Fresh off a win that showed the defense’s resilience, the Wildcats are preparing for the biggest challenge on Saturday in Oklahoma’s nationally top-ranked scoring offense.
Specifically, Kansas State will face one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country and Heisman candidate senior quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts has embarrassed defenses all year.
Hurts is second in the FBS in total offense averaging 397 yards per game and already has 20 passing touchdowns along with 10 rushing touchdowns through seven games this season, but has only been part of Oklahoma’s offense less than a year.
“It’s really impressive when you look where Jalen Hurts is at this year because he wasn’t in the system very long,” Klieman said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “Seeing what he’s been able to do running that offense — and it’s a phenomenal offense as it is — but he’s running it at a really high level. Obviously, that’s the biggest challenge is he can beat you in so many different ways.”
Hurts held one of the most prestigious jobs in college football as the starting quarterback at Alabama. It all was lost to current quarterback junior Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 National Championship, but appeared in the SEC Championship game in 2018 before transferring to Oklahoma in the spring.
It is clear that he has improved under the tutelage of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
“Right now, he’s in a very good place,” K-State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton said. “He’s playing under control. He understands the offense. He’s very patient, calm and his demeanor’s good.”
It will be a challenge to not only stop Hurts, but the other weapons in the offense : junior wide receiver CeeDee Lamb —who is second in the Big 12 in scoring touchdowns — and redshirt sophomore running back Kennedy Brooks.
“You pick your poison a little bit,” Klieman said. “I think we have to at least be able to slow down some of the run game, but which run game are you going to slow down? Are you going to slow down the quarterback run? Are you going to slow down the running backs, the jet action, all that stuff?”
Kleiman emphasized the defense will need to show different looks to avoid an explosive run, tackle in space and make Hurts throw the football.
Hazelton said Oklahoma’s depth could be a problem.
“They have some players everywhere … We’re going to have to gamble a little bit, and if you give up things and they guess right, and you make a bad call, it could be a bad deal for all of us,” Hazelton said. “Hopefully, we guess right more than we guess wrong. That’s kind of the gamble of the games.”
Sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert detailed the dynamic aspects of Oklahoma’s defense.
“Oklahoma’s offense is super complex and is pretty superior in the Big 12 and in the country,” Hubert said. “They have a lot of playmakers and weapons. It’s always tough to play a team with a quarterback who can hurt you with his arm and his feet.”
K-State has the best scoring defense in the Big 12 and is ranked 19th in the nation in that stat. This will be a big task for this K-State defense as the Wildcats enter the matchup up as 23.5-point home underdogs on Saturday.
The Wildcats and Sooners will face off at 11 a.m. on ABC.