Manhattan, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Big 12 Conference rivals square off on Saturday night, as the Texas Tech Red Raiders come calling on the 23rd-ranked Kansas State Wildcats.
Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech squad is an even 2-2 on the season, and one of its losses came in last week's conference opener against another nationally- ranked foe in Oklahoma State, 45-35. The Red Raiders are playing consecutive road games to open Big 12 play for just the fourth time, the last being back in 2004.
As for Bill Snyder and his Kansas State Wildcats, they come in sporting a 3-1 record, and they are fresh off a 58-28 rout of visiting UTEP last weekend. KSU already has a conference win to its credit, taking a 32-28 decision at Iowa State on Sept. 6, and this game represents the finale of the team's current three-game homestand.
The all-time series between these two teams leans in favor of Texas Tech, 8-6, but the Wildcats have won the last three meetings. The Red Raiders last won in Manhattan six years ago to the day, claiming a 58-28 verdict on Oct. 4, 2008.
Mistakes proved fatal to Texas Tech's upset bid of Oklahoma State last week, as the Red Raiders committed three turnovers and were penalized a whopping 16 times for a loss of 158 yards. Still, the offense generated 506 yards, gained 32 first downs and came away with touchdowns on three of its four trips to the red zone.
Davis Webb attempted 54 passes in the game, hitting 35 of them for 374 yards and four TDs. he was picked off twice. Jakeem Grant was his favorite target, as he hauled in 12 balls for 100 yards and a score, while Brad Marquez was right there with eight grabs for 106 yards and a TD. Reginald Davis finished with six receptions for 73 yards and a pair of TDs. The Tech run game was paced by DeAndre Washington and his 85 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, the Red Raiders surrendered 528 total yards, the bulk of which came through the air (370). Oklahoma State scored four TDs via the pass, but Tech picked off a pair of passes. The Cowboys were held to just 4-of-12 success on third-down conversion attempts. Pete Robertson and Sam Eguavoen each had eight tackles, the former also credited with a pair of sacks. Justis Nelson had three passes defended.
Webb has done a nice job of keeping the offense moving this season, as he is completing 64.8 percent of his passes for an average of 339 ypg. He has tossed 14 TD passes against six INTs, and the trio of Grant, Marquez and Davis have combined for 76 receptions, 965 yards and 12 scores. Washington has rushed for nearly 300 yards, but he has reached the end zone only once. Justin Stockton is averaging better than eight yards per carry, and he has a pair of rushing scores to his credit.
Texas Tech ranks last in the Big 12 in both run defense (262.8 ypg) and scoring defense (38.8 ppg). And while the effort against the pass has been significantly better (193.8 ypg), the Red Raiders have come up with only two interceptions. As a result of that latter figure, Tech is tied with West Virginia for the worst turnover margin in the conference at -1.25. The team is also last in the league in sacks (five), while also playing the role of cellar dweller in terms of penalties (11.5 per game, 105.5 yards per game). Eguavoen and Robertson rank one-two in total tackles with 29 and 28, respectively, and 14 guys in all have double-digit stops on the year.
Kingsbury spoke this week about the challenge of taking on a Kansas State team that hasn't shot itself in the foot the way his club has.
"Our number of mistakes versus their lack of mistakes, I'd say he [KSU coach Bill Snyder] does such a good job fundamentally and techniques. They don't make many errors. They count on you to make those mistakes and so far we have. We're really going to have to clean it up to compete against a team like that."
In whipping UTEP last week, Kansas State scored on six straight possessions at one point and tallied 451 yards of total offense compared to only 260 for the Miners. Jake Waters was an efficient game manager in completing 10-of-15 passes for 209 yards and a TD. He did not throw an interception and was not sacked. He also added a rushing score as part of his four-carry, 29-yard effort on the ground. Tyler Lockett and Zach Trujillo combined for seven receptions, 159 yards and a TD, while Charles Jones spearheaded the Wildcats' ground attack by rumbling his way for 76 yards and three scores. KSU was a perfect 6-of-6 in the red zone after going just 2-of-5 the previous week in a loss to Auburn.
UTEP found the running lanes almost non-existent last week, as the Miners averaged a meager 1.9 ypc in totaling just 59 net yards. In an effort to get back in the game, the visitors aired it out for 201 yards, scoring all four of their TDs via the pass. KSU's Dante Barnett and Jonathan Truman made 12 tackles each, but the Wildcats came up with only one sack and no turnovers.
Waters is a 61.6 percent passer who has averages 229 ypg, but he has just three TD tosses and as many INTs. As a result, Curry Sexton is the leading pass catcher, but with only 19 grabs (207 yards), while Lockett is first in receiving yards with 274, doing so on 17 receptions. Jones and Waters have both gained more than 200 yards on the ground, and they've combined for 13 TDs. As a collective unit, the 'Cats rank near the middle of the Big 12 pack in scoring (39.8 ppg) and rushing (175 ypg), while leading the conference in fewest penalties (19).
Kansas State has done an exceptional job stopping the run this season, as it yields just 90.3 ypg to rank second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally. Overall, the defense ranks third in the league in permitting 308 total yards per contest, although with only two interceptions and eight touchdown passes allowed, as well as an opponents completion percentage of .618, the unit is last in pass efficiency defense (134.8). Truman paces the team in total tackles with 34.
Coach Snyder was certainly pleased with the effort his team put forth last week following the disappointing showing against Auburn.
"I just know how we played today. I know how we got started. We were great on defense, so from a defensive perspective it was advantages. From the offensive perspective, without realizing it, we started fuller on offense."