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Kicking the Tires: Texas Tech

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K-State returns home after a stinging loss to West Virginia. A crucial game with Texas Tech awaits.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

K-State returns home this weekend to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders one week after a stinging 17-16 loss in Morgantown. It’s one of three pivotal home games I had circled before the season. But after the loss to West Virginia and with a trip to Norman looming next week, getting a win Saturday is crucial.

Tech enters Saturday’s contest at 3-1 with an easy 55-19 win over KU in its first Big 12 game last Thursday. Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ status for Saturday is uncertain with a sprained A-C joint suffered against the Jayhawks. Backup Nic Shimonek posted a 15-21-0 line for 271 yards in the second half against KU.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jesse Ertz, 41-85-2, 584 yards, 6.9 yards/attempt, 4 TDs, 146.0 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 37 carries, 159 yards, 4.3 yards/carry, 1 TD, 39.8 yards/game

Receiving: Dominique Heath, 10 receptions, 149 yards, 14.9 yards/reception, 2 TDs, 37.2 yards/game

Texas Tech

Passing: Patrick Mahomes, 121-166-3, 1,770 yards, 10.7 yards/attempt, 18 TDs, 442.5 yards/game

Rushing: Demarcus Felton, 33 carries, 204 yards, 6.2 yards/carry, 3 TDs, 51.0 yards/game

Receiving: Jonathan Giles, 31 receptions, 565 yards, 18.2 yards/reception, 7 TDs, 141.2 yards/game

Kliff Kingsbury probably has to stifle a guffaw when he looks at our offensive stats.

Even having seen Mahomes play last year and a couple times already this year, his numbers still amaze me. I’m prone to nitpicking his performances, but he’s legit.

One of those nitpicks is that Mahomes sometimes holds the ball a long time looking for the big play, when a successful play is available. Kingsbury is probably fine with this, but behind that offensive line it’s resulted in nine sacks already this year. And the competition has been Stephen F. Austin, Arizona State, Louisiana Tech and KU.

Tech hasn’t exactly played a bunch of run-stuffing defenses this year, but Felton has enough pop to punish mistakes. K-State’s front six against Tech’s offensive line is such a mismatch that the Wildcats should be able to keep him in check.

Advanced Stats

Conclusion

Tech is well and truly awful defending the run, and below average against the pass. Their advanced stats against the pass aren’t that far off West Virginia’s, but they profile as a less-disruptive defense across the board. Either they aren’t very aggressive, or they’re bad at attempting aggression.

This game is a litmus test for K-State’s offense. Tech will almost certainly load up to stop the run. Tech is hanging around down in FAU territory against the run, so it seeing a ground performance like we saw against the Owls would be welcome. But if Tech can slow us down with numbers, then the receivers have to get separation and Ertz has to punish them through the air.

Defensively, it’s all about preventing the big play for K-State. Giles is the star outside, but Cameron Batson, Devin Lauderdale and Dylan Cantrell all threaten on any given play. The Wildcats gave up a few deep passes to WVU last week, but managed not to allow any big-play scores. That will be crucial again this week against a Tech team that will lose effectiveness in the red zone.

One key to defeating teams like Tech is getting pressure without blitzing. With Jordan Willis and Reggie Walker, not to mention Trey Dishon and Will Geary, up front, K-State should be able to get pressure against a Tech offensive line that isn’t very good. Behind them, Mike Moore and Elijah Lee will have to stay sound and take good angles when Mahomes leaves the pocket. And everyone deep has to stay assignment sound and rally to the ball.

With a home crowd and a much less-threatening defense, K-State should be able to get the offense moving. It will need to. Sustaining drives and keeping the ball away from Tech will be almost as important as finishing drives with touchdowns. The Wildcats have to get this game.

Wildcats 38, Red Raiders 35