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Texas Longhorns Football

Game Preview: #20 Kansas State Wildcats vs. Texas Longhorns

Photo: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

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The Texas Longhorns (5-3, 3-2) will play their first game of the season as an unranked team on Saturday.  Fresh off a 37-27 road loss at TCU, the Longhorns have work to do as they host the #20 Kansas State Wildcats (6-2, 3-2) at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.  As Texas hits the season-ending stretch of games, each carries a weight of its own. Texas head coach Tom Herman believes his team can still play for a Big 12 title, and rightfully so.  The Longhorns sit tied for third, along with Kansas State in the conference standings, and Herman knows he has to get through the Wildcats on Saturday to manifest that belief.

“We’re going to have two teams here in Austin with a lot to play for. I know our guys are extremely excited to be back home and extremely excited to fix some of the things that ailed us in previous weeks and show each other that we’re capable of going out and putting together a good, impressive victory.”

Herman is 2-0 vs. Kansas State in his time as head coach at Texas, but the Wildcats have given the Longhorns fits historically, beating Texas ten times in nineteen games. They are only one of two Big 12 teams with a winning record against the ‘Horns.  Texas owns a 7-3 record against the Wildcats inside the confines of Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, and they look to get back in the win column on Saturday as they welcome back a cadre of much-needed players that have missed time due to injury.

Kansas State has won three in a row, including a 38-10 win over Kansas last week in Lawrence.

What: Texas Longhorns (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (6-2, 3-2 Big-12)
When: Saturday, November 9, 2019
Time:  2:30 PM CST
Venue: Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium
Location: Austin, Texas
Television: ESPN
The Line: Texas -7

Last Meeting Between the Two Teams: Texas defeated Kansas State 19-14 (September 29, 2018, Manhattan, KS)
All-Time Series Record: Kansas State leads Texas 10-9

The Coaches

Kansas State Wildcats

Head Coach:  Chris Klieman
Head Coaching Experience: 7th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Kansas State:  1
Career Record:  78-15
Career Record at Kansas State:  6-2

Texas Longhorns

Head Coach:  Tom Herman
Head Coaching Experience: 5th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Texas:  3
Career Record:  44-17
Career Record at Texas:  22-13

The Kansas State Ground Game & T.O.P.

It’s no secret that the success of Kansas State’s offense starts with quarterback Skylar Thompson. The Wildcats have rushed for 11 touchdowns in the last two weeks, with Thompson accounting for 7 rushing scores. As a team they are averaging over 270 yards per game on the ground. The Longhorns rank 63rd in rushing defense and give up an average of 160 yards per game.  Todd Orlando’s defense has played subpar as of late, and they will have their work cut out on Saturday in effort to stop a potent Wildcat ground game.  Thompson gobbled up 127 yards on 17 carries against Kansas last week, and Texas must limit 3rd down conversions to find success on Saturday.  Kansas State ranks third nationally in time of possession, which means the Texas defense must play stingy, while Tim Beck’s offense has no choice but to capitalize on every offensive possession.

Ehlinger Must Bounce Back

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger had the worst game of his career last week in Fort Worth, throwing four interceptions against the Horned Frogs.  Ehlinger threw just three in the previous seven games, and had only five interceptions throughout the 2018 season.  The Texas offense is only as good as Ehlinger is, and the junior must return to form on Saturday. With wide receiver targets Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, Texas has a huge advantage in the secondary matchups. The Texas offensive line must win the battles in the trenches to give Ehlinger time to make plays. Kansas State’s offense will look to dominate the time of possession, which make Ehlinger’s job of sustaining long drives and putting points on the board critical to Texas’ success.

Injury Update

The Longhorns have struggled in the secondary, but they get much-needed help with key players returning from injury. On Thursday Tom Herman announced safeties Caden Sterns and BJ Foster are healthy and will play against Kansas State.  Defensive back Demarvion Overshown and linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, along with running back Jordan Whittington, have all been cleared to play, but each has been dealing with lingering pain.  One or more of these players could see the field on Saturday if needed and if their health allows.

Summary

The Longhorns haven’t fared well against running quarterbacks this season, and the challenge ahead will be stopping Skylar Thompson. While Thompson’s passing numbers aren’t as bloated as his rushing stats, he’s still capable of making big plays downfield – he’s thrown for seven touchdowns and only one interception.  The Longhorns are last in the Big 12 in sacks, and Todd Orlando must dial up plays to generate a pass rush in hopes of rattling Thompson.

This game is just as big for Tom Herman and the Longhorns as it is for Chris Klieman and the Wildcats. Klieman has the train rolling in Manhattan is is just the third coach in Kansas State history to win six of his first eight games.

Kansas State has already clinched a bowl berth, but a loss for either team most likely rules out an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game.

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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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