Know Your Opponent: Wildcat Football renews rivalry with Missouri

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Kansas State won 34-0 against University of South Dakota on September 3, 2022. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

After K-State defeated South Dakota 34-0 in its season opener, the Wildcats face the Missouri Tigers, a familiar opponent from the previous Big 12 and Big 8 conferences. It’s the first occasion of the programs meeting since Oct. 8, 2011, where K-State narrowly beat the Tigers by a touchdown, 24-17.

The final conference meeting happened 29 days before Missouri left the Big 12 to join the South Eastern Conference, where they enjoyed four winning seasons since their departure with a 38-44 in-conference record. Following a 1-0 start to the 2022 campaign from both squads, the two teams meet again to renew a rivalry dating back to 1909.

K-State Offense

With the first game of the season against Football Championship Subdivision team South Dakota, the Wildcat offense maintained simple and effective play-calling, controlling the tempo from start to finish. K-State won the time of possession battle (32:19 – 27:41), running the ball 45 times for 297 yards on 6.6 yards per carry.

With anticipation surrounding Adrian Martinez’s first appearance as a Wildcat quarterback, Martinez only passed the ball 15 times because of the game plan and blowout on the scoreboard. The transfer from Nebraska completed 73.3 percent of his passes and tallied 53 yards through the air.

For some, the offense, specifically the passing game, had a disappointing night, but K-State dominated the game. Showing little game film to Missouri and future opponents, they were able to control the game in different aspects. Malik Knowles rushed 75 yards down the sideline for a touchdown on the first play of the game. The Wildcats then returned a blocked punt for a second touchdown one minute and twenty seconds later.

K-State led 20-0 to conclude the first quarter following another Wildcat touchdown. This time it was a 39-yard rush by Deuce Vaughn, part of a 126-yard rushing performance. 

The lone concern outside the mystery of K-State’s passing game is the offensive line. Not only was Martinez sacked three times against the Coyotes, but starting offensive lineman Taylor Poitier suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Defense

K-State’s defense came into the season after allowing 21 points per game in the 2021 season, good for No. 19 in the country, and they showed no sign of lowering expectations. The Wildcats got off to a three-and-out start in their shutout against South Dakota, leading to K-State’s special teams touchdown.

The defensive line put pressure on the quarterback, totaling four sacks in the game. The sacks came from four different players: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Eli Huggins, Brendan Mott and Jaylen Pickle. 

The defense also forced two fumbles, which were both recovered by South Dakota, and one interception by safety Cincere Mason late in the first quarter.

Missouri

After trailing the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 3-0 in the first quarter, Missouri scored 24 points in the second quarter to lead LA Tech 24-10 at halftime. Following their second quarter dominance, Missouri won the third quarter 14-0 before ultimately winning 52-24.

Missouri’s offense racked up 558 total yards, 323 on the ground and 235 through the air. The standout player in the win was quarterback Brady Cook.

Cook threw for 201 passing yards and ran for 61 yards on seven attempts. The sophomore from St. Louis scored one touchdown with his feet and one with his arm. He also threw one interception.

Unlike K-State, Missouri fought their way to victory with three double-digit scoring totals in the remaining three quarters. The Tigers opened up their playbook to complete the blowout victory against LA Tech, showcasing more of their possible game plan against the Wildcats. 

Luckily for the Tigers, they proved that they can stop the run game against LA Tech, holding the Bulldogs to 11 yards rushing on 22 carries. However, the cost of Missouri’s game plan resulted in 336 yards and three touchdowns passing.

Prediction

Missouri is an intimidating opponent because they possess several weapons on offense, and have a strong defensive line. In the win against LA Tech, the Tigers ran the ball with nine players at three different positions: running back, quarterback and wide receiver. That does not include the 235 passing yards.

K-State prides itself as one of the best defenses in the country, and I believe the Wildcats’ defensive line will overwhelm the Tiger offense, though it will have a trickle-down effect, rattling Cook’s quarterback abilities, which will force Missouri to be one-dimensional and run the football.

The defensive tactics could force Missouri to play at a slower offensive pace of play that K-State enjoys, and the Wildcats will have every home field advantage possible.

On the offensive side of the ball, K-State has the opportunity to open the playbook and allow Martinez to sling the football to a variety of wide receivers. With the Wildcats’ trademark rushing attack and unknown passing capabilities, Missouri doesn’t cover the 7.5 point spread that K-State’s currently favored by from multiple sports betting outlets.

K-State 45-27

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