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Open Game Thread: K-State vs. Eastern Kentucky

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Who: K-State vs. Eastern Kentucky
When: September 3, 2011 | 6:10 p.m. CDT
Where: Manhattan, Kan. | Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000)
K-State opens the season with FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky today in Manhattan. The Colonels, 6-5 (5-2 Ohio Valley Conference), enter the game without their starting quarterback, T.J. Pryor. Starting in his place will apparently be either freshman Jared McClain or freshman Travis Carlyle (I say "apparently" because EKU has six(!) quarterbacks on its roster. Either way, Pryor is a big loss, as he led EKU in both passing and rushing last season. Hit the jump for more on Eastern Kentucky...

With Pryor out, the Colonels' leading returning rusher is the awesomely named running back, H.B. Banjoman. Banjoman averaged 4.5 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns last season, but only rushed for 38.5 yards per game. Eastern Kentucky is a rush-heavy team (424 rushing attempts against only 258 passing attempts last year), so look for K-State to load the box on EKU.

The player to watch for EKU is wide receiver Orlandus Harris. A junior from Chattanooga, Harris had by far the best team's receiving numbers last year, with 56 catches for 940 yards and seven touchdowns. The next best returning receiver, junior Tyrone Goard, had only 20 catches for 315 yards and five TDs.

One other thing to watch on defense is EKU's line. The Colonels gave up 38 sacks last season, so don't be surprised if even K-State's suspect front four puts some pressure on the rookie QBs. Unless K-State's front is absolutely dominant, I wouldn't take much from the performance today.

As for the EKU defense, it wasn't especially impressive last year, and they lost four of their top five tacklers. The player to watch is defensive lineman Anthony Brown. The sophomore from Cincinnati stands only 6'1" and weighs only 240 pounds, but he had 59 tackles, 12.5 TFL and 6.5 sacks last year, to go along with one forced fumble. At linebacker, senior Tyson Patrick (a transfer from Dayton) leads the way, and had 43 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks last year, along with two INTs and two forced fumbles. In the secondary, sophomore Zavier Foster had 5.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks last year, so don't be surprised to see him around the line of scrimmage.

Eastern Kentucky could be a dangerous team on special teams. Senior Jeremy Caldwell had two kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown last year, to go along with a pick six. It's fair to say he might be fairly explosive. The kicking game is up in the air, as last year's kicker, who was only 5/12 on the season, does not return. Returning punter Jordan Berry averaged 42.9 yards per boot last season, with 13 punts of 50+ yards and 22 downed inside the 20 yard line.

That's the scout on EKU. Obviously, if K-State is ready to play and executes well, it should manage a fairly comfortable victory. I'll be interested to see how much freedom Collin Klein is given and how well he throws the deep ball, if he gets a chance. We all want to see who plays at running back and what kind of production we get. And, of course, it'd be nice to see a solid effort out of the defense, especially the front four against what looks like an overmatched EKU offensive line.

You're in the capable hands of Panjandrum and Ahearn Alley this evening, as I believe me, BracketCat and K.S.B. will be at the game, and thus without reliable wireless service. Follow us on Twitter @bringonthecats, as I'll probably be tweeting constant inanities during the game.
K-State football is back, baby. Go Cats!