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Monday, October 09, 2006

Kansas State Preview

Enrollment: 23,141
Conference: Big 12
Stadium: Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium (Capacity: 52,000)
First Year of Football: 1893
All Time Record: 430-571-42 (.432)

Head Coach: Ron Prince
First year as head coach at Kansas State: Career record 4-2

· At 36 Prince is the youngest head coach in Division I football.
· He is also one of just four African American head coaches at the DI level.
· Prince was born in Omaha, but raised in Junction City, KS, which is located just 20 miles west of Manhattan.
· He played two seasons at Dodge City (KS) Community College, receiving All-Conference honors as an offensive tackle, before finishing his college career at Appalachian State.

Team Overview

Last Season: In Bill Snyder’s final year the Wildcats finished 5-6 and just 2-6 in conference play. Their lone Big 12 wins came over in-state rival KU and Missouri.

This Season: Ron Prince and his first year coaching staff have brought in a new offensive system. While the offense is still looking for more consistency, it has had its moments. The Wildcats are currently 4-2 with wins over Illinois State, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, and Oklahoma State. Kansas State lost at home to Louisville and on the road at Baylor.

On Offense: Kansas State is currently ranked 87th nationally in total offense and averages 308.8 yards/game. As possibly promised, Prince has turned the keys to his offense over to true freshman Josh Freeman. This is the same Josh Freeman who was committed to the Huskers for the better part of a year. Last week in his first start, Freeman rallied the Wildcats from 10 points down in the final five minutes to upend Oklahoma State. Despite the big win, Freeman’s stats on the year are less than gaudy. He is completing just 38% of his passes and has thrown for 391 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs. In addition, prior to scoring with just over 3 minutes left in the game, KSU had endured a seven-quarter stretch without an offensive touchdown. I don’t know if the Nebraska team harbors as much resentment toward Freeman as the Husker fanbase does, but I would be real surprised if Cory McKeon isn’t whispering in Josh’s ear hole a little bit this week. At running back expect to see either senior Thomas Clayton or freshman Leon Patton. Clayton served yet another suspension last week. In his place, Patton ran for 151 yards and one TD and also returned a kickoff 95 yards for another score. My hunch is we see a heavy dose of Patton. Kansas State will present the Blackshirts with another talented group of WRs. Senior Jermaine Moreira leads the team in receptions and TDs and has good hands and a great deal of experience. He is joined in the receiving corps by Jordy Nelson, Yamon Figurs and Rashaad Norwood. Nelson has a ton of speed, and was a major weapon for KSU a year ago. This year, however, he has yet to have a breakout performance. The Wildcats are young along the offensive line, but should continue to develop and mature as the year goes on.

On Defense: The Wildcats have relied on their defense while the offense has tried to find its rhythm. Currently they rank 27th nationally (27 spots ahead of NU) and are giving up 288 yards/game. New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris cut his teeth in the NFL and employs a lot of Cover 2 looks, which rely on strong safety play. The strength of the K-State defense is its back seven. At linebacker, the Wildcats are led by the talented Brandon Archer who is the team leader in tackles. Archer is joined at LB by Zach Diles and Reggie Walker. Diles and Walker both have the speed and ability to be disruptive forces in the Nebraska backfield. In the secondary, KSU looks to FS Marcus Watts for leadership. Watts suffered a dislocated hip late last season, but appears to be healthy and leads the team with 3 INTs. Kyle Walker joins Watts at SS and has become a more disciplined player who is still capable of making big plays. The Wildcat cornerbacks are Byron Garvin and Justin McKinney. McKinney has great strength and excels in bumping receivers off routes the line of scrimmage. Garvin has excellent speed and is third on the team in tackles and also has 3.5 TFL. The biggest concern of the offseason on the defensive side of the ball was generating a pass rush after the Wildcats produced just 9 sacks in 2005. On the inside of the DL, KSU starts Alphonso Moran and Quentin Echols. Echols was once thought to be the most talented member of the front four, but has lacked consistency during his career. At DE, the Wildcats are led by Ian Campbell who has 10 TFL and 6.5 sacks this season. Campbell is a former walk-on who has the type of motor that will challenge the Husker OL. At the other DE Eric Childs is the smallest, but also the quickest Wildcat defensive lineman.

Special Teams: The most productive Wildcat unit in 2006 has been its special teams. So far they have a punt return for a TD, two kickoffs returned for TDs and a blocked punt taken back for a TD. Ensuring that no game-changing special teams plays occur will be a big challenge for the Big Red. On kickoff returns both Leon Patton and Justin McKinney are extremely dangerous. Nebraska has favored well-placed kickoffs rather than touchbacks, but this strategy could prove costly against KSU. Yamon Figurs is the main punt returner and averages over 11 yards/return with a long of 81 yards. Kicker Jeff Snodgrass is 9-13 on FGs with a season long 51 yarder and is also 12-12 on extra points. Punter Tim Reyer averages just over 40 yards/punt, but has four punts over 50 yards on the season and has placed 6 of his 30 punts inside the 20.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the 91st meeting between the two schools. Nebraska leads the series 73-15-2.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: The last time Nebraska played Kansas State on October 14 was in 1978. That year the 8th ranked Huskers defeated the Wildcats 48-14.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either – Part Deux: Kansas State has converted 27/86 of its 3rd down opportunities. Kansas State’s opponents have also converted 27/86 3rd down chances.

Coach Schizo?: Check out Ron Prince’s recent comments.

First after the Louisville game:
“The plan was to be bold and daring, to try and seize an early lead. We weren’t trying to play the game just to get the game to the fourth quarter and be close. We were trying to win the game and see if we can play with these guys.”
Then after last week’s Oklahoma State game:
“Our plan was to make the game boring. We wanted to keep the game close and allow our guy (Freeman) a chance to be a hero in the end."
Six Degrees of Beano Cook: That was easy. In 2005 Kansas State beat Kansas. Kansas beat…Nebraska.