Keys to the Game


K-State Wildcats

Continue improvement on defense

So far, K-State has answered a three-game losing streak with two wins in a row, giving up just 19 points in the two victories. The two wins came inside the comfort of Bill Snyder Family Stadium against West Virginia and Iowa State, who aren’t exactly the cream of the crop in the Big 12 this season offensively. Saturday’s game against No. 25 Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas will test just how much improvement the Wildcats’ defense has made.

K-State will need to continue its trend of turning opposing offenses over – forcing six turnovers the past two games – against the Red Raiders, who’ve turned the ball over six times the past two games.

Even with six turnovers in their past two games, the Red Raiders’ offense put up 30-plus points and combined for more than 1,000 yards total offense in their losses to No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 18 Oklahoma State, so simply turning the Red Raiders over may not be enough.

Posing the biggest matchup problem for K-State, or any team really, is Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, who’s already broken 1,000 yards receiving this year and ranks No. 5 in the FBS in receiving yards. The 6-foot-5, 260 pound junior tight end possesses the size and speed that has the potential to create mismatches all over the field for K-State.

“(Amaro) presents major problems to anybody,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said in a press conference this week.

Control the clock

K-State learned that the best way to keep a prolific offense from lighting up the scoreboard is simple. Keep them on the sideline with long offensive drives of your own.

The Wildcats held Baylor to its lowest offensive output all season, thanks to controlling the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Doing this requires solid third-down defense – Baylor was 4-of-13 on third downs against K-State. Texas Tech is third in the Big 12 in third-down conversion percentage – behind K-State and Baylor – at 45.6 percent.

Allowing big plays, however, erased an otherwise solid defensive performance against Baylor, and it is always a point of emphasis that Snyder said he makes to his teams.

“Yes, it is a major concern week in and week out,” Snyder said. “Probably with a team like Tech, it is probably as big a concern as any that you have.”

Texas Tech

Make K-State QBs one-dimensional

It’s no secret at this point that K-State quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams are both a large part of the Wildcat offense. It’s also not unknown what each quarterback is known for – Waters ranks No. 4 in the Big 12 in passing yards per game to Sams’ No. 5 rank in rushing yards per game.

“My response to it is that it is not enough yards,” Snyder said. “I do not care where they rank. We could use more yardage out of them.”

Lately, though, Waters and Sams have emerged as dual-threat quarterbacks. In K-State’s 35-12 win against West Virginia, Waters ran for 55 yards on 10 carries to compliment 10-of-13 for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the passing game. Sams was a perfect 8 for 8 for 93 yards. In K-State’s 41-7 win against Iowa State, Sams went 4 for 5 for 64 yards and a touchdown while running for 57 yards as well.

Getting pressure on Waters will be a must for the Red Raiders, who average two sacks a game. Making Sams throw the ball downfield is another key for the Red Raiders.

Win the turnover battle

The Red Raiders have learned the hard way that even an explosive offense must take care of the football against the Big 12’s best. Texas Tech ranks last in turnover margin (-7), just below K-State at (-6).

Good news for the Red Raiders, K-State’s two road games against Texas and Oklahoma State included eight turnovers – out of 18 on the year – on offense, while only forcing one.

The Red Raiders are more likely to overcome a few turnovers given their offensive success, but only if they force K-State – who went without a turnover last week until Robert Rose fumbled late in the fourth quarter of the Iowa State game – into a few of its own.