Know Your Opponent: The Texas Longhorns

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(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State has one final game of the regular season before the bowl game. The Wildcats travel to Austin, Texas, to take on the struggling Texas Longhorns Friday at 11 a.m.

If K-State wins and Kansas takes care of business against West Virginia in Lawrence, the two Kansas schools could doom Texas to a last-place finish in the conference.

Texas has not won a game since they blew a massive lead against Oklahoma on Oct. 9. The Longhorns’ six-straight losses have eliminated them from playing for a bowl game and put a lot of pressure on first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian.

This past week they lost to a struggling West Virginia team in Morgantown, West Virginia, where they could not limit the WVU rushing attack and let Jarret Doege have a really good day to boot.

Sarkisian washed out of the USC head coaching job because of problems in his personal life before spending several years coaching quarterbacks and eventually coordinating the offense under Nick Saban at Alabama. As a player, he quarterbacked for the legendary LaVell Edwards at BYU and won the Sammy Baugh Trophy.

OFFENSE:

There’s an old adage that says, “If you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’ve got none.” Well, Texas might have literally gone from a two-quarterback system to neither of them being healthy.

Sarkisian has described both quarterbacks as day-to-day since the West Virginia game. He added that Casey Thompson would start the game as of right now, according to The Houston Chronicle.

Thompson has been playing with a hand injury that has impacted his ability to throw the football and back-up Hudson Card suffered an undisclosed injury in the second half against West Virginia.

The real threat of the Longhorn offense is running back Bijan Robinson, but he suffered a season-ending injury against Kansas.

Schematically, Texas runs a spread offense with talent outside at wide receiver and a really good tight end in senior Cade Brewer.

DEFENSE:

Texas runs a 4-2-5 primarily but shifts into a 4-3 situationally. Its defense highlights what they call a “STAR.” The STAR is the safety/linebacker hybrid that a lot of base-nickel defenses use.

They have shown a lot of two-deep safety looks to try to limit deep passes while asking the STAR to cover short like a linebacker.

Linebacker DeMarvion Overshown is the teams’ leading tackler and ranks seventh in the league in tackles.

Its defense is seventh in passing yards given up per game and eighth in rushing yards given up per game in the Big 12. They give up six yards per play, which is seventh-worst in the Big 12.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

Score first:

K-State NEEDS to score first to have a chance in any game. The play calling and the game plan seem to go out the window when they are behind. This past week, the best player on the offense only recorded 11 rushing attempts because K-State found itself down early and had to pass.

If K-State can get an early lead, they will be able to run all over Texas and maintain that lead like we saw them do against Stanford, Nevada, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU. The Wildcat formula in most of their wins this year was to get a stop on the opening possession and then go up 7-0.

Who’s at quarterback:

Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson was carted off against Baylor after an injury late in the game. Jaren Lewis came in and immediately threw an interception. Head coach Chris Klieman said there was an “outside shot” of Thompson playing and that back-up Will Howard would start if Thompson couldn’t.

Meanwhile, Texas could be looking toward back-up Hudson Card or even true freshman Charles Wright under center. It could truly be a battle of backup quarterbacks. If the Wildcats can get an edge at that position — K-State’s Thompson is the best of the bunch — that will be a huge advantage.

Neutralize talent:

The scary thing about playing a team like Texas is that they have a ridiculous amount of talent at every spot. The team as a whole might be bad, and there might be issues with recruiting rankings, but the best teams in the country are those that recruit at a high-level year over year.

I looked back at the past five years of 247 recruiting rankings, and this Texas program has been in the Top-25 every year. Most of those were top-10 classes. That means the Longhorns could show up and decide that for a day they are bigger, stronger, faster and better than K-State.

The best way — in my opinion — to level that playing field is to limit the number of snaps and drives in a game. An effective, yet slow, offense limits the chances for a team like Texas to leverage its advantages.

PREDICTION:

It’s closer than it should be. K-State has a much better scheme but is starting Howard (do not read into this, I have no insider information it’s just a prediction) and that limits the passing ability. Vaughn and Howard figure out a way to move the ball without it. K-State wins 31-28.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.