Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz and the Wildcats will take on Texas on Saturday evening in Austin, Texas. (2016 file photo/The Associated Press)
For the second straight game, Kansas State is playing a team with a new coaching staff. Last week it was Baylor and Matt Rhule, and Saturday the Wildcats travel to Austin to face the Texas Longhorns with Tom Herman and his staff.
The K-State staff had video of four games this season to evaluate both Baylor and Texas, but their research went back to last spring as well as their previous teams with Herman coming from Houston.
“We look at all of that,” Snyder said. “We’ve seen all of the Houston film for a period of time, but what they did in the spring and these four ballgames gives you a pretty good idea. There’s still some things that haven’t shown up that were on the table when they were at Houston, but for the most part we’ve seen a good deal in the four ballgames.”
As he noted with Baylor, Snyder said Texas is improving game-by-game. The Longhorns opened with a home loss to Maryland, rolled past San Jose State, lost in overtime at USC and last week won 17-7 at Iowa State.
“It’s a little hard to decipher because they’re going through the process of change and a new system,” Snyder said. “You struggle with it for a while and you get better and better and better. Probably the thing I see with a new staff in place and a new system in place is from day one from the very first ballgame with Maryland they have dramatically improved. You see it as an on-going thing, and that’s anticipated and expected.”
Texas offense: The Longhorns average 443.5 yards and 34.5 points, ranking No. 7 in the Big 12 in both categories and they are dealing with some injury issues.
Left tackle Connor Williams, a preseason All-American, is out with a knee injury and quarterback Shane Buechele has a bad ankle that had him wearing a protective boot early in the week.
“He won’t be 100 percent,” Herman said, “but a quarterback with an ankle injury probably doesn’t need to be 100 percent to be serviceable.”
Buechele has been splitting time with true freshman Sam Ehlinger, who have two starts apiece.
The loss of Williams, who could possibly return later this season, was a big blow for the Longhorns. The starting offensive line is comprised of one senior, two juniors, one sophomore – center Zach Shackelford, a one-time K-State commit – and true freshman Derek Kerstetter at right tackle.
“I felt like we played a little tentative,” Herman said of the O-line’s performance against Iowa State. “We didn’t come off the ball. I use the phrase ‘waddling on the line of scrimmage.’ In the run game we have not the most elusive guys so we have to come off the ball and create vertical seams for them. As talented a wide receiver crew as we have, when a team lines up and plays a three-down front and drops eight into coverage on first and second down, you have to be able to run the football. We did it in spurts but not consistently enough to our satisfaction.”
Texas defense: Snyder is impressed with the Longhorns.
“I think they’re awfully good,” he said. “They do quite a few things and have good people doing it. They are the best defensive football team we’ll face up to this point in time and at the end of the season you can look back and determine whether they were the best defensive group that we have seen.
“Up front they are very physical, they have good size and good range. You look across the entire defense and you don’t see any 5-foot-4 guys running around. They are 6-foot plus and they have a 6-foot-7 pass rusher (end Charles Omenihu) and all their secondary you can stair step with 6-foot, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 across the board, and you don’t see that on the back end a great deal. They are athletic to go along with it.”
The Horns have seven interceptions in four games, four by safety DeShon Elliott.
The leader of the unit is junior linebacker Malik Jefferson, who has 33 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack.
“Malik is a guy everybody has been high on for a long time,” Snyder said. “He hasn’t done anything to change anyone’s opinion on that. He runs around and finds places to go, finds ways to get to the football and will hit you.”