AUSTIN (KXAN) — As if Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn wasn’t enough for opposing teams to prepare for, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said his team is getting ready for two entirely different styles of quarterbacks for Saturday’s game.
The widely-diversified offense for the Wildcats is one reason why they’ve risen to No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings, and backup quarterback Will Howard had a redemptive performance in a 48-0 romp over Oklahoma State last week.
With the status of Wildcats quarterback Adrian Martinez unknown, Sarkisian said Monday he’s preparing for both Martinez’s mobility and Howard’s vertical passing ability because “he has to.”
“The style of player that Adrian Martinez is, the quarterback run game is a real factor in the success they’ve had with him,” Sarkisian said. “Howard has the ability to throw the ball and push it downfield. We’re fortunate to have two weeks to prepare, and whoever plays, they are both good. We’ve got to be ready for both.”
Martinez, who transferred from Nebraska in the offseason, was a late scratch from the Oklahoma State game with an injury, paving the way for Howard to win back some fans in a way with a great performance after a couple of years perhaps not meeting fan expectations when he played previously.
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Howard threw for 296 yards with four touchdowns on 21 of 37 passing in the Wildcats’ blowout win over the Cowboys. With the win, Kansas State slid into second place in the Big 12 standings behind TCU.
Sarkisian knows the program pretty well even though he’s only coached in the Big 12 for two seasons. He was recruited by legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder before eventually going to BYU to play quarterback for the Cougars, and having coached in the college ranks after his playing days, he saw the impact Snyder had on the program.
Sarkisian told a quick story about his final collegiate game, which was against Kansas State in the 1997 Cotton Bowl. BYU won the game 19-15, and Sarkisian threw a perfect pass to K.O. Kealaluhi with 3:39 left in the game to lift the Cougars to victory. Sarkisian ended the game 21-for-36 passing with 291 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns to bring the Cougars back from a 15-5 deficit after three quarters. Sarkisian said Snyder wrote him a note congratulating him on a good game afterward.
“There’s a lot on integrity in the way they go about their business, and I think they do it the right way,” Sarkisian said. “It started with Coach Snyder, and obviously Coach [Chris] Klieman has done a great job continuing that process.”
Sarkisian said the bye week was great in terms of what the team needed to do — heal up bumps and bruises and develop depth — and defensive backs Anthony Cook and Ryan Watts have trended in the right direction when it comes to being able to play again. Both left the Longhorns’ previous game with injuries, Cook with a broken arm and Watts aggravating a shoulder injury he suffered against Iowa State.
Sarkisian said it’s “a little too early” to make a determination on if either player will play against Kansas State, but everyone who was banged up was able to get healthier, he said.
Getting ready for two varieties of quarterback plus one of the best backs in the conference in Vaughn is, to use a seasonal descriptive term, pretty spooky. Vaughn is second in the Big 12 with 902 rushing yards with five touchdowns. He had one of his best games of the season, a 153-yard performance against Oklahoma State, last week, and he’s had success against the Longhorns in the past. Last year, the Cedar Ridge graduate rushed for 143 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown against the Longhorns. In 2020, Vaughn needed just 10 carries to run for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a really versatile back,” Sarkisian said. “They do a good job being creative with him, moving him around, and he’s got great balance and body control. He can make you miss in tight quarters and keep his balance in the power run game. You definitely have to be aware of where he is all the time.”
Texas and Kansas State kick off at 6 p.m. CT Saturday from Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. The game will be broadcast on FS1, Fox Sports’ cable network.