Anchored by Alex Barnes, the Wildcats have averaged 250 yards and totaled 10 touchdowns on the ground in their last three contests. Barnes ranks second in the Big 12 with 102 yards per game with a league-high nine rushing scores.
“You can’t play them the same way you play anyone else,” said head coach Gary Patterson. “If you do, they’ll embarrass you.”
Patterson called the Wildcats’ game plan similar to a triple option team.
“You can’t play base defense and take on double teams, on defense they’re not going to move around,” said Patterson. “You’re going to know where they stand but they’re very well coached and you have to beat them doing what they do. You know what’s coming, it’s just whether you can stop it or not.”
Barnes ran for a career-best 250 yards at Baylor, the fifth-most in school history, with three touchdowns on the day. He also recorded 181 rushing yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma State.
Barnes and the Kansas State rushing attack have been able to succeed this season due to a veteran offensive line, anchored by Midseason All-American right tackle Dalton Risner.
“They’re big and physical and do a great job,” Patterson said of the Wildcats’ offensive line. “You can tell they really work at it and what they’re trying to get accomplished. You don’t fool them very often.”
Overall, Kansas State runs a well-managed program in Patterson’s eyes and has emulated his game after watching Wildcat head coach Bill Snyder.
“Trying to evaluate people knowing what counts is on the field,” said Patterson, “and trying to run a program where you know the people who come out of it are good people.”
The team’s weekly huddle before the halftime break was also inspired by Snyder. Patterson said he loves getting to talk to his team before they head into the locker room because of the short time frame and how each position separates into individual huddles during the halftime break.
“Kansas State has been his life,” said Patterson. “As an alumni, you have to appreciate his efforts for what he’s done not only for the university and that city, the state, the people he knows and the things he’s trying to be a part of and the game of football period.”
Against Kansas last week, the Horned Frogs held the Jayhawks to 58 rushing yards but allowed 249 passing yards in the 27-26 loss.
Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson has thrown for 988 yards and five touchdowns in seven games this season and has rushed for 359 yards and four touchdowns. The Wildcats’ top receiver Isaiah Zuber heads the team with 41 catches for 496 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
“They are going to be coached well and disciplined,” quarterback Michael Collins said. “We’re focused on ourselves and what we can do well to execute as well as we can on offense.”
Collins was a bright spot from the loss, as he completed 23 of his 33 passes for 351 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
“Overall, as an offense, we played alright,” said Collins. “We had a bunch of yards, but in the end, we have to win. The quarterback’s job is to take care of the ball and win, and I didn’t do that. I have to do a better job going forward.”
Collins was able to achieve his high completion percentage and yardage total without one of TCU’s top receivers KaVontae Turpin who was dismissed from the program last week.
“We almost scored enough points to win a ballgame,” said Patterson. “We were able to complete some third and longs, keep his composure and stay in the pocket. He did it without [Turpin] and didn’t have some of those weapons. You have to give him a lot of credit.”
On defense, Wildcats defensive back Duke Shelley has three interceptions on the season, with all three coming within the last three games. He also has 12 total passes defended this year, ranking him second in the Big 12 and sixth in the nation.
The Wildcats averaged three sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions during their two games against Baylor and Oklahoma State this season. In their five games before the two-game stretch, they averaged one sack, three tackles for loss and 0.8 interceptions.
Collins said the offense has to improve on finishing and taking care of the ball going forward.
“There was an interception and on the first drive we got a few feet away from scoring and I just have to put it over,” said Collins. “We have to finish in the red zone. We want the seniors to have the best year possible, so we’re focusing on winning the next four games and taking it one game at a time with Kansas State.”
Kickoff against Kansas State is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.