AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mobile quarterbacks have given the Texas Longhorns headaches in the past, and the No. 23 Kansas State Wildcats have two that will take snaps on Saturday at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Senior Will Howard and freshman Avery Johnson have combined to run for more than 500 yards thus far, and they do it in different ways. Howard, a 6-foot-5, 242-pound road grader can punish defenders while Johnson is a quick and shifty runner that makes people miss.
“They’re very tactical in their approach to running the football, and their quarterbacks are very capable of running it,” Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “They’re going to scheme us up on things and have runs available to them.”
The running threats only begin there because Kansas State also has an outstanding running back in DJ Giddens who is No. 29 in FBS with 722 rushing yards. The Wildcats’ physicality on the offensive line gets defenders out of the way for the nation’s fifth-best running offense at 226 yards per game, so to Sarkisian, the game hinges on his team’s ability to make the tackle on first contact.
“We have to make a five-yard run actually be a five-yard run,” he said during Thursday’s media availability. “We have to make sure those runs are limited to the yardage they’re blocked for. We can’t let a five-yard run turn into a 15-yard run.”
With the rushing attack, the Wildcats hang on to the football. They are No. 14 in FBS in time of possession, averaging 32 minutes per game, and since the Longhorns offense can’t score if they aren’t on the field, creating turnovers is even more critical for the Texas defense.
On the flip side, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday in his weekly press conference that this year’s Texas team is the best one he’s seen since he took over in Manhattan five years ago.
“I don’t see any weakness on either side of the line of scrimmage or special teams,” he said. “They are playing with a ton of confidence, they believe they are going to be successful and very disruptive on both sides. It’ll be a huge challenge for us and one we have to accept.”