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Texas vs. Kansas State Q&A: Navigating the House of Horrors in Manhattan

Jon Morse of SB Nation’s Bring On The Cats reveals a disturbing truth about the struggles of the ‘Horns against the ‘Cats.

Texas v Kansas State Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Burnt Orange Nation: Texas has a 1-6 record in Manhattan in the history of the series. What is it about Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium that makes it so hard to win there? Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong cited the discipline of Snyder's teams and noted how well coached they are, but is there something else going on? What type of spells is Purple Merlin weaving on Texas?

Bring On The Cats: Obviously, everyone's better at home. But the real answer to this question is one Texas fans probably don't want to hear. Let's look at this:

1926: Both teams were mediocre, finishing a game over .500, so we can chalk that up to home field.

1998: 5th-ranked K-State, on their way to almost making it to the BCS title game, beats unranked Texas.

2002: 17th-ranked K-State "upsets" 8th-ranked Texas by a field goal, but their final rankings tell the real story; they were about even that year. So, home field again.

2010: Man, Garrett Gilbert is still the greatest quarterback in K-State history.

2012: Again, Texas happened to come to Manhattan during a season in which K-State would grab a No. 1 ranking for a week. Texas was decent, but K-State was just better.

2014: 11th-ranked K-State beat unranked Texas, destined for a losing season.

There's one K-State home win missing from that list, and I think we'd all prefer to just not talk about that one for wildly disparate reasons. With that one exception, the answer is pretty obvious even though Texas fans may not like it: K-State has simply been the better team in the years in which they've played in Manhattan. No real mystery at all.

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BON: Relatedly, Texas safety Dylan Haines — along with a beat writer — said that they didn't think the environment is particularly hostile there. Where do you think the Kansas State fans rank in the hierarchy of the Big 12 in that regard?

BOTC: Art Briles may be a disgrace, but that shouldn't take away from his one-liners. So, my answer is real simple: "You want to stand next to someone and not be able to hear them, walk your ass into Manhattan, Kansas."

And considering Dylan Haines hasn't exactly covered himself in glory against K-State the last two years (torched by Lockett and Sexton in 2014, dropped what should have been a pick-six last year), maybe he should worry more about playing and less about yapping.

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BON: The 'Cats are 3-3 after finishing 6-7 last year. Is that a sign of diminishing returns under Snyder? Is he slipping a bit as he approaches retirement or are those results just a blip as he gets things closer to the historical levels at which he's achieved for so long?

BOTC: Bill Snyder is entirely too loyal, entirely too resistant to the unexpected, and entirely too attached to the guys who have experience. There is a pretty vocal portion of the K-State fan base who just can't understand why some guys aren't playing while others are.

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BON: Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz may be limited this weekend with the apparent shoulder injury that he suffered against Oklahoma last weekend. What's the difference, if any, between the two quarterbacks, and how much, if at all, are those two players limiting the nation's No. 118 passing attack in S&P+?

BOTC: Look, Joe Hubener's a great guy, but he's clearly not an FBS quarterback. He lost his job to a wide receiver last year, after all. As for Ertz, we have a suspicion he's still favoring the knee injury he suffered 14 months ago.

His passes have been inaccurate, and it seems like it's because he's been throwing off his back foot a lot. It's definitely the weak link, especially since we've seen that the receivers who seemed to have problems catching the ball last year are doing a much better job of it, and the running game is fine.

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BON: Kansas State ranks near the bottom of the country in producing plays of 10 or more yards and 30 or more yards offensively. Are there any threats in the passing game or running game that Texas needs to worry about on Saturday?

BOTC: Taking sacks out of the equation, K-State ran for almost five yards a pop against Oklahoma. (Why they chose to throw the ball 37 times is a mystery.) All of K-State's running backs get in on the action, so none really stand out individually.

The Cats have three running backs picking up over five yards a carry, plus Ertz picks up 5.4 per. Texas is going to have to make that a priority, especially since all four tailbacks have wildly different skill sets.

Charles Jones is a muscle guy, Dalvin Warmack is sort of like Darren Sproles, Justin Silmon is just a crafty hole-picker who can hit tacklers hard, and Alex Barnes is a bit of all three. If Ertz plays, and runs the ball, that adds yet another dimension: a dude who's actually pretty damned quick hitting tucking the ball and hitting open space. As a runner, Ertz is the closest K-State has had to Michael Bishop since, well, Michael Bishop.

As far as the receivers, much depends on which quarterback is in the game. Ertz and Hubener have different favorite targets. That said, what K-State has this year rather than a couple of serious threats like they usually have is an entire pack of guys who are currently good, but not great. There's a lot of talent, but it'll be the next time Texas is in Manhattan where you'll really see it in action.

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BON: In terms of creating sack and tackles for loss, the Wildcats haven't made a lot of plays. However, the defense has forced a lot of turnovers. Is that more a result of luck or does this group just have a knack for creating game-changing moments?

BOTC: Well, as you know, fumbles are luck anyway — at least the recovering of them. K-State's done a good job of forcing interceptions, but probably not any more than usual. You're correct that the Wildcats don't have a ton of sacks or tackles for loss, but defensively the concept is less about accomplishing that than simply preventing positive plays via pressure. Sometimes, that works pretty well and you have Patrick Mahomes throwing the ball to nobody. Other times, Baker Mayfield goes 25-31.


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BON: What aspect of the Texas offense do you think could give Kansas State the most trouble and where do you think the Wildcats could succeed defensively?

BOTC: If Shane Buechele has time to throw, that could be bad. But the Wildcat defense does tend to control the line of scrimmage, and I don't think Texas will find running the ball to be super effective. If the defensive line can roam around the Texas backfield, it could be a long afternoon for the Longhorns.

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BON: The historical trends point to the Wildcats, while recent results probably favor the 'Horns. How do you see this game going down?

BOTC: I can't really bring myself to even suggest that Texas will win. After all, it's only happened once in Manhattan in my lifetime. But if Ertz is unable to go, or is limited, and if Buechele is able to hit some big plays to a pretty talented pack of Longhorn receivers, K-State may actually have to rely on some wizardry to get out with a win. This may — should, really — be the closest game up north between the two teams since 2002.