Struggling to escape a three-game losing streak, Kansas State travels to Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday to face Texas Tech.
Wildcats coach Chris Klieman sees a lot of similarities between the teams.
“They have a veteran quarterback and a lot of good skill players,” Klieman said. “They’ve run into some teams that have been able to rush the football and they’ve had to play catch-up.”
Kansas State (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) opened the season playing from in front against Stanford, Southern Illinois and Nevada. The Wildcats won all three.
However, in three consecutive Big 12 losses to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State, the Wildcats fell behind early and played catch-up the whole game.
“We need to play from ahead more so than from behind,” Klieman said. “That’s probably not suited best for us. When we play ahead, we have the ability to dictate some of the tempo and pace. When we’re playing from behind, we have to be more aggressive on defense, which causes some bigger plays.”
Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson is 44 of 64 for 526 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in two games since returning from a knee injury. However, he needs the running game to be efficient to open up the passing lanes. Running back Deuce Vaughn (543 rushing yards, five touchdowns) provides the balance when the situation allows.
Texas Tech coach Matt Wells is not buying the fact that Kansas State is struggling.
“K-State has beat us (five) years in a row,” Wells said. “They’re tough; they’re physical. I have a lot of respect for Chris Klieman. I think Skylar Thompson is gritty and tough. He has a lot of moxie.
“Deuce Vaughn is one of the best in the country, and they’ve got some guys in the special teams that keep you up at night.”
Texas Tech (5-2, 2-2) opened with three straight nonconference victories before being blown out by Texas in the conference opener. The Red Raiders followed that up with a road win at West Virginia before falling to visiting TCU, but they bounced back with a resounding 41-14 win at Kansas.
Wells likes how his team has recovered after losses.
“After those games, they have been very coachable,” Wells said. “There’s been a sense of urgency to practice and prepare well. We have to have the same sense of urgency after a win.”
The Red Raiders are not as balanced as Kansas State, but they have been relying more on the run than in years past. They average 168.3 yards per game on the ground, but their leading rusher in terms of yards per game, Tahj Brooks, hasn’t returned since sustaining a leg injury in September.
Starting quarterback Tyler Shough averaged 218 passing yards per game before breaking his collarbone in the Sept. 25 loss to Texas, but backup Henry Colombi has stepped right in, averaging 264.5 over the past four games.
“We’ve got to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers,” Wells said when asked the key to beating Kansas State’s defense, “and we have to be really good in our punt and kickoff coverage.”
–Field Level Media