Coming off of two-straight Big 12 wins that broke a three-game conference slide, the K-State football team now turns its attention to winning their first game away from Manhattan this season. The Wildcats are headed into a hostile environment at Jones AT&T; Stadium where they will face off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and over 60,000 fans celebrating 18 seniors on senior day.
The Wildcats are coming off of their best game of the season, a 41-7 dismantling of the Iowa State Cyclones. Senior running back John Hubert set the tone for the team with one of his best performances of the season. He rushed for 105 yards on 15 attempts, including a season-high 54-yard run in the middle of the first quarter to set up a field goal.
The Wildcats were solid defensively and allowed just 249 total yards, their best mark of the season. The Cyclones’ longest play registered just 16 yards, marking the first time since their K-State’s first game against North Dakota State, that the Wildcats didn’t allow a single play of 20 yards or more. They held the Cyclones to just 4-of-15 on third downs.
“We did not give up any big plays; that was major in my eyes,” head coach Bill Snyder said after the game. “We did a pretty good job on third down.”
In Lubbock, Texas, the Wildcats will face one of the most prolific passing offenses in the country. Red Raider freshman quarterback Davis Webb has passed for over 300-yards five times on the season, and over 400-yards three times. Webb averages 279.6 yards a game, totaling 2,237 yards on the season. His backup, walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield, averages 297.6 yards per-game.
Part of the Red Raiders success in the passing game is their receiving core. Leading the team is the junior tight end Jace Amaro, who leads the Big 12 in receptions per game and is fifth in the nation in receiving yards per game. Amaro averages 115 yards per game and has racked up 1,035 yards receiving thus far, the only receiver in the Big 12 over the 1,000-yard mark as of today.
“[Amaro] is very physical after he catches the ball,” Snyder said. “He presents major problems to anybody.”
Amaro isn’t the only threat in the passing game, however. Senior wide receiver Eric Ward and sophomore receiver Jakeem Grant are also in the top-10 in both receptions and receiving yards per game in the Big 12.
“This [Red Raider] offense is very talented and very dynamic,” junior linebacker Jonathan Truman said. “This game is going to be a challenge, and we are willing to step up and accept the challenge.”
The Wildcats will have to take advantage of time of possession. The Red Raiders tend to score fast, holding the ball only 28 minutes a game. The Wildcats counter this by holding the ball an average of 32 minutes a game. The Wildcats will need to force the Red Raiders into long drives, while not rushing their own drives.
The Wildcat defense comes in looking to show why they are the 30th ranked defense in the country in total yards allowed, and stop the second ranked pass offense in the country.
Red zone touchdowns will also be important for K-State. The offense scores a touchdown just 66.7 percent of the time they venture inside the 20-yard line.
“We cannot walk away with field goals,” Daniel Sams, sophomore quarterback, said. “It is really just finishing drives inside the 20 and not walking away with field goals.”
A decent rushing game by the opponent was key in back-to-back Red Raider losses during the last two weeks. Oklahoma ran for 277 yards while Oklahoma State ran for 281 yards. The offensive line will matchup against a Texas Tech defense that has recorded 15 sacks and 61 tackles for loss on the season.
“There are guys up front that are very physical, very tough, big guys that are hard to move, and they are athletic, pretty quick,” junior offensive lineman B.J. Finney said. “We are going to have to execute and finish our blocks.”
Perhaps the biggest factor for the Wildcats against the Red Raiders will be the will to win. After two straight losses that had them fall from a No. 10 ranking, the Red Raiders will be aiming to prove themselves, especially the seniors who will be looking to end their careers in Lubbock on a high-note.