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Kicking the Tires: Previewing Kansas State vs the UTSA Roadrunners

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After shutting out South Dakota, K-State travels deep into the heart of Texas. This week's opponent, the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, will be a sterner test.

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For the first time since 2011, K-State hits the road for a non-conference game. You may remember what happened last time. Tre Walker stopped Jacory Harris inches short of a touchdown, propelling the 2011 team to an improbable 10-2 season.

Saturday's opponent is the polar opposite of Miami's storied program, even if they have a former Hurricane coach. The University of Texas-San Antonio began its football program in 2011 and moved to FBS a year later, amassing a 15-18 FBS record in that time. Despite several opportunities and a few close calls, the Roadrunners have yet to win a game against a major-conference opponent.

A win over UTSA wouldn't seem as momentous as the win over Miami. But heed the words of a former K-State player. Games like these are The Big Chance for programs like UTSA. And after UTSA gave Arizona everything it wanted last week, the Roadrunners should have K-State's full attention.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Joe Hubener, 9-18-0, 147 yards, 8.2 yards/attempt, 1 TD, 147 yards/game

Rushing: Justin Silmon, 6 carries, 51 yards, 8.5 yards/carry, 0 TD, 51 yards/game

Receiving: Dominique Heath, 3 receptions, 54 yards, 18.0 yards/reception, 0 TD, 54 yards/game

UTSA

Passing: Blake Bogenschutz, 25-43-1, 332 yards, 7.7 yards/attempt, 2 TDs, 332 yards/game

Rushing: Jarveon Williams, 21 carries, 79 yards, 3.8 yards/carry, 0 TD, 79 yards/game

Receiving: David Morgan II, 9 receptions, 106 yards, 12.1 yards/reception, 1 TD, 106 yards/game

Starting quarterback Jesse Ertz was injured on the first play of the game last week against South Dakota. Hubener directed K-State to a workmanlike win against the overmatched Coyotes. Predictably, nobody for K-State put up impressive numbers. The Wildcats left two touchdowns on the table after a Hubener fumble on the USD one-yard line and a Kody Cook drop on a perfect Hubener pass.

After adjusting for sacks, K-State had 38 carries for 202 yards (5.3 yards/carry). Not bad, but again, USD. That adjustment would also move Hubener's passing numbers down to 9-20 for 130 yards (6.5 yards/attempt). Optimistically, one might note that Kyle Klein and Kody Cook dropped wide-open passes that would have totaled about 73 yards and another touchdown. Pessimistically, we may have to accept that such drops are a feature, not a bug.

Arizona led UTSA only 21-20 at halftime last week, before pulling away for a 42-32 win. UTSA outgained the Wildcats, 525-392, although the teams were nearly even in yards per play. Bogenschutz shook off a pick-six on the first throw of his career to throw for 332 yards and two touchdowns. They even throw to their tight end (David Morgan II), which should be very confusing for K-State fans.

The Roadrunners took Arizona to the wire in a 26-23 loss in San Antonio last year. Two years ago, Oklahoma State pulled away after an early scare for a 56-35 win. UTSA has had some chances, and you know they smell blood after last week's performance against Arizona.

Advanced Stats

One game isn't nearly enough of a sample size for meaningful results. So rather than a full summary, we'll identify a few key matchups.

Despite giving Arizona a game, UTSA ranks next-to-last in F/+. K-State checks in at 28th.

K-State is unlikely to get anything easy against the UTSA defense. The Roadrunners limited Arizona to 4.3 yards per carry and 6.4 yards per passing attempt last weekend. There's been some talk that UTSA struggled against the zone read play against Arizona. At best, this is a marginal benefit. Rich Rodriguez basically invented the play, so I would expect Arizona to run it fairly well. K-State can certainly feature the zone read if it so chooses, but there are lingering questions whether Hubener and [insert running back here] are sufficient threats to hurt a defense. The Wildcats offensive line also needs to show it can impose its will on anyone.

All eyes will be on the Wildcats defensive personnel when they take the field on Saturday. Danzel McDaniel didn't play at all, and Dante Barnett left the game late with what looked like a shoulder injury. In between, K-State was uneven against the Coyotes passing game, allowing a 60 percent completion rate and 6.8 yards per attempt. Not exactly a dominating performance.

Conclusion

K-State fans are far more concerned about this game than Vegas and advanced metrics would say is justified. K-State is a 17-point favorite, and Bill Connelly projects a 40-12 Wildcat victory. On one hand, K-State lost its starting quarterback early and still cruised to a never-in-doubt shutout win over South Dakota that could've been 48-0 as easily as it ended up 34-0. On the other hand, there were two touchdowns left on the table, too many penalties, and some iffy pass defense. A similar performance by an inexperienced team on the road against a fired-up opponent could spell trouble.

K-State 31, UTSA 20