K-State faces another tough test in Texas

Both K-State and KU fans cheer on their football teams during the K-State vs. KU game in David Booth Memorial Stadium on Nov. 2, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks in this year’s Sunflower Showdown with a final score of 38-10. (Emily Lenk | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State Wildcats are bowl eligible after a 38-10 dominating win over Kansas last week. K-State has won three games in a row after a shaky 0-2 start in conference play.

A huge factor to the success is the option, allowing junior quarterback Skylar Thompson seven touchdowns in the last two games.

“They lined up exactly how we thought they were going to against OU and the same for KU,” Thompson said. “We thought that it would be a good play for us for sure, and that it would be unbalanced, and they didn’t make any adjustments, which I was surprised by but not mad about it, that’s for sure.”

Former K-State quarterback and current coach Collin Klien played a large part in Thompson’s development with the option.

“We work on those mechanics every day with Coach Klein, so it was a fun play for us, and we executed it really well,” Thompson said.

The Texas defense creates its own set of challenges, head coach Chris Klieman said on Tuesday.

“They have great length on defense,” Klieman said. “They’re really physical. They run to the ball really well. There are pressures coming from all over the place. We’ll have our hands full, making sure that we protect Skylar [Thompson].”

The ground game has been working well in the last couple of weeks, but K-State needs to be able to throw the football.

“We have to be able to run the football some,” Klieman said. “Are they going to allow us to rush the football like we did last week? Probably not. So we have to find some ways to be creative and be efficient in the passing game.”

K-State defense has limited opponents to 20 points per game this season and had six sacks in the last two games. Texas junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger is third in the conference in total offense with 2,739 total yards and with 23 touchdowns this season.

“[He’s] probably similar to [Oklahoma senior quarterback] Jalen [Hurts],” Klieman said. “The designed runs, they’re just different schemes, but the fact that he can beat you running the football and he can beat you throwing the football. Ehlinger has rushed for 361 yards and five touchdowns this season.”

Senior defensive tackle Trey Dishon talked about the biggest factors to beat the Longhorns.

“I think the biggest thing is stopping the run, and that goes for every game every week,” Dishon said. “Once you stop the run, you can really get after the passer and get in some coverages that you like for our defense.”

Sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert talked about the defense mentality going into the game.

“It’s definitely going to be a test,” Hubert said. “Sam Ehlinger is a great quarterback with a pretty experienced offensive line and really skilled receivers and running backs. It’s something we’ve seen in the past with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and the weapons that they have on offense.”

Senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay is Ehlinger’s favorite target, leading the conference in receptions per game and averaging nine per contest through nine games. Duvernay has seven touchdowns this season, and he will be a threat in the game.

Klieman talked about what makes Duvernay so effective.

“One, he’s so good after the catch, just his ability to make people miss, run through arm tackles,” Klieman said. “[He’s] a really physical player, lines up in the backfield even some. They just put him all over the place and try to get him the football.”

K-State is already bowl eligible and enters the game third in the Big 12 after being projected to finish ninth in the conference. If the Wildcats win this game, K-State could control their own destiny for a conference championship appearance.

The Wildcats will have their hands full on Saturday against the Longhorns and enter as seven-point underdogs. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 on ESPN.