The Texas Longhorns (2-2, 1-0) will welcome the Kansas State Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) to Austin on Saturday. The Wildcats are coming off of a 33-20 win over Baylor. Let’s take a look at what Kansas State will show on offense.
The Kansas State offense all starts with senior Jesse Ertz. Ertz has had a solid start to the 2017 season, throwing for 706 yards and 5 touchdowns compared to 2 interceptions. He has only completed 52% of his passes though, and has struggled with accuracy throughout his career. Against the Longhorns last year, Ertz played through a shoulder injury and struggled in the second half, throwing an interception in the 4th quarter that helped Texas stay in the game. He is also the leading rusher on the year for the Wildcats with 332 yards and 3 touchdowns. Texas will face a true dual threat quarterback for the first time since Maryland, when they allowed 5.8 yards per carry to Tyrrell Pigrome.
Not much has changed in terms of offensive philosophy for Kansas State. The Wildcats will try to establish the run game to set up 1v1 situations in the pass game. The linebackers and defensive line for Texas will have to do an excellent job at controlling gaps and not breaking contain, allowing Ertz room to run. Ertz has been in this system his entire career and it is obvious when you see him play. The K-State offense has not faced a defense of Texas’ caliber this season, and watching Ertz go up against an improved Texas defense will be fun to watch.
Sophomore Alex Barnes will serve as the lead back for the Wildcats. Barnes broke onto the scene as a redshirt freshman last season, when he rushed for 442 yards and 6 touchdowns, earning second team Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Through 4 games in 2017, Barnes has rushed for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns. Backup Dalvin Warmack has 84 yards on the season and 2 touchdowns. With Ertz being heavily involved in the run game, the zone read is a huge part of the Wildcats offense. Barnes and Warmack have seen huge holes with defenses having to account for Ertz.
Kansas State is one of the few teams in the entire nation that still uses a fullback. Junior Winston Dimel is in his 3rd year as the starter at fullback, earning First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2015 and 2016. Winston checks in a 6’1, 235 pounds, but has the ability to carry the ball as well. He has 2 touchdowns on the season and can be utilized in a traditional running back role when needed.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The Wildcats like to spread the ball around in the passing game. Only 1 receiver has recorded double digit receptions this season, sophomore Isaiah Zuber. Zuber has 17 receptions for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns. Zuber was a member of the 2016 All-Big 12 Freshman Team and has stepped up as a favorite target for Ertz. Byron Pringle and Dalton Schoen are tied for 2nd on the team in receptions with 6 a piece. Both are averaging over 20 yards a reception and have recorded a touchdown.
Junior Dayton Valentine handles the tight end duties for the Wildcats, and he is one of the best blocking tight ends in the Big 12. Valentine earned Honorable Mention All-Big Honors in 2016 despite only catching 2 passes for 8 yards, largely due to his ability to be a mauler in the run game.
Kansas State boast one of the top offensive line units in the conference. Right Tackle Dalton Risner is one of the top tackles in the entire country. Along with being named to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List, the junior has started 30 consecutive games and was named First Team All-Big 12 a season ago. Opposite of Risner is left tackle Scott Franz. Franz started all 13 games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2016, being named to the First Team All-Big 12 Freshman team. Abdul Beecham and Tyler Mitchell hold down the two guard spots. Mitchell saw significant playing time as a redshirt freshman last season, being named to the second team All-Big 12 Freshman Team. Beecham earned a starting spot in 2017 after starting 5 games in 2016. Center Adam Holtorf has the least amount of experience out of the entire offensive line having entered this season with 0 career starts. The sophomore saw limited playing time in 2 games in 2016 and beat out redshirt freshman Dylan Couch for the starting center position in fall camp.
This will be one the best offensive lines that Texas faces all year. The Wildcats have only allowed 4 sacks in 4 games, and the offensive line is paving the way for an offense averaging 229 yards per game on the ground. I have confidence that the Texas defense can have success if they are able to shut down the run game and force Ertz to throw the ball. This game serves as a huge test to Charles Omenihu and Malcolm Roach to try to get pressure on the QB. The 3 and 4 man rushes that were getting pressure against Iowa State may not work against a talented offensive line unit like the Wildcats have.