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Game Preview: # 18 Texas Longhorns at Kansas State Wildcats

Can the Longhorns get its first win in Manhattan since 2002?

Scott Sewell, USA TODAY Sports

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The Longhorns dusted one half of the purple monkey off their backs last week by defeating #17 TCU 31-16.

This week, a ranked Texas team will attempt to do away with the other half when they travel to Manhattan, Kansas to face Kansas State.  Like the Horned Frogs, the Wildcats and head coach Bill Snyder have had the Longhorns’ number in recent history.

Especially at home.

Texas won the last matchup between the two schools 40-34 in double overtime last year in Austin, but winning at Bill Snyder Family Stadium seemingly escapes the Longhorns in even numbered years.  The Longhorns are riding a three-game winning streak, their longest since the 2014 season, and have what Tom Herman describes as “a formula” that works.   Despite Herman’s recent success and a mediocre 2-2 start to the season for the Wildcats, the second year Texas head coach knows winning on Saturday will not be an easy task.

“It doesn’t matter what their record is, they’re going to show up and they’re going to be loud and they’re going to try to make an impact on the game much like our fans have the last two weeks. So you put all that together — well-coached team that plays hard, that plays smart and they’ve got a raucous fan base that shows up regardless of weather, regardless of record, regardless of any of that — and that makes for a difficult place to play,” said Herman.

Kansas State is 10-8 against Texas in all-time games played, and a near-perfect 7-1 at home against the Longhorns.  The last time Texas won in the Little Apple was 2002. Chris Simms was quarterback for the Longhorns and Darren Sproles played running back for the Wildcats. Even then, it took a blocked field goal by Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs with :07 left in the game for Texas to squeak out a 17-14 win.

The Longhorns are favored by 8.5 points, but on paper that’s just a number. In order to prove the program is on its way back to national prominence, Texas must win a game in hostile territory.

What:  Texas Longhorns (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 Big-12)
When:  Saturday, September 28, 2018
Time:  2:30 PM CST
Venue:  Bill Snyder Family Stadium
Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Television: FS1

THE COACHES

Kansas State Wildcats

Head Coach:  Bill Snyder
Head Coaching Experience: 18th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Kansas State:  27
Career Record:  212-112-1
Career Record at Kansas State:  212-112-1

Texas Longhorns

Head Coach:  Tom Herman
Head Coaching Experience: 4th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Texas:  2
Career Record:  32-11
Career Record at Texas:  10-7

Can the Texas Offense Keep it Up?

Tom Herman’s offense has increased production substantially, particularly as of late. In the last two games against ranked USC and TCU teams, the Longhorns have outscored the Trojans and Frogs 58-10 after the first quarter and 42-3 in the second half.  Sam Ehlinger continues to progress under center, and while the Texas running game has been mediocre, Ehlinger’s solid play has been enough to carry Texas to a current 3-game win streak.  With Collin Johnson, LJ Humphrey and Devin Duvernay as weapons at his disposal, expect Ehlinger to test a secondary that had three interceptions against West Virginia last week. Running backs Tre Watson, Keaontay Ingram and Daniel Young have yet to eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game this season, and they will attempt to do so against a defense that allows an average of 178 yards per game.

Kansas State Quarterback Situation

Sophomore Skylar Thompson has started all four games under center for the Wildcats and thrown for 505 yards, 4 touchdowns and one interception.  Alex Delton, a junior that has played in a backup role to Thompson, will make his first start of the season against the Longhorns on Saturday.  According to a report by the Kansas City Star, the change at the position came as a surprise to Thompson, as well as assistant coaches Andre Coleman and Collin Klein. Delton’s presence changes the offensive dynamic from pass first, which Thompson brought, to run-first. The Texas defense, which gives up just 117 yards rushing per game, will try to stop Delton on the ground and force the pass against a defense that ranks 12th nationally in interceptions (6). If Delton throws, look for junior Isaiah Zuber to be the recipient. Zuber surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark in each of the Wildcats’ last two games.

Regardless of the change in quarterback, Tom Herman says his defensive game plan remains the same.

“You really just try to defend the system, and defend formations and down and distances, field position, and all that stuff…. You worry about the quarterback pretty secondarily.”

The Stakes

For Kansas State, a win against a ranked Texas team has the potential to alter the season. A loss puts the Wildcats at 2-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play, with a rough slate of Big 12 opponents awaiting. Earlier this month Bill Snyder signed new a 5-year contract that carries him through the 2022 season, but despite the stability of his tenure at Kansas State, the Wildcats desperately need a win.

Despite Texas being 3-1, the narrative is similar. The Longhorns have won three in a row after losing to Maryland, and they have a chance to make it four in Manhattan on Saturday. A win gives Texas continued momentum into the Red River Showdown next weekend, while a loss leaves Tom Herman scratching his head — and Texas with yet another defeat in the Little Apple.

Aaron Carrara is the founder and publisher of HornSports and has covered University of Texas athletics since 2011. Aaron is a member of the Football Writer's Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association and is a proud father to three boys.

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