K-State Travels To Lubbock For Morning Big 12 Matchup

By: KSU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley
By: KSU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley

Coming off arguably the team’s most complete win of the season, K-State heads back on the road in search of its third straight Big 12 win as it faces 23rd-ranked Texas Tech Saturday in Lubbock. The game at Jones AT&T Stadium is slated for an 11 a.m., kickoff and will be televised on ABC with Dave Flemming (play-by-play), David Diaz-Infante (analyst) and Lewis Johnson (sidelines) on the call. Wyatt Thompson will call the action on the K-State Sports Network with Stan Weber providing color analysis and Matt Walters giving sideline updates. A free live audio broadcast is available at k-statesports.com and on SIRIUS/XM satellite radio channels 137/190. Live stats will be available at k-statesports.com, while Twitter updates (@kstatesports and @kstate_gameday) will also be a part of the gameday coverage.

The Wildcats once again used a strong second half, including their second-straight 21-point fourth quarter outburst, to pick up a 41-7 win over Iowa State last weekend. The story of the day was the K-State defense, which came within an eyelash of picking up its first shutout in Big 12 game since 2003 and first at home since 1999. A late turnover in Wildcat territory gave the Cyclones a short field with just under four minutes remaining in the contest and the visitors were able to punch it in from there. K-State also won the turnover battle on Saturday for the second straight week, forcing three Cyclone turnovers, while the defense turned in yet another solid performance on the day. Iowa State was limited to 249 total yards while the Wildcats have held their last two opponents to a total of 616 yards -- an average of 308 yards per game over the last two weeks. On defense, reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Ryan Mueller, Blake Slaughter and Ty Zimmerman continue to have stellar seasons as Slaughter leads the team in tackles (68). Mueller leads the Big 12 with 7.0 sacks, while Slaughter and Zimmerman (63) are both among the league’s top six tacklers. Zimmerman has totaled 19 stops, a pass breakup, one pick and a forced fumble in his last two games. The special teams units have been solid again so far this season with the Wildcats’ punt return unit ranking No. 1 nationally this week, averaging 21.7 yards per return. K-State also has a nation-leading four blocked kicks. In the kicking game, Jack Cantele is 7-for-9 in field goals, including a career-long 44-yarder, while punter Mark Krause, a Ray Guy Award candidate, is averaging 42.7 yards a kick with 12 being downed inside the 20-yard line.

The Wildcats will face one of the nation’s top offenses this weekend when they travel to Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech, under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, is 7-2 overall and 4-2 in Big 12 play. The Red Raiders have one of the best tight ends in the country in Jace Amaro, who currently ranks among the nation’s top receiving threats with 79 catches for 1,035 yards. Tech possesses the nation’s No. 2 passing offense and the 19th-ranked scoring offense. The defense, led by K-State graduate and former Wildcat assistant coach Matt Wallerstedt, has been solid this season as well, ranking in the top 25 in tackles for loss and team passing efficiency defense.

Texas Tech is 8-5 all-time against K-State, including a 6-2 mark in games played in Lubbock. The Wildcats have won the last two meetings in the series, including a 2011 win in Lubbock, while head coach Bill Snyder is 5-4 all-time versus the Red Raiders.

One of the longest-tenured active coaches in the nation, Bill Snyder is approaching victory No. 175 of his career. After guiding K-State from 1989 to 2005, and again over the last four seasons, the 2012 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year has accumulated the fourth-most victories at FBS-only schools among all active coaches. Snyder, who ranks 50th all-time in victories at four-year institutions, can become the 46th coach ever to reach the 175-win plateau but just the 11th ever to do so at only one school.

A big part of K-State’s two-game win streak in Big 12 play has been the play of the Cats in the last 15 minutes of the game. After averaging just 5.3 points in the fourth quarter over the first six weeks, K-State has now scored 42 in the final frame over the last two weeks -- 21 points in both fourth quarters.

Sitting at 4-4 overall and 2-3 in league play heading into Saturday’s game, Kansas State is just a play or two away from being 7-1 on the year. In close losses to North Dakota State, No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Baylor, the Wildcats held leads late in the games before dropping all three contests in the final minutes. In those games, K-State has committed eight turnovers which led to 23 points by the opponent.

Kansas State has had success coming off bowl seasons, most notably under head coach Bill Snyder. The Wildcats had played in 15 bowl games in program history prior to last year, and Kansas State has followed a bowl season with another postseason berth on 12 occasions, each coming under Snyder. The only three times K-State had a losing season following a bowl trip occurred in 1983 (3-8) after the 1982 Independence Bowl, in 2004 after the Fiesta Bowl (4-7) and in 2007 (5-7) after the 2006 Texas Bowl. K-State will be looking to make its fourth-straight bowl for the first time since the end of an 11-year bowl stretch in 2003.

