A capacity crowd at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium will be on display for a nationally televised audience as the Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to the Little Apple for a Big 12 match-up Thursday evening against the Kansas State Wildcats. Both teams enter the contest undefeated at 4-0 with the Huskers ranked 7th in the country in the AP and the Wildcats sitting just outside the Top 25. A victory would certainly propel Kansas State well into the rankings, but it is obviously not going to be easy. Despite a lackluster performance against previous opponent South Dakota State, Nebraska has rolled and looked impressive in the process. Led by redshirt-freshman QB Taylor Martinez, the Huskers offense ranks 15th nationally in total offense (472 yards/game) and 5th in rushing (310 yards/game). The Wildcats counter with the 58th-ranked total defense, but a rushing defense ranked 100th in the country. These comparisons don’t look good for Kansas State, so it will be important for the Wildcats to figure out how to slow this strong Husker rushing attack down, especially in the first half where Nebraska has grown accustomed to getting on top early with big plays.
As has been the case so far this season, when the Wildcats have the ball they will need to control the clock and move the chains, keeping Martinez and Cornhusker offense on the sidelines. Wildcat RB Daniel Thomas, who still averages close to 160 yards per game, is coming off a tough outing against Central Florida last Saturday. Facing eight, sometimes nine players in the box, Thomas struggled throughout the day. Look for Nebraska to go with a similar game plan and force Kansas State QB Carson Coffman to go to the air. If K-State could somehow find some success in the passing game, especially with play-action on first down, things could start to open up for Thomas on the ground later in the contest. It is essential for Coffman to play turnover-free football as well as have enough mobility to be able to roll from the pocket and avoid drive-killing sacks, which has been a glaring problem for him to this point in the season.
As mentioned before, Nebraska likes to get off to a fast start, having outscored their opponents 31-7 in the first quarter and 94-17 in the first half. The Kansas State defense will need to play smart, fill their gaps along the line and try and contain Martinez in pocket. The Husker signal-caller isn’t nearly as successful in the passing game, throwing for only two touchdown along with three interceptions. In fact, Husker Head Coach Bo Pelini even went so far as to bench his freshman quarterback for the final three possessions of the South Dakota State game due to his inconsistent play. So there is an opening for the Wildcat defense, albeit a small one, if they are able to slow down Nebraska on the ground and put the Huskers in third and long situations, forcing Martinez to do what he likes least, throwing the football.
Kansas State has to keep this one close by hanging around in the first half and not allow Nebraska to build a two or three touchdown lead. If the Wildcats can somehow win the turnover battle and steal a score or two on special teams, then anything could happen. Look for Legendary Head Coach Bill Snyder to open the playbook on offense with reverses and misdirection plays to try and keep Nebraska off balance and take their focus off Thomas and Wildcat running game. Playing in front of a loud, home-field crowd on national television certainly won’t hurt either. Having said all that, the stars will definitely need to be aligned Thursday night for the Wildcats to pull this one off.
Nebraska – 35
Kansas State – 24
About the Author
Written by Chad Craghead
A 1988 graduate from Wichita State University, Chad has followed WSU as well as Kansas State athletics for over 30 years, along with being a lifelong Boston Red Sox and L.A./St. Louis Rams fan.