Coming off a 20-10 loss against now-ranked No. 9 Baylor, the Kansas State football team (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) prepares to take on the Texas Longhorns (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) in a Friday morning showdown in each team’s final conference matchup of the year.
The loss to Baylor snapped a four-game winning streak that followed a three-game losing streak to open Big 12 play. Though the Wildcat defense limited the Bears to just 20 points, the offense was never able to get started and finished with just 10 points and 263 yards.
Making matters worse, super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson left the game with an injury with four minutes remaining in the game. It isn’t set in stone whether or not Thompson will be out against Texas, but K-State head coach Chris Klieman said at a press conference on Monday that Thompson might be able to take the field.
“Well, there’s an outside shot, actually, of Skylar, so that’s the positive side,” Klieman said. “I don’t think he’ll do anything today and Tuesday would be iffy, but the kid wants to play. We’re going to see where he’s at. I don’t think that will be determined until later in the week.”
If Thompson can’t go, sophomore Will Howard will get the start, with sophomore Jaren Lewis preparing as the backup. Lewis came in to relieve Thompson against Baylor and threw an interception on his first pass.
Both Howard and Lewis have reached the limit on games they can play and keep their redshirt eligibility, which means that if either of them gets in the game against Texas, they won’t be able to keep another year of college eligibility.
“[Howard] knows this is a great opportunity for him to play and solidify himself,” Klieman said. “I’ve seen enough situations in my time of coaching where you’re healthy and you have an opportunity to play, typically kids want to play because you can’t forecast the future.”
K-State might not need the added passing attack against Texas, however, as the Longhorns sport the second-worst rushing defense in the Big 12, and the 112th rushing defense in the FBS while giving up 199.5 rushing yards a game.
This should bode well for star sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn, who had 162 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Kansas — the only team with a worse rushing defense than Texas in the Big 12.
Thankfully for K-State’s rushing defense, they won’t have to face Texas’ star sophomore running back Bijan Robinson, who is out because of injury. Robinson will finish the season with 1,127 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Here’s what else to look for:
Friday Night Lights
Although the game starts at 11 a.m. instead of 7 p.m., the players in this week’s game will get a little taste of high school with a Friday game instead of the typical Saturday game that college football is known for.
What will this change for the game? Probably not a whole lot, but it will give coaches and players one less day of preparation, which means the teams might not be as ready for each other as they might typically be.
With only four wins and one game remaining, Texas will be unable to reach a bowl game this season as the minimum threshold for bowl eligibility is six wins. With that said, does Texas have anything to play for?
Maybe the players won’t try as hard to not get injured, or maybe the coaching staff will play some seniors that don’t typically see the field as a last hurrah. On the other hand, the coaching staff could play some players that usually aren’t on the field, and those players will use that time to show the coaching staff that they deserve time next season.
Whoever is playing and how hard they play, I would expect to see a team that usually isn’t fielded.
Like Oklahoma, Texas announced earlier this year that it will be leaving the Big 12 in favor of the SEC in the coming years. With the season that Texas has had, it is hard to see the Longhorns improving conference play in what is commonly recognized as the toughest conference in college football.
Echoes of fans yelling “S-E-C!” while giving the “horns down” hand signal have been a staple of opposing crowds in Texas’ games this season. Even though it is an away game, be ready to see a sea of upside-down rock n’ roll signs on the TV.
Though the all-time series between these two teams is set at 11-10 in favor of Texas, the Longhorns demolished the Wildcats at home on Senior Day this past season by a score of 69-31.
“The players need to take ownership of the program,” Klieman said after the loss. “That’s when we’ll turn the corner — when the kids take the ownership of the program and not the coaches. We have enough of the right guys coming back that I believe that can happen.”
Don’t think K-State has forgotten this game, and maybe the Wildcats will use their disappointment from this past season to turn this into a blow-out, the other way around.
K-State takes on Texas at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 26, in Austin, Texas. The game will air on FOX, with a recap and analysis on the Collegian after the game.
Texas is currently favored by 3.0 points, with the over/under set at 52.5.