Matchup: Week 8 vs Kansas State

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By Ian Boyd, Inside Texas Special Contributor
Posted Aug 18, 2014
Copyright © 2017 InsideTexas.com


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David Ash (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

The question of KSU’s almost total dominance over Mack Brown’s version of Texas football is a difficult one to answer. Kansas State had an amazing run of success against Texas from 1998 to 2013 going 7-3 vs Texas in that time and outscoring the Longhorns 322 to 210 in those 10 games for an average score of 32-21.

There are many factors that went into each of those wins and losses but ultimately you have to point to the fact that Mack’s teams were often entitled and carried an “execute our schemes and we’ll beat anyone” approach against KSU’s “earn everything you get” rosters, executing precise and detailed game plans for every opponent. They were a perfect foil for Mack’s ‘Horns.

 

Well, Mack is gone now and it’s clear enough that Strong teams won’t quit like KSU linebacker Tre Walker accused Texas of doing at the 2013 Big 12 media days (and for the record, he was absolutely right).

 

That said, KSU still presents a big challenge for the same reason they were a challenge for the rest of the Big 12 while going 20-7 in league play the last three years. They were relatively down in 2013 and lost to FCS champion North Dakota St (for the record, that Bison team could’ve probably beaten Texas in the right circumstances) but they finished strong after becoming more comfortable in their new offensive identity with Waters under center.

 

KSU is likely to have a firm identity on both offense and defense coming out of the gate in 2014 and they also have some real players. Texas gets them in Manhattan, a nightmarish hellscape for opposing teams by all accounts, which makes this arguably Texas’ 2nd toughest game on the schedule behind you know who.


Wildcat offense: Match-up challenges for Texas

 

With “Optimus” Klein at the helm, the Wildcat offense was basically the Wildcat offense, if you take my meaning. The QB run-game was central, although they also mixed in a solid spread passing game that Klein executed at a passable level, and a power run/play-action passing attack that could be lethal.

 

With Jake Waters at QB, the KSU offense is now more about the passing game where they excel in many facets.

 

It starts with Tyler Lockett, who is the best receiver in the Big 12 if not the entire nation. He’s impossibly quick in a short area, has fantastic hands, is a legit 4.4 guy, and has become an excellent route runner to boot. He can’t be left in 1-on-1 coverage or he will burn your house down with double moves.

 

Pass defenders need to be aware of him at all times and concentrate attention his way or risk 200-yard receiving games of the likes of which he had against both Texas and Oklahoma last year.

 

Unfortunately, the rest of the Wildcat receiving corp is pretty solid as well with solid options like TE Zach Trujillo and WR Curry Sexton returning while talented young players like Deantre Burton and Judah Jones are emerging.

 

Other than deep bombs to Lockett, the most frightening element of the KSU offense is its new take on the option, which so far has included QB draw plays with downfield passes available depending on the defense’s response.

 

Waters is an underrated runner who ran for 312 yards (not adjusted for sack yardage) and six touchdowns a year ago and can make plays on the option, zone read, draw, and also as scrambler.

 

Their OL will be a team strength as returning players Boston Stiverson, BJ Finney, and Cody Whitehair are all quality and may provide them with the best interior OL in the conference.

 

One other challenge to stopping KSU is that they have a large arsenal of formations and are proficient either with fullbacks and tight ends on the field or in wide open spread sets. Preparing for KSU involves checking off a long list of competencies as a defense.

 

Best 5-man skill player lineup:

 

10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TE) with Gronkowski as the back

 

The Wildcats are probably equally strong playing in the I-formation with Trujillo on the field but their spread-option attack from a four-receiver, one-fullback set is probably their most challenging set, particularly if Gronk grows as a runner.

 

They can run a lot of different plays from this look, including run schemes with a lead blocker, and it makes it very difficult to zero in on Lockett.

 

The biggest challenge in this contest is that Texas may not be able to play many of Strong’s preferred MOFC schemes because the ‘Horns don’t have a corner who can handle Lockett alone on the sideline. The Wildcats will create opportunities for their stud in all of their formations and then attack Texas for whatever adjustments Bedford makes to stop #16.


Texas’ ability to show a lot of different looks in the nickel package will be essential to try and prevent Waters from knowing where and how to take advantage of Lockett’s superiority.

 

Wildcat offense: Match-up advantages for Texas

 

Last year, Lockett had 237 receiving yards vs Texas, 113 against North Dakota St, and 278 against Oklahoma. Yet KSU lost all three of those games because they were outrushed 227-115, 215-41, and 301-24 in those respective contests.

 

Snyder’s strategy is largely about ball-control and it’s hard to execute a ball-control strategy while being hammered on the ground, even if your passing game is excelling.

 

Priority one for the KSU offense this offseason was surely finding ways to leverage Lockett’s genius into an improved running game and that’s been difficult with Hubert gone, the OL shuffling around to replace both starting tackles from a year ago, and no obvious lead back emerging.

 

Ultimately the KSU OL will surely be fine, as the OTs they replace were hardly super stars and the teams’ overall depth at the position is improved, but unless they can find a running game that will punish Texas for overplaying the passing game, then they are beatable.

 

Worst 5-man skill player lineup

 

21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE)

 

When the Wildcats attempt to pound the ball and throw it over defenses’ heads to Lockett, Texas may have some answers. They can respond primarily by shading the deep safety over to Lockett and then playing 9-on-10 against the rest of the Wildcat offense.

 

KSU doesn’t have a lot of big play punching power from their big formations unless a talented RB emerges, their spread option attack gets better, or Lockett can get deep. Now each of those things might happen, but all are still unknown except Lockett.

 

If you remove Lockett from the equation, you have a good chance of preventing KSU from pulling away on the scoreboard.

