Lubbock, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Kliff Kingsbury will try to snap the first losing steak of his coaching career on Saturday when the 25th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders host the Kansas State Wildcats for a Big 12 matchup at Jones A&T Stadium.
While the Red Raiders enter on a two-game slide, Kansas State takes aim at its third consecutive decision following its 41-7 rout of Iowa State last week. Coach Bill Snyder's team now owns a 4-4 overall record, including a 2-3 performance in conference play. The Wildcats however, enter on a three-game road losing streak that dates back to last season after losing their only two away games in 2013.
Kingsbury's squad is on the verge of falling out of the Top 25 due to its current skid, which has dropped it to 7-2 on the season with both setbacks coming to ranked foes. The Red Raiders lost at home for the first time this season last week after Oklahoma State ran off to a 52-34 decision. The defeat hurt TTU's chances of a Big 12 title as it is now two games out of first place with only three games remaining.
This will be the 14th meeting in history between these schools. The Wildcats coasted to a 55-24 triumph over TTU last season when the schools squared off in Manhattan. The Red Raiders are still holding onto the all-time series lead, having won eight of the previous encounters.
KSU's offense has been operating like a well-oiled machine as of late as opposing defenses have been unable to find a way to slow down Jake Waters or Daniel Sams, who share the snaps under center. While both quarterbacks have the ability to make plays on the ground, Sams has stood out as the team's best rushing with 595 yards and eight touchdowns on 113 carries. Waters has been more effective as a passer, completing 63.3 percent of his throws to rank fourth in the Big 12 in passing yards per game (173.9). The duo combined to complete 13-of-20 pass attempts for 221 yards last week versus Iowa State and Sams accounted for a pair of touchdowns with a one-yard run across the goal line and a 25-yard touchdown pass in the fourth frame. Although both QBs are in the top 10 among players in the conference, their coach is still not satisfied.
"I guess it is unusual. I do not pay all that much attention to all of those numbers," said Snyder. "Somebody has to get the yards. My response to it is that it is not enough yards. I do not care where they rank. We could use more yardage out of them."
John Hubert also played a role in the victory over the Cyclones by tallying 105 yards and two TDs on 15 carries. The senior tailback has been nearly as productive with Sams in the rushing attack with 549 yards and seven scores on 114 attempts. Tyler Lockett is often utilized in the passing game which has led to team-highs of 658 yards, 44 catches and four touchdown receptions. Lockett is also a dangerous player on special teams as he enters the contest as the Big 12's all-time leader in kick return average (30.7).
KSU's is 4-0 when scoring more than 30 points and 0-4 when being held under that mark. Although they face a much bigger challenge in this week's opponent, the Wildcats' defensive unit is playing at a very high level with only 19 points allowed during the two-game winning streak. They have the fourth best defense in the conference in terms of points (22.0) and total yards (362.9) allowed per game. Senior linebacker Blake Slaughter provides great leadership and has registered a team-high total of 68 stops. Ryan Mueller has also been a factor with 11.5 TFL, seven sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
The Red Raiders also have multiple quarterbacks on their roster capable of leading the charge. Sophomore Michael Brewer was expected to be TTU's starter for its season opener before a back injury in preseason camp sent him to the sidelines. Kingsbury has done quite well this season considering his offenses have been led by a pair of true freshmen in Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield. Webb started in last week's loss to Oklahoma State and completed 45-of-71 attempts for 425 yards and two scores, but was also picked off twice.
"He probably had three throws you can't make in that game," said Kingsbury on his rookie's performance. "And he knows that. When you throw it 70 times with a true freshman, you're going to get some of those. I thought once again, he had some adverse situations and stuff in his face and hung in there and he made a lot of plays. He'll learn from it."
Webb may not get a chance to demonstrate his progression with Brewer active for the first time in 2013.
TTU has one of the top offenses in the nation with averages of 538.4 total yards and 39.1 points per game. Much of the Red Raiders' success can be attributed to their deep and talented receiving corps, which has made it easier for the inexperienced passers to filter in and out. Due to the stellar play of Jace Amaro, Jakeem Grant, and Eric Ward, TTU has three players ranked among the top 10 in the conference in receiving yards. Amaro has reeled in 79 receptions to tally the most yards by any tight end with 1,035 thanks to surpassing the century mark in each of the last four games.
Due to TTU's emphasis on the passing game, it is ranked second to last in the conference in rushing yards at 124.2 ypg and is gaining only 3.8 yards per carry. DeAndre Washington paced the squad with 69 yards on 10 carries. Washington and Kenny Williams share the bulk of the carries. Williams is responsible for half of the team's 16 rushing touchdowns.
Kingsbury's defense has fallen apart over the past two games as it surrendered 526 yards of total offense to Oklahoma in the inaugural loss of the season before allowing 492 yards to OSU. The team's scoring defense mark has risen to 24.6 allowed points per outing. Senior linebacker Will Smith has recorded a team-best 64 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks.
The Wildcats have won the last two battles between these teams and a third victory is quite possible if TTU cannot turn things around on the defensive side of the ball. KSU may own a much less impressive overall record, but it has developed into a much fiercer opponent with time. Since the sophomore quarterback has missed the entire season and played only sparingly as a rookie, the Red Raiders will have an advantage if Brewer is fully ready to take over the reins of the offense as KSU will need to figure out the best way to defend him during the game.