By Daniel Koglin



If there's one thing Kansas State does well, it's running (especially the option). Senior QB Ell Roberson and junior RB Darren Sproles are possibly the most dangerous offensive tandem in Div. l football, WHEN both are healthy. In the Arkansas game, Texas demonstrated a definite lack of defensive speed when moving sideline to sideline. Arkansas QB Matt Jones burned Texas' defense for 102 yards on 12 carries and RB Cedric Cobbs went for another 112. Roberson didn't play in the Marshall game and it showed in the failure of K-State to establish the option as a viable weapon. Still, even without Roberson as a threat on the option, the diminutive Darren Sproles was able to carve out 77 yards on 14 carries vs. Marshall. The mystery of why Sproles only carried 14 times may have been solved when it was reported that he was later seen with a cast on his left hand during the bye week. Without the threat of Roberson on the option, Marshall was able to place a spy on Sproles. This forced backup QB Jeff Schwinn to keep the ball instead of making the pitch out to his speedy running back. K-State might not have the offensive line or bruising RB necessary to play smash mouth football with the heavier Texas defensive line, but IF Roberson and Sproles are both healthy, the option play Sproles should give the Longhorn's defense a very difficult time. Expect KSU to run a lot to play keep away from Chance Mock and the Longhorn's passing attack.



Kansas State does have receivers. At 6' 5", senior James Terry has emerged as the main target and is averaging 23(!) yards-per-reception. And freshman Jermaine Moreira has proven a very nice surprise (168 yards). But it's Terry that provides the big downfield threat. It's this big-play ability that helps the Wildcats open up and spread opponent's defenses to make room for their bread and butter, the option attack. But, Roberson has struggled with his accuracy and is averaging only 44% through his first four games. This is a big concern, especially when you consider that this was accomplished against the likes of California, UMass. Mcneese, and Troy State. But Roberson has become much more comfortable with coach Bill Snyder's offense as he has matured. A positive telling sign is his use of the tight end position as a second or third read in his passing progression. TE Brian Casey has a respectable 149 yards receiving and is averaging a very healthy 21 yards-per-snare.

This Texas defense has only been truly challenged once so far, and in that test they failed. The Arkansas game showed that the Longhorns are vulnerable to a balanced offensive attack. Arkansas QB Matt Jones combined a skilled rushing attack with the threat of a downfield pass to keep the UT defense honest and loose. It's true that Roberson's completion percentage has regressed rather than continuing where he left in 2002. But he is efficient - he has a 161 QB rating. Still, UT is ranked #2 in passing defense and has six INTs after four games and Ell Roberson is no Matt Jones when it comes to passing. Look for the Wildcats to use the passing game as an addendum to the option. There will be downfield passes and some underneath throws to TE Brian Casey, but Texas will clamp down on the big plays and force the Wildcats to keep it grounded.



This one is truly a toss up, and may decide the game. Following the game at Rice, Texas Coach Mack Brown heralded RB Cedric Benson's arrival. Benson had his first 100-yard game of the season, and is now averaging 4.6 yards per carry. But let's be honest, against stout defenses, Benson has failed to live up to his hype. Against a good Arkansas defense, Benson was held to 27 total yards rushing, and New Mexico St. held Benson to 40 yards rushing. After having pocket-passing quarterbacks such as Major Applewhite and Chris Sims, the UT offensive line has been bred for pass protection. They are big, but they are slow. And they lost the battle for push during the Arkansas game.

But who would have expected KSU's defense to literally crumble against the rushing attack of…MARSHALL of all teams? Year in and year out, through who knows how many staff changes, Coach Snyder's defenses have always, ALWAYS, stopped the run. They've lost games, but have they ever been beaten like they were by the Thundering Herd? After the Marshall game, Snyder admitted to making coaching mistakes - his concern for Marshall's passing attack caused him to put too much reliance on his front-four. Regardless of this, it was apparent that the 300+ lb linemen of Marshall were more than up to the task of overpowering the KSU down-linemen. KSU's D-line averages 275 lbs, Texas' offensive line, 300 lbs. plus. KSU will be OK as long as Cedric Benson is doing the running. But if future QB phenom Vincent Young enters the game, all bets are off.



Kansas State's defense is vulnerable to a good passing game. Without Terance Newman they aren't the interception and pass-deflecting machines they have been in the recent past. The Wildcat's secondary was exposed in the very first game by California. K-State was burned by the Bears for 378 yards in the air, and has given up almost 900 yards through four games so far. Their six interceptions are nice, but considering the quality of opponents played to date, it's just not going to be good enough against the (so-far) very efficient Chance Mock. The Longhorns might not be rushing very well, but they can pass. QB Chance Mock has a 177 rating, and, unlike Ell Roberson, he's throwing for more than 15 attempts per game. In 2002, the Longhorns squeaked out a 17-14 win in Manhattan. But in that game, Terrance Newman shut down WR Roy Williams. The Wildcats don't have Newman this year and it's showing. Senior Rashad Washington is a tough, hard-hitting safety, but overall, the KSU defensive secondary has shown it lacks speed and can be burned deep. Coach Snyder has tried several combinations in the secondary with little overall effect, and the Longhorns won't be any exception. If K-State can shut down or limit Cedric Benson, look for Chance Mock to air it out for 300 plus yards. But, in the same hypothetical, does Texas win if this happens?



The Wildcats have prided themselves on special teams. But in 2002, Kansas State could not find a consistent kicking game. In fact, it was the difference of a single field goal that cost KSU the last game against Texas in Manhattan. That's changed. Kicker Joe Rheem is a consistent and steady part of the offense. Rheem is a very healthy 23-for-23 on extra points, and 7-for-8 on FGAs. The Wildcats now have confidence in their kicking game. Texas managed to block an extra point against Tulane and even stuffed a two-point conversion. Texas is number three nationally in punt returns, and is averaging a dangerous 22 yards per on kickoffs. Senior Nathan Vasher is averaging almost 20 yards-per-return on punts, and is one step away from breaking a touchdown run.


Both Bill Snyder and Mack Brown have been accused of having problems taking their teams over the hump in big games. For Mack Brown and the Longhorns, it would seem to be rivalry games against long time opponents that prove most problematic. Arkansas has deflated Texas' national championship hopes. For Coach Snyder, it's games against teams with "maverick" styles of play and coaching that sink them most often. Marshall came in with an offensive game plan that abandoned their old standby, the passing game, in favor of the run. Snyder's defense seemed to have a hard time adjusting, leaving Coach to accept a large portion of the responsibility for the loss. However, the difference between these two coaches and teams would seem to be desire and trust.

No one doubts that Texas has some of the best recruits and athletes in Div. 1 football. The Longhorns consistently rank among the Top 5 recruiting classes every year. KSU, on the other hand, plugs JUCO recruits (free agents of sorts) into holes that seem to appear religiously year after year. But what a Bill Snyder-coached team lacks in pure athleticism and NFL quality it makes up for in desire and heart. This may no longer be a national championship caliber team, but the Wildcats WANT to win. They NEED to continue to win to prove they are worthy of playing with the "big boys". With QB Ell Roberson missing from the lineup the Wildcats were missing the intangible belief that somehow, someone would pick the team up and carry them to victory. With Roberson back in the lineup, Kansas State has a belief in their eventual victory. For the Longhorn's, perhaps, is it knowing they SHOULD win every game that sometimes dulls their competitive edge? If Vince Young is the Longhorns future, Ell Roberson is the Wildcats present. With both he and Sproles in the lineup expect a high scoring, offensive battle.