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Texas looks to further define upside against Kansas State

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The Wildcats defense has been stifling all season, which could cause problems for the struggling Longhorns offense.

Texas v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

To say the Texas Longhorns have a bumpy history with the Kansas State Wildcats would be an understatement.

Since the formation of the Big 12, the Wildcats have all but owned the ‘Horns, winning nine of the 14 match ups as conference foes, including five straight between 2006 and 2012. Recent history has been more kind to the Longhorns, trading wins with KSU as they traded hosting responsibilities over the last four seasons.

The 2017 Kansas State team started their season with success, boasting a 3-1 record as it heads to Austin. However, a look at their schedule reveals the Wildcats may not have faced a true test this year.

Two of their three wins came against FCS opponents, Central Arkansas and Charlotte, and a week ago they struggled to put away an 0-5 Baylor Bears team. The lone loss this season was a 14-7 outing against the Vanderbilt Commodores, who are by no-means the typical SEC powerhouse.

In typical Bill Snyder fashion, the recipe to success for the Wildcats starts on the defensive side of the ball — Kansas State has held opponents to 308.5 yards per game, led by middle linebacker Trent Tanking. The senior, a former walk on, has pulled in 26 total tackles this year, 18 of them on his own, and has knocked down two passes as the anchor of the defense.

His performance is bolstered by defensive tackle Will Geary, who specializes in creating havoc in opponent’s backfields, bringing in three sacks on the year. The 306-pound tackle could be a problem for a depleted Texas offensive line, with Connor Williams, Elijah Rodriguez and Patrick Hudson all still sidelined due to injuries.

Offensively, the Wildcats are an anomaly in the Big 12, eschewing the high-flying style for low-scoring, low-mistake football led by its ground game. KSU ranks No. 15 in the offense in scoring defense, allowing only 15 points per game this season, while scoring on-average 32.2 points and holding the ball for 32.25 minutes per game.

Ertz is the chief ingredient to Kansas State’s success on the ground, as the dual-threat quarterback is both the team’s leading passer and rusher. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound quarterback has already eclipsed 1,000 yards of total offense on the season, amassing 332 yards on the ground and 706 through the air, scoring eight touchdowns.

When he does pass the ball, sophomore receiver Isaiah Zuber is the favorite target, reeling in 17 receptions for 208 yards, but has shown a penchant for dropping passes on key downs.

As they welcome Kansas State to town, the Longhorns have an opportunity to correct the program’s history against the Wildcats, as well as set the rest of their season up for success.

A win on Saturday would give the ‘Horns the program’s first 2-0 conference opening since the 2013 season and two consecutive home wins against the Purple Wizard.