 

Wildcat defense: Match-up challenges for Texas

 

Tom Hayes’ defense is built around getting great DL play and KSU has what is probably the most underrated group in the conference in a year in which Big 12 teams are strangely loaded with quality linemen.

 

Former walk-on Ryan Mueller was arguably the best DE in the conference last year and had 11.5 sacks by taking the edge, winning inside with a quick move, or even playing at DT on passing downs.

 

He’s joined by returning starters Travis Britz, who was a reasonably good 3-tech last year and is now a RS Junior, and Marquel Bryant a slightly above-average DE. On passing downs, they’ll insert former Dallas Skyline and current Sam linebacker Charmeachealle Moore as a DE. He’s small, but quick.

 

The real coup is at nose tackle where the Wildcats replaced a solid player in Chaquil Reed with a potentially great one in JUCO transfer Terrell Clinkscales. KSU robbed Clinkscales from Nebraska’s class and he’s a 6-foot-4, 315-pound monster, who can’t be moved without a double team and sometimes not then either.

 

Last year KSU had pretty average cornerback play and very solid safety play, this year that scale should even out more with stud safety Ty Zimmerman and both corners moving on. The new cornerbacks will be better players, likely to make more plays on the ball while in off coverage, but KSU may struggle to replace Zimmerman.

 

The middle of the field will be held down by nickelback Randall Evans, strong safety Dante Barnett, and linebacker Jonathan Truman. Evans’ coverage abilities as a deep nickel afford flexibility for the KSU safeties to attack the run game, which is where Barnett excels.

 

This is a defense without glaring holes that plays fundamental, sound football. They will be good at playing bend don’t break and if they find enough playmakers to also inflict negative plays on the offense, they will become a top 25 unit.

 

Best configuration:

 

4-2-5 nickel base

 

The Wildcats will play a 4-3 with Moore in at Sam linebacker spot if an opponent plays a two-receiver, pro-style formation but they are better with Evans on the field and Moore waiting for 3rd down.

 

These days KSU plays almost strictly quarters coverage and essentially dare you to beat them down the field with small gains. Against their nickel defense Texas may struggle to execute consistently well enough to sustain drives or to find the explosive plays that make big point totals possible.

 

Wildcat defenseMatch-up advantages for Texas

 

Whether or not JUCO mike linebacker Dvonta Derricott catches on and starts for KSU will make a considerable difference in this defense. Additionally, the potential decline from Zimmerman to free safety Dylan Schellenberg is another point where KSU could be weak.

 

The easiest way to attack KSU last year was either to pound the ball up the middle against their undersized LB corp and average DTs or to attack their safeties with vertical routes up the seams.

 

Another strategy that’s generally available is to attack the edges in the passing game and put the ball in the hands of explosive receivers in space.

 

Unfortunately, Texas isn’t necessarily equipped to take advantage. The problem with attacking the perimeter in the passing game is that it’s one of the harder challenges in college football and KSU is experienced and effective at rallying to the ball since they face this tactic on a regular basis.

 

With Britz returning and Clinkscales entering the fray, KSU will be tougher up the middle and they may be excellent if Derricott is ready to go. If not, former Southlake Carrol linebacker Will Davis stands ready and he’s not a bad player either.

 

Schellenberg can be attacked with the passing game, but that will require either some spread sets that put Daje or Shipley in the slot to attack the seams or considerable growth from H-back/TE targets like MJ McFarland. It will also require effective pass protection.

 

Wildcat fans are hopeful that “the next Ty Zimmerman,” redshirt freshman Sean Newlan, is ready sooner than later to assume a starting role at safety in place of Schellenberg. If that happens this D will be without glaring weaknesses other than overall simplicity and lack of aggression. At the least, KSU won’t be likely to attack Texas much and be content to play “rope a dope,” taking punches in the corner, throwing counters, and planning to out last the ‘Horns.

 

Worst configuration:

 

Base 4-vs 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs) or 21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE)

 

If Texas can pound the edges where linebacker Moore (6-foot-0, 217 lbs) and end Bryant (6-foot-3, 241 lbs) are situated with FB or H-back blocks, power or stretch schemes, and downhill running there could be openings available.

 

Those could then be leveraged to afford some more space in the quick game for the Texas receivers, or some opportunities for Ash to attack the Wildcat secondary with the play-action game.

 

Just as there are going to be ways for KSU to find leverage against Texas by scheming around Lockett, Texas can use superior size and muscle on the edge to get points on the board and land jabs that hopefully open up haymakers.

 

Summary:

 

Kansas State plays the kind of defense that won’t shut many teams down but also won’t allow you to put points on the board unless you earn them with great play. For a Texas team that’s still developing an identity on offense, that could be a challenge.

 

The hope for Texas is to control Lockett and hope that the rest of the KSU passing game and run game isn’t efficient enough to get out of hand and put up a lot of points on the scoreboard. Then, Texas might win a close game.

 

But when you consider the Wildcats’ ability to flip games with special teams and how difficult it is to play in Manhattan, you are left to conclude that this game will likely be just beyond the reach of the Longhorns.


8/13/14 Texas 2015 Week 7 matchup: Iowa State LINK http://insidetexas.com/news/story.php?article=5127

8/05/14 Texas 2014 Week 6 matchup: Oklahoma LINK http://insidetexas.com/news/story.php?article=5114

7/23/14 Texas 2014 Week 5 matchup: Baylor LINK 

7/14/14 Texas 2014 Week 4 matchup: Kansas LINK 

6/27/14 Texas 2014 Week 3 matchup: UCLA LINK 

6/17/14 Texas 2014 Week 2 matchup: BYU LINK

6/11/14 Texas 2014 Week 1 matchup: North Texas LINK

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