PREVIEW: K-State looks to keep rolling against TCU

K-State and TCU team captains meet at midfield for the coin toss before their game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 19, 2019. The Wildcats took the Horned Frogs 24-17. (Archive photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Coming off of a come-from-behind victory against Texas Tech, the Kansas State football team (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) prepares to take on the TCU Horned Frogs (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) this Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for homecoming.

K-State looks to carry the momentum gained from the second half of the Texas Tech game after a rough start against the Red Raiders. A 45-yard touchdown run by the Red Raiders 30 seconds into the game, followed by a Malik Knowles kickoff return fumble that led to another Texas Tech touchdown, had the Wildcats staring at a 14-point deficit three minutes into the game.

“Anytime there is a slow first half, there is frustration,” senior defensive back Russ Yeast said after the game, “but we still had to stay humble and stay grounded so we could still ultimately come out and play good football later in the game.”

A big defensive second half with zero Red Raider points and a “King” Felix Anudike-Uzomah safety led the Wildcats back from a 24-10 halftime deficit. A pair of Deuce Vaughn touchdowns coupled with the safety pushed the score to 25-24 in favor of K-State late in the fourth quarter.

“Really unbelievable team win today,” head coach Chris Klieman said after the victory. “Lot of adversity that we faced, especially early in the game, not the way we wanted to start, it was frustrating to us and then they get the field goal right before half and it’s 24-10 at half. Kids didn’t flinch, they didn’t bat an eye and felt like we were a better team and had a chance to win the game we just had to make some plays.”

K-State should expect a very similar game against TCU as they did with Texas Tech. The Horned Frogs have struggled to keep teams from scoring this season but have pretty much scored at will. TCU will feature a manageable quarterback in junior Max Duggan and a budding star running back in Zach Evans.

In a conference full of great running backs like Deuce Vaughn, Iowa State’s Breece Hall and Texas’ Bijan Robinson, it has been easy to overlook the sophomore from TCU. Evans’s 7.0 yards per carry on 92 attempts paces an offense that scores around 34 points per game. For more on what to look out for from TCU this weekend, be on the lookout for the Collegian’s “Know Your Opponent” article later this week.

Can’t Play From Behind

Unfortunately for Wildcat fans, playing from behind is something we’ve gotten way too used to this season. Between being down 14-0 early against Texas Tech, giving up a long touchdown against Iowa State on the first offensive play of the game and giving 21 first-quarter points against Oklahoma State, K-State has put itself in bad spots in three of its past four meetings.

While K-State played with drive and energy to come back against Texas Tech, that isn’t possible against better teams like Oklahoma State and Iowa State. K-State has some great players on defense, but if an offensive player finds the one hole that a defensive player plays incorrectly, it can turn into a 75-yard Breece Hall touchdown, which can’t happen moving forward.

Special Teams U Isn’t Just For Kick/Punt Returns

K-State is nationally recognized as one of the best kick/punt return schools across football, but being great at special teams doesn’t stop in the return game. In the game against Texas Tech, senior punter Ty Zentner placed the ball inside the four-yard line after a three-and-out by K-State’s offense to open the second half. The downed punt is what set up the Felix Anudike-Uzomah safety a play later.

“In my mind,” Klieman said, “the play of the game was the punt by Ty and then the safety to get it to 24-12, because it gave us a ton of life, and we were able to make some plays.”

If something happens over and over and over again, it isn’t luck — it’s Special Teams U stepping up in the right spots. The 2010 San Diego Chargers led the NFL in both offense and defense but failed to make the playoffs. It seems like they could have used some of K-State’s special team prowess.

Secondary Staying Strong

When taking a look back at some of the games played — potential high draft pick in Carson Strong of Nevada, five-star quarterback in Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma and all-time Iowa State quarterback in Brock Purdy — the K-State secondary has not fallen through on the hype they had coming into the season.

The defense has been in some bad situations because of risky offensive play when trying to play from behind. Not giving up over 37 points against some of the strongest offensive teams in the country thus far is a win in the Big 12, and hopefully something the secondary can continue to help with moving forward.

King-ing Felix

K-State fans weren’t the only ones impressed with sophomore defensive end “King” Felix Anudike-Uzomah’s safety against Texas Tech. He was featured in ESPN analyst Marcus Spears’ segment, “Big Man Ballin’.”

King Felix has been tearing it up all season with 28 tackles and a team-leading six sacks, so it’s only fair the national media gets a taste of what he has been providing for the Wildcats all season.

K-State’s homecoming showdown with TCU is set for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff this Saturday, Oct. 23, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. K-State is currently favored by three points, while the over/under for the game is set at 58.5.

Saturday’s game can be watched on ESPNU. Make sure to check in with the Collegian after the game for recap and analysis.