K-State clinched last season’s Big 12 Championship with a win against Texas to wrap up the regular season. Now, the Wildcats have the opportunity to open up conference play on Saturday in Austin, Texas against the Longhorns to begin their title defense.
K-State head coach Bill Snyder said he hopes his players are excited for opening up conference play, but he wants their focus fixed on improving as they move forward.
“Last year was last year, and the dynamics are so different every year. What you did in the past has no bearing on the future,” Snyder said. “It is still a game at a time, a snap at a time. I think, for me, hopefully for them, it enhances their enthusiasm about improving their play as well. We have to be careful and do not get caught off on who you are playing. Instead, we need to focus on ourselves.”
The Longhorns enter the game with consecutive losses to BYU and Ole Miss after opening the season with a 49-point win against New Mexico State.
Stopping the run has been the biggest issue in the Longhorns’ two losses. BYU dominated the ground against the Longhorns, totaling 550 rushing yards on 72 attempts en route to a 40-21 win.
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams said he got excited watching tape of Taysom Hill, BYU’s sophomore quarterback who gashed the Longhorns for 259 yards on the ground, but said he can’t get “too excited.”
“[I’m] not saying what BYU did was a fluke; but I am sure they are prepared more against what we do than what happened against BYU,” Sams, who leads K-State with 7.5 yards per carry, said. “Like I said, I am just ready for whatever comes. That stage itself and the spot that me and my teammates are at right now, we just have to prove ourselves, and I cannot wait for that to happen.”
Texas head coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after losing to BYU, replacing him with Greg Robinson. Robinson served as a defensive coordinator on two Super Bowl winning teams as well as the 2004 Texas team known for winning the Rose Bowl against USC.
After a week with Robinson controlling the defense, the Longhorns showed a slight improvement against the Rebels, allowing 272 yards on the ground – nearly half as much as BYU – as well as 177 yards through the air. The result was worse, however, as the Longhorns lost at home by 21 points to the Rebels.
“Greg is a very fine football coach,” Snyder said. “I’m sure there will be some changes, but I don’t know exactly what they are.”
Snyder added he thinks the Longhorns’ defense should take a bigger step forward in Robinson’s second week in control.
“Last week, just guess work on my part, it was tough for Greg because he was not totally invested in all the terminology and what goes along with it, so that made it difficult for him to call the ballgame like he would have liked to,” Snyder said. “I think that he has had this period of time, two weeks now, to invest himself in understanding all the terminology, and I think you will see improvement just because of that.”
The Longhorns’ offense is up tempo and made up of a young core of dynamic athletes. So far, they are averaging more than 490 yards of total offense a game that breaks down into 288.3 yards passing and 205 yards rushing per game.
“I think that, number one, is just getting yourself lined up then be able to make adjustments when they have movement,” Snyder said of the challenges the Longhorns’ offense brings. “Texas is playing a far greater rate of speed than they ever have before. You go back and look at their spring game and they are snapping the ball at times during the spring game nine, 10, 11 seconds between when the ball is blown dead to when they snap it. That is extremely fast. The fast teams don’t even go that fast.”
Quarterbacking the Longhorns will either be Case McCoy or David Ash. McCoy started in place of Ash, who was injured, against the Ole Miss, completing 24-of-36 for 196 yards and a touchdown against the Rebels.
Ash was listed as questionable during the week of practice leading up to Saturday’s game.