After a double-overtime loss in Austin, K-State returns home needing a win to right their season. Unfortunately, the opponent is No. 6 TCU.
K-State is now 1-1 in conference play after last weekend’s disappointing loss to Texas. The game in Austin was crucial because it preceded a two-game homestand against probably the two best teams in the Big 12. The Wildcats badly need to win one of these two games.
TCU survived a challenge at home from West Virginia last week, winning 31-24. The Horned Frogs are undefeated this year, with impressive road wins over Arkansas and Oklahoma State.
Players to Watch
Passing: Jesse Ertz, 55-100-3, 930 yards, 9.3 yards/attempt, 7 TDs, 186.0 yards/game
Rushing: Alex Barnes, 59 carries, 299 yards, 5.1 yards/carry, 2 TDs, 59.8 yards/game
Receiving: Dalton Schoen, 11 receptions, 269 yards, 24.5 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 53.8 yards/game
Passing: Kenny Hill, 100-145-3, 1,153 yards, 8.0 yards/attempt, 10 TDs, 230.6 yards/game
Rushing: Darius Anderson, 77 carries, 465 yards, 6.0 yards/carry, 6 TDs, 93.0 yards/game
Receiving: Desmon White, 16 receptions, 168 yards, 10.5 yards/reception, 2 TDs, 33.6 yards/game
Word is that Ertz may be out for this game, so here’s backup quarterback Alex Delton’s season passing line: 2-5-0, 30 yards, 6.0 yards/attempt, 0 TDs, 15.0 yards/game
Running back Darius Anderson is the key to TCU’s attack. Last year, TCU leaned on mercurial quarterback Kenny Hill, who made bad plays about as often as he made big plays. This year, the Frogs average 220 yards per game on the ground. With the strong run game, Hill doesn’t have to shoulder such a heavy load and he’s managed the offense much better.
TCU’s run game should probably give K-State fans nightmares. The Frogs were among the first teams to copy the Baylor model, realizing that wide splits with 10 personnel forced the Wildcats to essentially play with five defenders in the box if they want to maintain their two-deep safety look. This asks a lot of the outside linebacker and defensive ends. K-State wasn’t up to the challenge in 2014 and 2015.
For its part, TCU’s defense is back in top form. Linebacker Travin Howard leads TCU with 38 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and an interception. Safety Nick Orr isn’t far behind, with 31 tackles and two interceptions. End Ben Banogu leads the way with four sacks. Cornerback Ranthony Texada does a little of everything, with two sacks, an interception, and four passes defensed.
K-State Offense vs. TCU Defense
There isn’t a lot to love here. K-State’s offensive strength, and it’s a relative strength at this point, is running the ball efficiently (33rd) and with some explosiveness (40th). TCU kills opposing rushing attacks with its aggressive play, ranking in the top 30 by both metrics and allowing only 104 ground yards per game.
If Delton starts, then expect TCU to play even more aggressively against the run. Delton has yet to show much of a passing threat this year, and K-State’s coaches look reluctant to put much on the right arm of the sophomore from Hays. Unlike Texas, TCU’s defenders are unlikely to get caught chasing the ghosts of K-State’s diverse run game and will force the Wildcats to beat them playing left-handed.
Though not especially efficient, K-State’s air attack has been somewhat explosive (29th) this season. Big completions for touchdowns last week to Dalton Schoen helped that. But if Ertz is out, then those numbers go out the window.
The big question is whether K-State’s coaching staff can devise a game plan that Delton can execute against TCU’s defense. That’s a big ask of an inexperienced quarterback against Gary Patterson, one of the best defensive minds in the game.
K-State Defense vs. TCU Offense
After initial success, K-State’s defense is now only average against the run. TCU ranks in the top third nationally by both major rushing metrics. Even worse, they’re 25th at finishing drives. In the two times I’ve watched them, their offensive line impressed me. They’re less likely than others to bog down in the red zone, although K-State’s defense is pretty good at limiting the damage on scoring opportunities.
TCU’s passing attack looks passive compared to past Frog units. Four different receivers have more than 10 receptions, but none has more than two touchdowns. And none of these leading four receivers has a reception for longer than 45 yards. K-State should be able to keep receivers in front of them, but with that many threats, and the ever-dangerous KeVontae Turpin lurking, the Frogs will present a serious challenge when paired with their run-game threat.
Here are the big questions for this game: Can K-State’s coaches develop a package of plays Delton can execute to keep TCU’s defenders in run/pass conflict so they don’t simply attack downhill at the first sight of a run look? Can K-State’s defense slow the TCU run game to put more responsibility on Hill, and possibly force some of the mistakes we’ve seen from him in the past? And can the Wildcats hold TCU to field goal attempts on scoring opportunities?
I’m not optimistic. The Frogs are playing well, are well coached, and have two big road wins already. I foresee a third on Saturday.
Horned Frogs 34, Wildcats 24