The Wildcats are looking to have a November to remember, and under head coach Bill Snyder, the Cats have a track record of successful stretch runs. Since 1991 under Snyder, K-State is 48-17 in the month of November, which includes 15 seasons of winning records in the month (1991-2003, 2011-12) and six seasons with an undefeated final month.

K-State extended one of the nation’s longest scoring streaks against Iowa State as the Wildcats have now tallied points in 211 consecutive games. The 211-game stretch is the eighth-longest in the nation and the second-longest in the Big 12. The Cats have not been kept off the board since Colorado shut out K-State, 12-0, on Nov. 16, 1996. The streak includes 138 conference games, 76 true road games and 18 neutral-site contests.

Scoring first has been a big sign of good things to come for the Wildcats. Since 1990, K-State’s record when scoring first is very impressive as the Wildcats have gone 143-27 (.841) when drawing first blood. Last season, K-State was a perfect 6-0 when scoring the game’s first points and is 4-1 so far in 2013.

There is no better indicator of a Wildcat victory than when K-State leads or is tied at the half. Since 1990, the Cats have protected a halftime lead in 162 of its last 167 (.971) games when leading at the half. Last season, K-State went 10-0 when leading at the half and is 3-0 this season. Also, the Cats have won 36 straight games when leading at the half, which is currently the fourth-longest active streak in the nation.

Kansas State has been on the positive side of the ledger in terms of time of possession over the last two seasons, ranking fourth (33:56) and 17th (32:03) nationally in 2011 and 2012, respectively. K-State, which has ranked in the top two of the Big 12 in each of the last three seasons, including 2013, is 21-7 dating back to 2011 when controlling the clock and possessing the ball more than its opponent. The Cats are 4-4 this season and have controlled the clock in six of those games (3-3 record).

K-State was one of the best in the country last season in converting on third downs as the Wildcats ranked second in the Big 12 and seventh nationally by moving the sticks 50-percent (80-of-160) of the time on third down. Kansas State, which improved its conversion percentage by 8-percent from the 2011 season, was able to spread the ball out when it counted most as 11 different players converted on third down in 2012. After converting on just 2-of-10 third downs in the season opener against North Dakota State, K-State has converted on 51-of-96 (.531) third-down chances in its last seven games and ranks 17th nationally and second in the Big 12 overall this season at 50-percent (53-of-106).

Not only has Kansas State been able to possess the ball and sustain long drives over the course of the last two seasons, but the offense has managed to make the most of those opportunities once it has reached the red zone. Of K-State’s last 161 trips inside its opponent’s 20-yard line dating back to 2011, the Wildcats have scored on 142 of those trips, with 108 of those being touchdowns. Over the course of the last 30 regular season games, the Wildcats are 131-of-147 in the red zone with 103 touchdowns. Additionally, the Cats are 80-for-99 in red zone chances with 61 touchdowns in their last 18 wins dating back to 2011 with four of those non-scoring trips coming via a kneel down in the final minute of a game.

K-State’s defense has steadily made improvement each week in 2013, and the last two performances have played a big role in getting the Wildcats back to .500 at 4-4. After limiting the Baylor offense to half of its point and yard total, K-State has held West Virginia and Iowa State to 19 total points and an average of 308 yards a game. Also, K-State has forced six turnovers over that same span.

When the Wildcat defense picks off two or more passes, K-State usually comes out with a victory. Over the last 27 contests that the Wildcats have recorded two or more interceptions, Kansas State is 22-5, including a 6-1 record over the last two seasons. The Wildcats tied for second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally with 18 interceptions last season. Ty Zimmerman, who had five interceptions last year, now has 12 interceptions to tie for fourth in school history and needs three more to tie the school record. Kip Daily picked off two passes in the Cats’ win over UMass, while three different Cats had picks against Iowa State.

In the Wildcats’ season opener against North Dakota State, the K-State defense managed to make 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage - which included three sacks - for the first time since the 2012 KU game and the first time in a season opener since 2010. The Cats added seven against UMass, six against Texas, five against Baylor and six against West Virginia as Ryan Mueller (11.5), Blake Slaughter (5.0), Travis Britz (4.5) and Chaquil Reed (4.5) have combined for 25.5 of the team’s 45 stops.

