This Saturday, the Kansas State football team will travel to Nashville, Tennessee where they will face the Vanderbilt Commodores for the first time since 1984.
During their last meeting, the Wildcats fell to the Commodores, 26-14. Currently, K-State is ranked No. 18 in the country, while Vanderbilt is yet to be ranked.
Before the game on Saturday, the Vanderbilt Hustler’s sports editor Cutler Klein caught up with the Collegian’s editor-in-chief and sports editor DeAundra Allen to talk about Saturday’s game. To get an inside look of the team, Klein talked about what to look forward to and the strengths and weaknesses of the Commodores.
DeAundra: Ralph Webb is obviously a high scorer for Vanderbilt. He has 103 rushing yards, total thus far. What makes him standout as a player?
Cutler: What stands out about Webb is just his explosiveness. Just when you think a hole in the line is closing, he burns his way through it. He can get to the second level before you even know he’s running the ball. He’s not the biggest back, but he is a speed racer out there. Even hampered by an ankle injury last season, he still managed to finish the season strong, breaking the Vanderbilt all-time rushing record. Once they get the running game going this season, he’ll make that record untouchable.
DeAundra: Kyle Shurmur threw 498 yards during the first two games. Statistically, he is a good quarterback, but what types of passes does he excel at? What types of passes does he struggle with?
Cutler: Shurmur struggled last season on passes outside of the pocket. He is most comfortable when he can take a five-step drop, stand tall in the pocket, step in and hit a receiver downfield with a dart. If the offensive line in front of him keeps his pocket clear and allows him time to read the defense, Shurmur can make all sorts of throws. He’s proven to be accurate on short plays, medium-range darts and long bombs. His rollouts and scrambles have a much lower success rate, so Vanderbilt tries to keep him in the pocket and comfortable.
DeAundra: Who is someone that K-State should watch for from the Commodores?
Cutler: Webb may get all of the attention at running back, but it’s Khari Blasingame is a name that the Wildcats should watch out for in the backfield. He converted from linebacker to running back before the 2016 season, and it has paid dividends. At 6’1” and 235 pounds, quite simply, Blasingame is a truck. I like to call him the Blasing-train. He is difficult to bring down on any play, carrying and trucking defenders all over the field. In multiple instances through the first two games this season, he has both mowed down would-be tacklers and carried defenders for extra yards after contact. Combined with Webb, Vanderbilt has a formidable smash and dash in the backfield.
DeAundra: Ertz has 511 passing yards total, and is number 4 in the country right now. How will your secondary stand up against him and his experienced receiving core?
Cutler: Vanderbilt’s secondary is more or less as strong as their front seven. Don’t get me wrong, they have some serious talent back there in players like Ryan White and Tre Herndon, but Vanderbilt’s success so far this season has been because they’ve been able to pressure quarterbacks. After getting just 15 sacks last season, the Commodores already have eight through the first two games of 2017. In week one, they forced MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill, who is usually pretty unflappable, into bad throws and an interception. If this front seven can make Ertz uncomfortable and force him into ill-advised throws, this secondary will have another strong game.
DeAundra: What’s your prediction for the game?
Cutler: These two teams stack up well against each other, and this one should be a tight affair through four quarters. Ultimately, it should come down to which quarterback blinks first in a tight affair. 27-24 Commodores.
To read DeAundra’s answers to Cutler’s questions, be sure to check out Cutler’s story on the Vanderbilt Hustler.