By: Travis Hlavinka
With Texas showing everything it can to prove that it belongs center stage along with other top football powers across the nation, a trap game could play a major role in determining the trajectory of the rest of the season.
The Longhorns, who rank 18th in the AP poll going into Saturday’s game, face a familiar task that has stumped them time and time again. Playing in Manhattan, Kansas against a, for what feels like the better half of the past century, Bill Snyder-led Kansas State team has caused talented Texas squads to falter time and time again.
Even during Mack Brown’s peak seasons, where he was hunting for national titles annually, somehow the treachery of playing in Manhattan constantly forced Texas football to fumble. In fact, the last time Texas won a football game in the Little Apple, the Longhorns’ brightest young star was only a toddler.
“We have moved on to try to win a road game, which our program hasn’t won in Manhattan, Kansas since Caden Sterns was two years old,” head coach Tom Herman said Monday. “That is no small feat certainly. And we don’t take that very lightly.”
This game against the Wildcats, who are 2-2 and including a 3-point victory over FCS South Dakota, is by no means a game Herman and his squad should take lightly. In fact, this game is must-win now more than ever. The reason being if Texas loses on Saturday it would destroy much of what it has built over the past two weeks.
Texas fans finally have a couple of tangible wins they can hold in their hands, in victories over ranked USC and TCU in successive weeks. If Texas were to lose Saturday, though, it would show that the team isn’t fully capable of sustaining success, and that when it comes to winning the University of Texas might again be fools’ gold.
The reason behind the Longhorns’ struggles playing at Kansas St. over the last 16 years is not that hard to piece together. When Snyder gets even marginal to above-average talent, he has proven can turn that talent into wins. Evidenced by eight straight bowl game appearances, when it comes to coaching Snyder is no slouch.
“Obviously Bill Snyder is a hall of famer, his name’s on the dang stadium,” Herman said. “He took over a program that was literally the worst in college football and turned it into a conference and national championship contender.”
The only problem Snyder is facing at the moment is that his current squad just isn’t very talented. Against power-five schools, his team has scored an average of eight points and given up an average of 33. While both the teams they faced, Mississippi St. and West Virginia were both ranked at the time, one program was led by a first-year head coach and neither has the talent that Texas possesses
Texas will need to pull out all of the stops to ensure that it doesn’t make a major slip up against a team that it should beat, especially with the Red River Rivalry against the likely top-five Oklahoma Sooners just over the horizon.
And while Herman believes that his team is “over the hump,” if there’s ever been a game to show that that is in fact true, this is it.
“Do we know now that the formula works?” Herman said. “Are we confident in the formula? Are we confident in the plan? Yeah. And that’s a really good thing because I think there’s some validity and some testimony now that the plan does not just get us close, but that the plan can put us over the hump.”
Only Saturday will tell.