A big part of K-State’s success over the past two seasons has been attributed to the discipline and fundamentals that head coach Bill Snyder and his coaching staff have instilled in the program. During last year’s Big 12 Championship season, K-State led the Big 12 and ranked third in the nation in turnover margin (+19), ranked second in the league and fourth nationally in fewest penalties (49 total) and also ranked second in the conference in time of possession (32:03). So far in 2013, the Cats have not had as good as fortune as they currently are minus-6 in turnovers. In the Cats’ three conference losses, which were by a combined 24 points, opponents have scored 23 points directly off five turnovers.

K-State has ranked among the nation’s best on special teams under Bill Snyder, especially as it relates to kickoff returns. In fact, following Tramaine Thompson’s 94-yard dash against Louisiana, the Wildcats have returned a kick for a score at least once in each of the last nine seasons, which currently ranks as the longest streak in the nation. Louisiana Tech has done so in each of the last seven years, while Auburn and Central Florida currently have streaks of six straight seasons.

K-State has also made a statement in regards to blocking kicks as the Wildcats currently tie for the most blocks in the nation with four, three of which have come by Travis Britz. Britz has blocked two extra points and a field goal, while Weston Hiebert has also blocked a punt.

The rise of K-State football over the last three decades has much to do with the emphasis on special teams. Since 1990, Kansas State is 49-16 when scoring on special teams and 19-1 when scoring on special teams and on defense, including a 17-0 mark under Bill Snyder. And, in non-offensive touchdowns, the Cats are the nation’s best over the past 14 seasons. Since 1999, the Wildcats rank first nationally in non-offensive touchdowns with 91. K-State had six non-offensive touchdowns last season. Tyler Lockett led the way with a pair of kickoff-return scores (vs. North Texas and Oklahoma State), while Tramaine Thompson returned a punt for a score against Missouri State, Jarell Childs returned a fumble for a touchdown at Oklahoma, and Arthur Brown (Texas Tech) and Allen Chapman (Oklahoma State) returned an interception for scores. In 2013, the Wildcats have recorded four with Thompson’s kick return (Louisiana), interception returns from Ty Zimmerman (Louisiana) and Kip Daily (UMass) and a blocked field goal return from Daily (Oklahoma State).

Few teams in college football have taken care of their home field as well as the Wildcats since the start of the 1990 season. Over the past 23 years, K-State is an amazing 128-29-1 (.813) when playing at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, including a 66-4 (.941) record in non-conference games and a 64-25-1 (.717) mark in league games (combined Big 8/12). The Wildcats have gone 26-6 at home since Snyder’s return in 2009, including a 17-3 mark over the last two-plus seasons.

A new tradition was born when head coach Bill Snyder returned for his second tenure roaming the sidelines for the Wildcats as the K-State Family Reunion game was introduced for the 2009 season opener. The contest against UMass was a huge success as it was the largest crowd in school history for a home opener at the time with 50,750 fans pouring into Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Fans also came out in droves the last four seasons, including this year’s season opener with North Dakota State which drew a season-opening record crowd of 53,351. That mark was also good enough for the second-largest mark to ever watch a Wildcat game in Manhattan. With a record 43,000-plus season tickets sold for this season, and six crowds so far of 52,000-plus, K-State is on track to set new school records for number of sellouts and total attendance for a season. Dating back to last season, K-State is riding a streak of 11 consecutive sellouts.

Quarterback Jake Waters entered 2013 known for his throwing abilities and he has not disappointed. The community-college transfer from Iowa Western has been on point to start the season as he has totaled 1,391 passing yards thanks to three games of 275-yard passing games, the first by a K-State signal caller since Josh Freeman in 2008 (5). He needs 109 yards to become the 26th player in school history with 1,500 career passing yards and the first by a newcomer under Bill Snyder since Michael Bishop in 1997 (1,557).

With the passing game chosen as the plan of attack against West Virginia, K-State needed Jake Waters to step up in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats held a slim 14-12 advantage. Waters was able to answer the call as he completed all eight of his fourth-quarter passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Thanks to that effort and after going 2-for-3 for 52 yards in the final stanza last week, Waters ranks seventh nationally in fourth quarter passing efficiency at 190.29.

Although it came in a loss, quarterback Daniel Sams had one of the best games of his career against No. 15 Baylor. The Slidell, La., product rushed 30 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns, setting career highs in all three categories. His yardage total was the second-most by a Wildcat quarterback in school history, while he had the second-highest total in school history without losing a single yard (Daniel Thomas, 269 vs. North Texas, 11/27/2010). He ranks fifth in the Big 12, but tops among quarterbacks, in rushing, while he is tied for sixth in the conference in touchdown scoring.

