For the last two football seasons, K-State’s offense has often dominated with a strong running game. I believe the No. 5 Wildcats will have to utilize this strength when they take on the No. 4 Oregon Ducks. It will all start with one player’s trip to New York this weekend as a Heisman Trophy finalist: senior quarterback Collin Klein.
In the last two seasons, the Wildcats are 7-1 when Klein rushes for over 100 yards in a game. The only loss last season came against Oklahoma State. This strategy could mean that Klein will have to carry the ball 20 to 30 times in the Fiesta Bowl. The Wildcats have pulled away from their identity as a rushing team this season, particularly in the Baylor loss, in which Klein threw 50 passes.
Klein isn’t the only effective runner on this K-State squad. I believe John Hubert is extremely undervalued and underused. This may sound odd since Hubert has rushed for 892 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. However, in the last four games, Hubert has only carried the ball 44 times. If K-State wants to run an effective, possessive offense against Oregon, Hubert will need to carry the ball 20 or more times.
Oregon cannot afford to look past K-State’s passing attack. K-State has three wide receivers who all have the potential to have big games on any given night: sophomore Tyler Lockett, junior Tramaine Thompson and senior Chris Harper — not to leave out senior tight end Travis Tannahill. That said, the Wildcats have to be careful not to force throws. If Klein tries to force throws, the final score could reflect a loss similar to the Wildcats’ defeat in Waco.
Harper, K-State wide receiver and former Oregon Duck, could prove to be the biggest threat to Oregon’s defense. His large body and strength make him a mismatch for most defensive backs in the country. Harper is not the guy who will burn some on a 50-yard go route; that is Lockett and Thompson’s job. However, when the Wildcats need a big time catch, Harper is often on the receiving end.
Oregon is famous for scoring quickly; K-State is quite the opposite. How does that help the Wildcats? Well, it is pretty simple. Defenses get tired the longer they are on the field. If K-State can string together drives that last four to six minutes, they may be able to wear down the Ducks’ defense and win the game.
Keeping the ball out of the hands of the Ducks’ high-powered offense as long as possible is also important. Still, Oregon is going to score, and they are going to score quickly. But if Oregon scores a minute after a five-minute drive by K-State, that’ll only benefit K-State. That means the Ducks’ defense will have to run right back out onto the field after a short rest.