PREVIEW: Football needs a way to bounce back against Texas Tech

Sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn attempts to juke a Texas Tech defender as he runs down the sideline in K-State's 31-21 victory over Texas Tech at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 3, 2020. (Archive photo by Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group).

The Kansas State football team (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) looks to avenge a three-game losing streak this Saturday as it travels to Lubbock, Texas, to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-2, 2-2 Big 12).

Coming out of arguably the toughest three-game conference schedule with Oklahoma (7-0, 4-0 Big 12), Oklahoma State (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) and Iowa State (4-2, 2-1 Big 12), K-State takes a slight step back with a Texas Tech team that came into the season projected to finish ninth in the conference — only above Kansas.

Despite not looking great during the first three conference contests, K-State has kept scores close against solid opponents. Pulling within two scores against Oklahoma State and Iowa State and only six points against Oklahoma is a positive to look at going forward.

Dating back to this past season, K-State is currently on an eight-game conference losing streak. Saturday’s game looks like the best chance to break the run since the 2020 contest against Baylor when the Wildcats lost on a time-expiring field goal.

However, Texas Tech won’t be a pushover. The 5-2 Red Raiders are averaging 455 yards and 35.7 points per contest, which could mean trouble for a K-State defense giving up 33.6 points per game in the Big 12 this year. The Wildcat defense is built for containing big plays from happening, but every once in a while, a Breece Hall breaks through for an 80-yard touchdown run that leaves K-State playing from behind.

History bodes well for the Wildcats against the Red Raiders, with a 12-6 record since the Red Raiders joined the Big 12 in 1996. Saturday’s potential streak-breaking game could be a streak-continuing win for the Wildcats. K-State has won five straight against Texas Tech since 2016.

Texas Tech will play senior quarterback Henry Colombi in place of the injured junior quarterback Tyler Shough. Colombi is throwing at a 65.5 percent completion rate with an average of nine yards per attempt.

On defense, the Wildcats have to look out for senior linebacker Colin Schooler, who is tied for 13th in the nation for solo tackles with 38. For more on this Texas Tech team, look out for the Collegian’s “Know Your Opponent” article later this week.

What else to watch out for this week:

Bowling Pt. 1

There are two ways K-State can bounce back from a not-so-good loss against Iowa State – like a tennis ball or a bowling ball. Ideally, the Wildcats will realize the strength of the opponents they have played, focus on what they did well and what needs improvement and bounce back as a high-level team.

Bouncing back like a tennis ball should deliver a victory on Saturday and leave a good taste in the team’s mouth coming back home the following week for a homecoming date with TCU. Bouncing like a bowling ball leaves the team at 3-4 with no clear direction on where to go for the remainder of the season.

Bowling Pt. 2

With an 0-3 record against the biggest names in the conference, K-State can push next year for a potential conference championship. However, where does this leave the Wildcats moving forward with the rest of the season?

The goal should be landing a bowl game. K-State has an opportunity to win out the rest of the way. While only six wins are needed for bowl eligibility, ending the regular season with a 9-3 record would set the Wildcats up with a good bowl game and a shot to finish in the top 25.

Hot Seat

Chatter has been flying around the Twitter sphere about a possible evaluation of the coaching staff once this year is over. While head coach Chris Klieman is likely safe because of his contract extension through 2026, offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman might end up on the chopping block.

Throughout the remainder of the season, some of the coaching staff might find themselves fighting for their jobs, especially if donors get involved. With K-State not playing at its full potential, athletic director Gene Taylor might have some decisions to make soon.

Injury Bug

K-State players are catching injuries like colds this year, and with a variety of bad things on either side of the ball, the hope is that star sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn and star super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson will be ready to go on Saturday. While it was likely just cramps, Vaughn stayed on the ground in pain after the final play of the Iowa State game. Thompson took a shot early in the game that also banged him up a bit.

“I felt a little bit better,” Thompson said after the game. “I took a little shot there the second play of the game that kind of hurt a little bit.”

Players like Daniel Imatorbhebhe who aren’t performing as well post-injury would also be a big help to the team if they get healthy moving forward.

K-State takes on Texas Tech at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas. The game will air live on Fox Sports 1. Check with the Collegian after the game for a recap and analysis.