Quarterback Daniel Sams saw his most extensive action in terms of passing at Oklahoma State as he set career highs in virtually every category, throwing for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-21 aim a year after totaling just 55 yards on 6-of-8 passing. After going 8-for-8 for 93 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia and 4-for-5 for 64 yards and another score last week against Iowa State, Sams ranks third nationally in completion percentage among players with 45 or more attempts and 21st in passing efficiency.

Following two years of 900-plus yard rushing seasons, John Hubert joined an exclusive club this year as he eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing barrier, the ninth player in school history to do so. Hubert, who is at 2,494 career rushing yards, passed Collin Klein (2,485; 2009-12) for fifth place last week against Iowa State. And although me has been known for more of a rusher in his career, Hubert has been a threat receiving out of the backfield as he already has 126 receiving yards in eight games, more than he had in 13 games last year and just 62 yards shy of his career high of 188 in 2011.

Not only has John Hubert put up big numbers in terms of yards, but the Waco, Texas, product has also scored rushing touchdowns on a consistent basis. Hubert added his 24th and 25th career rushing touchdowns last week against Iowa State to move into sole possession of eighth place in school history. He is now one score shy of tying for sixth.

Known mainly as a return man his first two seasons, Tyler Lockett is making more noise this year as a wide receiver in 2013. The Tulsa, Okla., product broke the single-game yardage record with 237 at Texas, 23 more yards than the previous record held by current Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson at Iowa State in 2007. Then against West Virginia, Lockett recorded the eighth three-touchdown game in school history to tie the school record. Thanks to solid numbers his first two seasons as well, Lockett is now tied for 10th in school history with 11 career touchdown receptions, while he is eight receptions and 143 yards shy of a tying for 10th in both categories.

Tyler Lockett may be known more for his receiving abilities this season, but he made his name originally as a kickoff returner. After tallying a 35.2-yard average with two touchdowns as a freshman and being named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year with a 32.8-yard average as a sophomore, Lockett continues to excel in the specialty as he ranks second nationally in career kickoff-return average among active players and currently sits atop the Big 12 record book. He ranks 2.2 yards better than the player second on the all-time Big 12 list, former Wildcat Brandon Banks. His average is boosted by two 100-yard returns, including one at Texas Tech in 2011.

Junior Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on who was used mainly as a pass rush specialist for the last two years, has turned into one of the best defenders in the Big 12. The high-motor Mueller leads the Big 12 in sacks (7.0) and ranks second in tackles for loss (11.5) as he has at least a half TFL in every game and sacks in six games, including at least one each of the last four contests. Mueller, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, has made an impact all over the field as he also has five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one recovery. Mueller has also produced one of the best highlights in the conference this season against No. 15 Baylor when he made a full-out dive towards quarterback Bryce Petty and in one fell swoop forced and recovered a fumble. That turnover lead to a K-State touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 25-21 lead late in the third quarter.

Blake Slaughter, who was a four-game starter in 2010, is back this season after electing to redshirt the 2012 campaign while playing behind All-American Arthur Brown. Slaughter used the year off to improve and has been solid in 2013 by totaling a team-leading 68 tackles to rank fourth in the Big 12 as he has at least six tackles in every game. His season total includes three 10-tackle games, and he needs one more to give K-State a linebacker with four or more in two-straight seasons after Brown had four last year.

Senior All-American safety Ty Zimmerman registered his 12th career interception and second of the season last week against Iowa State. A candidate for four major awards and a Preseason All-Big 12 selection, Zimmerman’s 12 picks are tied for fourth in school history, while, after returning an interception 32 yards for a score against Louisiana, he has 178 interception return yards to also rank fourth. Zimmerman, who has 44 career starts to rank fifth nationally among active players, also reached another milestone this year as he became the 51st player in school history with 200 career tackles. He needs five more tackles to be added the school’s career top-25 list.

Sophomore defensive lineman Travis Britz has been throwing a block party this season. The Harrisonville, Mo., product blocked his third kick against West Virginia. His three blocked kicks are tied for the national lead and are tied for fourth in school history. He needs one more to tie for second in K-State history and two more to tie the school record of five held by Raphael Guidry in 2011.

Punter Mark Krause has been outstanding during his first year as the full-time punter. Krause, who was added as a candidate for the Ray Guy Award, is averaging 42.7 yards per punt while he has placed 12 inside the 20-yard line. Krause’s average was given a boost last week against Iowa State when he connected on a 67-yard punt. It was the longest punt by a Wildcat since Tim Reyer booted one 71 yards at Colorado in 2004.

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