Manhattan, KS – The 15th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats close out the non-conference portion of their schedule on Saturday night when the North Texas Mean Green pay a visit to Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The Wildcats appear to be in midseason form, having outscored Missouri State and Miami-Florida by a combined score of 103-22. They led from start to finish in last Saturday's 52-13 thrashing of the Hurricanes. This week's contest wraps up a three-game homestand to start the season, as the team will visit fifth-ranked Oklahoma next weekend to open Big 12 play.
Meanwhile, North Texas rebounded from a season-opening loss at third-ranked LSU by knocking off Texas Southern last weekend, 34-7. This tilt kicks off a crucial three-game road swing for the Mean Green, who have hopes of playing in a bowl game under second-year head coach Dan McCarney.
Wildcats senior quarterback Collin Klein was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for four touchdowns against Miami. Three of those scores came on the ground, his 10th career multi-touchdown rushing game which ranks second nationally among active quarterbacks. He also inflicted plenty of damage through the air, averaging a robust 23.3 yards on nine completions for a near-perfect 254.0 pass efficiency rating.
Head coach Bill Snyder praised the way Klein has gone about working to improve his craft.
"(Klein) improves at everything because he works diligently to get better," Snyder said. "He has improved in the passing game and he is making an improvement in leadership. He is also making improvements in the management and running game. He is just a guy who works diligently to get better, and he just keeps getting better across the board."
Still, Klein was far from a one-man show. John Hubert ran for 106 yards and a TD -- his second 100-yard game in as many weeks -- while Daniel Sams added another two rushing scores. All told, the Wildcats racked up 498 total yards for the game.
K-State's defense also put forth a strong showing as Miami's only touchdown came in the waning moments with the game out of hand. The defense bottled up Miami's offense to the tune of 262 total yards and put plenty of pressure on Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris, who was sacked five times. The Wildcats recovered three fumbles on the day and held the Hurricanes to just 40 yards on the ground, an average of 1.4 per rush. Linebacker Arthur Brown made his presence felt, as he set up a short TD drive with a first-quarter fumble recovery and later helped force a turnover on downs with a third-quarter sack.
The ground game is the preferred mode of attack for the Mean Green, who after two weeks rank 32nd nationally in rushing offense (214 ypg) and 111th in passing offense (144 ypg). Despite nearly matching last week's total offensive output by halftime, coach McCarney saw plenty of areas for improvement.
"It was a good win," coach McCarney said following the team's first win in a home opener since 2006. "There's not a great feeling of satisfaction. We were inconsistent running the ball, and we have to execute our passing game better."
Running backs Brandon Byrd and Antoine Jimmerson combined for 281 yards on the ground, although McCarney was not pleased that TSU was still within two scores entering the final quarter.
The North Texas defense did a fine job against a Tigers squad that racked up 544 yards of offense a week earlier. At halftime, the Mean Green had allowed just 16 yards of total offense, and the only first downs they yielded in the first half came by way of penalties. By game's end, UNT had held the Tigers to a mere 31 yards rushing, the lowest total by a Mean Green opponent since 1992. TSU finished with just 185 yards of total offense. A fourth-quarter interception by Marcus Trice and later a pass deflection on fourth down helped thwart TSU's comeback hopes.
The scary thing about K-State is that after last Saturday's rout of Miami, Klein downplayed his progress with the offense, pointing out some plays he would have liked to have back.
"Coach is rubbing off on me because what I am thinking about right now is the two field goals we kicked inside the ten," Klein said. "That is what I am thinking about right now. Again, we did a lot of good things, we made some progress, but there are some things we need to sure up."