.

Sure, past numbers suggest they will need lots of touchdowns to beat the Red Raiders, but there are other ways to win.

K-State hopes to play this game on its terms.

“Our goal is to do well on defense and not allow teams to score, no matter who it is,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “On offense, our goal is to score as many points as we can. That doesn’t change. It’s not a matter of we are playing a fast, upbeat, prolific throwing team.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett