Defeating Missouri 40-12 in dominant fashion once again, Kansas State faces a possible “trap” game against the Tulane Green Wave. While Tulane holds a 2-0 record, with similar one-sided results to K-State, the Green Wave comes right between two big matchups for the Wildcats. Last week was the longtime rivalry game against Missouri, and next week K-State travels to Norman, Oklahoma, for a 7 p.m. primetime game against the No. 6 ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
With this week’s game between two other major games, some are concerned that K-State won’t be playing their best. Multiple sportsbooks have changed their early odds of K-State being favored around 20 points to now being favored around 14. With a combined score of 72-12 against Missouri and South Dakota, K-State must keep their focus on Tulane, who boast an even better point difference against their two opponents at 94-10.
The Wildcats are on the verge of ranking in the AP Top 25, earning the 29th most points in votes at 77, only 12 points behind No. 25 ranked Oregon at 89 points. An impressive performance could be what pushes K-State into the top 25 ahead of their big game against the Sooners.
In each of the first two games, the Wildcat offense have found themselves more reliant on the run game than the air. That could simply be caused by the game script and the downpour against Missouri, but it has left offensive coordinator coach Klein’s offense looking somewhat one-dimensional.
While the pass game hasn’t sparked, there were improvements from the first week, where quarterback Adrian Martinez threw for 53 yards. Despite the rain, Martinez was able to pass for 101 yards against the Tigers. The receiving game was led by wide receiver Phillip Brooks with 57 receiving yards and a team high of 28 yard reception on a fake QB run.
Continuing to lead the offense is the run game, led by running back Deuce Vaughn. In the two games this season, Vaughn ran for 271 yards and three touchdowns. The entire offense has gained 532 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. The 266 rushing yards per game average is near the peak of college football, coming in at the 12th most per game. Running the ball on the ground will be the key to the Wildcat offense this season while the passing game continues to look for its place.
While the offense has found success, it still missed opportunities. Against Missouri, the offense was placed in the Tiger’s field position three straight times off of defensive interceptions, and failed to score a touchdown on each drive. After a fourth straight interception, the offense was finally able to cross the goal line on a 24 rushing touchdown from Vaughn. Converting those opportunities will be crucial when defense doesn’t devastate the opposing offense.
While the offense has seen a few issues, the defense has left its mark on the game on nearly every play. The Wildcats have racked up the defensive statistics in only two games, intercepting five passes, four of which were against Missouri, collecting five sacks and completing a total of 20 tackles for loss.
Standouts on the defensive side have included star defensive end Felix Anudike Uzomah and safety Cincere Mason. Uzomah has continued from where he left last season with 1.5 sacks so far and has constantly applied pressure to the quarterbacks of both teams they have faced. While Uzomah has led the front line, Mason has been a vulture out deep, collecting an interception in each game as well as pass deflection. While these two have been the face of the defense early on, nearly every single defensive player has left their mark on a game this season. With help from everyone, the Wildcats look to possibly be one of the top defenses in all of college football.
K-State Special Teams
While the most discussed sides of football are the offense and defense, the Wildcat special teams has left plenty to watch and impress. After recording a touchdown off of a blocked punt from Seth Porter in the first week, the unit collected another touchdown from Brooks on a 75-yard punt return touchdown against Missouri. The two touchdowns have provided a spark after defensive stops. The offense has also been assisted, as punter Ty Zenter has averaged 46.6 yards per punt, with a season long of 66 yards against the Tigers.
Tulane comes into Manhattan with a 2-0 record in dominant wins. While the wins may be overwhelming, neither of their opponents were much of a challenge.
The Green Wave started off taking down Massachusetts 42-10, who also lost to Toledo 55-10 this year. In their second game, Tulane dismantled Alcorn State 52-0, who lost their other game against Stephen F. Austin, 31-27. Neither of Tulane’s opponents comes close to the firepower and talent of the Wildcats.
However, the Green Wave still impressed in those games, no matter the opponent. They were led by their defense, who only allowed 2.9 rushing yards per carry and 2.6 passing yards per pass. The defense has completely controlled each of their first two games and has not let either opponent find any groove with the ball.
On the offensive side, Tulane is led by junior quarterback Michael Pratt. Pratt comes with 23 games under his belt, giving him experience in the position. Passing for 4669 yards in his career, Pratt has never been a high-level thrower of the football. He did throw for 318 yards against Alcorn State with five touchdowns in two games without throwing an interception. Pratt is provided with multiple players who have produced on the offense, but no star sticks out to help carry the load.
Facing off against an undefeated team always raises some concern about what the opponent could provide on the field. In this case, the Wildcats still have the clear advantage, beating more impressive teams and having a considerably higher amount of talent in all three aspects of the game.
The true concern for K-State is the possibility of overlooking the Green Wave and making the game closer than it should be. That may be a concern with many teams, but with the leadership of the Wildcats, starting with head coach Chris Kleiman and the rest of the staff and players, the chance of a falloff due to a lack of focus seems highly unlikely. K-State is a well-rounded team who thrives on fundamentals and making all the necessary plays. This game should go similarly to the first two games of the year even as sportsbooks see a possible “trap” game for the Wildcats.