Manhattan, KS – A physical Big 12 battle is expected this ranked Kansas State Wildcats play host to the Texas A&M Aggies.
Texas A&M opened the season with a 5-2 record, but the last two outings have resulted in defeat. Last weekend, the Aggies were simply overpowered by Oklahoma in a 41-25 setback, leaving them one win shy of bowl eligibility. There are three games remaining, including this weekend's tilt, to notch that lone victory, and the next two will take place at home.
"We just have to know that we're so close," said Texas A&M defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie after last weekend's defeat. "It's frustrating because we are so close but we just got to know that we are still a team that we say we are. That we don't let outside people determine who we are. We have to let our play determine that."
As for Kansas State, it opened the season with seven consecutive wins to emerge as a darkhorse contender for the national title and a major contender for the Big 12 crown. Unfortunately, back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have dashed those hopes. Last weekend, the Wildcats fell to the Cowboys in dramatic fashion by a 52-45 final in Stillwater.
"We've played a lot of crazy games this year and this certainly fits the bill; it may top it," said Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder after Saturday's loss. "The fact that they played hard throughout, I'm proud of them, but we just have a lot to learn."
Texas A&M owns an 8-6 series advantage over Kansas State, but the Wildcats have won the last two meetings.
The Aggies surrendered five touchdowns to the Oklahoma offense last weekend, including three rushing TDs despite only surrendering 3.2 yards per run attempt. The pass defense yielded 14.2 yards per completion, an unacceptable average, but OU's star quarterback was held below 50 percent completions. As for the Texas A&M offense, it gained 527 total yards, including 379 through the air from QB Ryan Tannehill. Ryan Swope made eight catches for 149 yards and a score, but the receivers dropped far too many passes and Tannehill was intercepted three times.
"It's not something we do, but we have done it in the past and it has not been a part of us," said Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman in regard to the numerous dropped passes against Oklahoma. "It certainly is right now and we have to get that fixed, there is no question about that, among other things too."
Texas A&M lost more than just the game last weekend, as tailback Christine Michael suffered a season-ending knee injury. Having rushed for 899 yards and eight touchdowns through the nine games he played in, there is no doubt that Michael will be missed. Cyrus Gray is a solid RB as well, but he isn't as explosive as Michael. Swope, who will play through injury on Saturday, has 60 catches for 874 yards and eight TDs, while Tannehill has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 2,701 yards and 20 TDs with 10 INTs.
While the Aggies are generating 37.7 ppg and 520.6 total ypg, they are allowing 28.6 ppg and 421.4 total ypg to opponents. They have been solid against the run, yielding a mere 110.2 total ypg at a clip of 3.0 ypc, but the pass defense has been weak, surrendering 16 TDs and 311.2 ypg while notching just four INTs.
That defense will be challenged by a Kansas State offense that posted 507 total yards against Oklahoma State last week. The Wildcats rushed for 276 yards and four touchdowns while gaining 5.4 ypc, and quarterback Collin Klein led the way with 144 rushing yards and three TDs. As a passer, he threw for 231 yards and one score, yet his team lost despite holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes.
"We hung tough, and fought together through the whole game, but ultimately we just came up short," said a disappointed Klein after the game.
Klein has put up staggering numbers this season, as he has run for 906 yards and 19 touchdowns while passing for 1,223 yards and nine scores with just four interceptions. Thanks in large part to that one individual, KSU is averaging 33.0 ppg.
The Wildcats limited OSU to 73 rushing yards last week, but the Cowboys are a passing team and racked up 502 yards and four TDs through the air. KSU is now surrendering 27.6 ppg and 402.8 total ypg, numbers that could certainly be better. The pass defense has proven to be most problematic, yielding 302.8 ypg.