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Texas angling for first win versus Kansas State in Manhattan since 2002

The Wildcats have been Kryptonite for the Longhorns through the years.

In one glorious September evening after two devastating non-conference losses, the Texas Longhorns exorcised a number of demons in a 31-21 win over the Kansas State Wildcats last year.

Not only did the win keep Texas from slipping to 1-3 and the pressure from mounting on former head coach Mack Brown, it was the first win by the Longhorns over the Wildcats since 2003, when Vince Young overcame what appeared to be a severely sprained ankle to score a late touchdown on fourth down and help Texas to a 24-20 victory.

Beating the Wildcats hasn't been easy through the years for the Longhorns -- Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 to have a winning record against Texas, currently sitting at 8-6 with a 5-1 mark in Manhattan.

Just how hard have victories been to come by against the Wildcats? Former head coach Ron Prince is pretty much a laughingstock on Twitter, but Texas was the only team he went undefeated against during his tenure at Kansas State.

The lone win for the Horns in Manhattan came in 2002, when a late Dusty Mangum field goal gave Texas a 17-14 lead before defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game. Wide receiver BJ Johnson paced the offensive attack with 132 receiving yards, while the defense held the potent Kansas State rush offense to well below its season average on the ground.

Since then, things have gone quite poorly the Longhorns.

The 45-42 loss in 2006 included the neck injury to quarterback Colt McCoy that derailed the rest of the regular season.

In 2010, Kansas State laid a 39-13 drubbing on Texas behind 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns from surprise starter Collin Klein, who had only nine passing yards on the day. Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw five interceptions, with three of them coming on consecutive passes.

And the last visit resulted in a 42-24 loss highlighted by two costly interceptions thrown by Case McCoy that led to short Kansas State scores in the final home game for Klein.

This season, new head coach Charlie Strong's challenge on his first trip to Manhattan is made even more significant by the fact that counterpart Bill Snyder's team may be the best in the Big 12 as the conference's lone undefeated squad remaining.

Mack Brown's first trip to Manhattan wasn't exactly pleasant, as the Longhorns fell 48-7 to a No. 5-ranked Wildcats team.

Understandably, Strong has a healthy respect for Snyder and what he's done in Manhattan as he hopes to avoid the same fate as his predecessor.

"You admire that program because you look at they're just tough, smart and dependable." Strong said. "You just look at it because when I say dependable, they're a very disciplined football team. You look at the penalties, not many penalties, not many turnovers."

Indeed, Kansas State is No. 3 nationally in fewest penalties committed with 21 and have the lowest penalty yardage assessed against them in the country. By contrast, Texas ranks tied for 81st nationally and have committed more than twice as many penalties.

In terms of turnovers, the Wildcats are also extremely impressive on paper -- Snyder's team ranks tied for ninth nationally with only six turnovers on the season.

Three of those were interceptions thrown by quarterback Jake Waters, who also received some praise from Strong as a guy who may not be the most talented, but has a presence about him and is capable of making big plays.

Listed at a generous 6'1, Waters certainly wasn't considered that talented out of high school, when he failed to pick up any offers out of high school in Iowa despite impressive production. It wasn't until he starred at Iowa Western that interest in his services finally picked up, including an evaluation by the Longhorns.

Call him the poster boy for what Kansas State is all about, as he's now he's followed in the footsteps of an immensely successful quarterback Collin Klein, from whom he's apparently picked up some tips on the slow-developing quarterback run plays used by Kansas State that require patience and a strong sense of timing.

Like Iowa State's Sam Richardson, Waters can be hard to contain in the pocket, putting a premium on rush lane integrity once again this week.

His favorite target is wide receiver Tyler Lockett, a 5'11 mighty mite who plays much bigger than his size and put up 237 receiving yards against the Horns last season. Lockett has been good again this season, catching four touchdown passes and putting up more than 100 receiving yards twice.

Defensively, the Wildcats aren't the most talented team around, but they are disciplined and understand where to be -- as a result, opponents have produced only 19 plays of 20 or more yards, which ranks tied for 10th nationally. In S&P+, the group ranks No. 28 nationally, including an impressive No. 9 ranking against opposing run games.

Combine all that with the intimidating environment in Manhattan and the Wildcats are a tough team to beat at home.

Senior wide receiver John Harris thinks there is a mental hurdle Texas will have to overcome to win in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

"It's a loud place to play," Harris said on Monday. "More than anything it's a good fan base up there. They get behind their players and they support them. I mean, it's loud there all the time, especially when you step on the field. Wherever Texas goes it's going to be loud regardless, but you know, I think it's more of a mental thing for the Texas team that's been there, knowing that you haven't won there or knowing that this team kind of has you rattled mentally is the thing we have to get over."