Coming into the season, Kansas State was being viewed as a team in rebuilding mode after the departures of Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett among other seniors. But in the first three games, it looked like Bill Snyder had already solved the problems that the Wildcats were expected to experience.
At times, this team looked better than the 2014 group that was vying for a Big 12 championship through the final game of the season. It allowed just three points in its first three games and limited one of the nation’s top offenses in Louisiana Tech to about half of its average production.
All of this was done with fourth-string quarterback Joe Hubener after Alex Delton and season starter Jesse Ertz fell injured early in each contest. To top things off, Hubener was injured during the Oklahoma State game, forcing wide receiver Kody Cook to take snaps. He did surprisingly well, creating three touchdowns and helped keep the Wildcats competitive the entire game.
Hubener would return to help K-State take a 34-33 lead late in the fourth quarter — further proving his success as a game manager. The Wildcats would lose the game after a game-winning field goal from the Cowboys (say what you will about the blown call earlier). But how well this team handled the No. 21 team in the nation on the road under strenuous conditions from freak injuries should speak volumes of what this Wildcat roster is capable of.
Snyder’s latest team has proven through four games that it can overcome adversity with the best of them. Perhaps, we’ve all misrepresented how complex Snyder’s schemes are, as it seems anyone can step into a starting role without missing a beat. If it comes down to a defensive lineman going behind center, I’m sure Snyder would find a way to make it work — he joked with the media that tackle Will Geary would be taking reps at quarterback.
That adversity won’t be slowing down when TCU rolls into little Manhattan. The No. 2 team in the nation beat K-State 41-20 last season. It was one of the Horned Frogs top performances of the season. But the last time the Frogs came to Bill Synder Family Stadium, K-State won with a field goal as time expired to win 33-31.
Family Stadium provides one of the best home-field advantages in the nation. The Wildcats have lost just three conference game on their turf in the past four seasons.
While TCU showed no sign of slowing down after a 50-7 win over Texas, and have found their x-factor in KaVontae Turpin, there is reason to doubt that Trevone Boykin can handle the Wildcats faithful. In the past six away games, Boykin has averaged only two touchdowns to one interception. Compare that to his four touchdowns and interception every other game in Fort Worth, it’s clear he’s more comfortable in front of a home crowd.
But before you look at his last away performance when TCU traveled to Texas Tech, consider that his stats were inflated because of the opportunities created by Tech scoring just as often. This game should play out much differently, as the ‘Cats boast the best defense TCU has run into thus far.
Even without defensive back Dante Barnett, K-State has allowed just 18 points per game (ranked 27th in the nation). The Wildcats boast one of the top defensive fronts in the conference, sacking the quarterback 7.1 percent of dropbacks, the first group that poses substantial threat to Boykin’s production.
This should be a tightly-contested affair with TCU’s defense still beat up with injuries, giving Hubener the best chance to keep his team on the field as it has all season. K-State’s offense averages about 34 minutes per game with the ball, ranking first in the conference by two minutes.
WhatIfSports.com has even projected the game to come down to a field goal. Don’t be surprised if we’re treated to another final drive march to finish this game.