Burnt Orange Nation: For the Texas Longhorns, it's difficult to say that any blowouts are shocking any more after suffering through 15 of them since 2011, but it was truly shocking to see what happened to the Kansas State Wildcats last weekend. Was that game just a random, freak occurrence or was it a sign of more significant issues in the program that head coach Bill Snyder needs to address? Where does last weekend rank among the most discouraging moments of your Kansas State fandom?
Bring On The Cats: Well, it wasn't the worst loss to Oklahoma I've ever witnessed, so there's that.
It was devastating, however, and we're very concerned that although the team's saying all the right things this week, they're broken. There are reports that offensive players came off the field after the second series screaming at coaches and asking why they weren't running the football.
And can anyone really blame them? Even Oklahoma players questioned why K-State didn't run. The only team that has been able to pass on Oklahoma is Tulsa, and that seemed more like lethargy on the part of the Sooners combined with a Phillip Montgomery offense than anything else.
There are definitely issues. Earlier in the season, Snyder himself expressed frustration that Dana Dimel and Del Miller were continuing to call for the Wildcat with a running back who's never even attempted a pass from the formation. After voicing that frustration, that play's no longer being run with Charles Jones, only with Kody Cook (where it's much more effective).
BON: In your opinion, was the hard-fought game against TCU more indicative of where Kansas State is as a football team? What allowed the Wildcats to hang around against one of the best teams in the country?
BOTC: We yell about the playcalling, but the first half of both the OSU and TCU games are being used as evidence that not everything is horrible. Against OSU, that was mostly luck; despite their statements that they'd prepared for Cook at quarterback, Oklahoma State was clearly not prepared for him to come in and be so successful in the first half. Once they were able to adjust, that went away.
The same thing was true with TCU; the staff correctly identified TCU's flaws and attacked them right from the opening gun. The problem was that they then came out in the second half, with an 18-point lead, and decided to try and pass the ball. That, and the decision to kick a field goal to re-tie the game, probably had as much to do with what happened against Oklahoma as anything.
After all, when you tell your offense you don't trust them to gain one yard deep in enemy territory, when gaining that yard could mean a touchdown with almost no time left on the clock (or at worst a field goal, from closer range, to force overtime)... well, it's not going to work out well.
BON: All four of quarterback Joe Hubener's interceptions have come in the last three games as his play has deteriorated significantly, resulting in his benching last Saturday. But back-up Kody Cook hasn't been any better. Which one starts this weekend and is there any hope that Kansas State can get competent quarterback play against Texas?
BOTC: I really don't know, and I think the season is pretty much lost as far as quarterback. K-State's just going to have to cope with what they've got and be ready with Alex Delton next year. This team is going to have to rely on running the ball with only the occasional honesty-inducing pass.
BON: How dangerous is the Wildcat running game, which was able to post 228 yards rushing against the Horned Frogs before falling by the wayside as the Sooners got out to an early lead? Is this team capable of producing a dominant rushing performance like Collin Klein did in 2010 when he completed only two passes, but helped Kansas State rumble to 268 yards on the ground?
BOTC: They are, but it depends on the preparation during the week and the defenses they face. As I said, the players were allegedly irate over the way the game began on Saturday, and although I can't confirm I am told that part of this was because they actually had prepared to run the ball against Oklahoma, and then didn't.
K-State has three pretty good running backs and two quarterbacks who can get on their horses. Some more misdirection would help, as well as maybe some better option packages. Preferably ones that don't involve outside pitches to the fullback.
BON: The Kansas State defensive line has been playing well so far this season due to some standout performances from junior defensive end Jordan Willis and senior defensive tackle Will Geary. Neither of those players are even close to being household names around the Big 12, so can you give a quick introduction to both of them and shed some light on how they've managed such a high level of production in relative anonymity?
BOTC: Well, they play for K-State, right?
But the bigger reason is that unlike a Ryan Mueller, they aren't putting up eye-popping numbers. Indeed, K-State hasn't really recorded a ton of sacks this year, but they've been very effective in pressuring quarterbacks into bad throws and shutting down the interior running game. A lot of that is because of a strong linebacking corps which is also better suited to defending the run.
However, linebacker Elijah Lee caught a concussion last week, so... yeah.
BON: Opponents are putting up a lot of big passing plays against the Wildcats this season, ranking tied for 113th after giving up 27 passing plays of 20 or more yards this season. In 2014, defensive coordinator Tom Hays' group only allowed 28 all season. What's going on in the secondary?
BOTC: One: the injury to Dante Barnett, who is still in a sling and is therefore probably out for the year. Hopefully he'll get a medical waiver and return as a graduate student. The safeties tasked with replacing him haven't performed badly, but they also haven't been Dante Barnett.
Two: both Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel, the starting corners, have missed time. Their primary backup, Cre Moore, went and got arrested on a DUI, so he's been absent, too. That's had one silver lining, as it forced the removal of Duke Shelley's redshirt; he was so phenomenal in his debut against TCU that Kolby Listenbee didn't even get a pass thrown in his direction. He wasn't as on-point against OU, giving up one touchdown grab, but was still effective.
But overall, what you saw in the secondary against OU was a starting CB who's fast enough to cover but is poor at actual coverage, a starting safety who got hurt in the game, and three backups. That's got disaster written all over it.
BON: In looking at this Texas team on offense, defense, and special teams, what is the one area that stands out to you as the biggest concern for Kansas State entering the game. And where do the Wildcats possess the biggest advantage to achieve a favorable outcome for the road team?
BOTC: The biggest concern would obviously be whether the K-State offense can even score points on the Texas defense. K-State's biggest advantage is against the other main concern: the Texas running game. It's the one area where the Wildcats have managed to have relatively consistent success this year, and with Texas not being too much of a threat to throw the ball we may see something very similar to last year's effort.
BON: The Texas players are well aware of Snyder's reputation and have a healthy amount of respect for his program after last season's 23-0 defeat in Manhattan. But what are Kansas State fans expecting this weekend? Is there any way that Snyder's team comes out flat and unprepared two weeks in a row? What is your prediction for how this game plays out?
BOTC: I really wish I could provide some expert analysis on what to expect, but there's just too much psychology involved in the formula right now. There's just no way of telling where the team is mentally, and whether that will transform into cold, focused anger -- in which case Texas is doomed -- or whether it will result in reckless fury, in which case K-State's going to get railed. I will say that having a solid offensive gameplan geared toward the available personnel would go a long way toward securing a Wildcat victory. But if there's a disconnect, it's not happening.
In other words: either K-State 24, Texas 13 or Texas 30, K-State 6. I just don't know which.