Wildcats look to tame Mean Green in final non-conference tune-up
MANHATTAN, Kan. Coming off its lone bye week of the 2005 season, Kansas State returns to action this afternoon as the Wildcats welcome the North Texas Mean Green and former K-State quarterback Darrell Dickey to KSU Stadium.
Today’s game is the final non-conference tune-up of the season for the undefeated Wildcats, who will be looking to secure their 13th 3-0 start in the last 15 seasons.
Kansas State clinched its 16th consecutive winning record vs. non-conference opposition two weeks ago at Marshall with a gutsy 21-19 victory over the Thundering Herd before a national television audience on ESPN2.
Meanwhile, North Texas, the four-time defending Sun Belt Conference champions, will be looking to rebound from a 54-2 loss to Tulsa in last week’s home opener for the Mean Green. North Texas opened the season with a solid 14-7 win at conference rival Middle Tennessee, but was not able to keep the momentum going vs. the Golden Hurricane.
Today’s game will be the third meeting all time between Kansas State and North Texas and the second of the Bill Snyder era. K-State defeated North Texas, 55-10, during 2000 in its last encounter with the Mean Green, but Wildcat fans may best remember the 1989 game vs. UNT. That meeting, an improbable 20-17 come-from-behind win for the Wildcats, occurred on Sept. 30, 1989 and not only snapped a 30-game winless streak for Kansas State but was also the first-ever win for head coach Bill Snyder.
North Texas is the second Sun Belt Conference opponent this season for Kansas State, which opened its 2005 campaign with a 35-21 victory over Florida International. The Wildcats’ victory over FIU improved K-State to 10-1 all time against current members of the league, including eight straight wins. Interestingly, K-State’s last and only loss against a current member of the Sun Belt occurred during the 1985 season, when the Cats dropped a 22-10 decision to North Texas at KSU Stadium.
Kansas State has featured a strong running game out of the gate with just enough passing from quarterback Allen Webb and a quartet of talented receivers mixed in to keep opposing defenses honest. The Wildcats head into today’s game ranked No. 21 nationally in rushing (227.0) after piling up over 200 yards on the ground in each of their first two games.
Junior Thomas Clayton, the Big 12’s leading rusher, has been the bell cow thus far for K-State, shredding opposing defenses for an average of 164.5 yards per game and 7.7 yards per rush. Off to one of the best starts in school history, he enters this afternoon’s meeting with North Texas as the nation’s leading rusher.
And the Wildcats could be poised for yet another big day on the ground. North Texas has yielded an average of 200.5 yards per game rushing in its first two outings this season.
On the other side of the ball, the Kansas State defense has displayed improved play across the board. K-State ranks 53rd nationally in scoring defense, giving up an average of 20 points per game, but that figure doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Through two games, the Wildcats have yielded points on just two drives over 16 yards as 31 of the 40 points given up by K-State this season are a direct result of four turnovers inside the K-State 20-yard line and a blocked punt.
A big reason for the Wildcats success has been their ability to slow the run. Behind the surprising play of safety-turned-linebacker Maurice Mack, who leads Kansas State in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks, and the ever-steady Brandon Archer, the Cats rank 14th nationally in rushing defense, holding opponents to just 78.0 yards per game.
The K-State defense also appears to be back to its ball-hawking ways. After just eight quarters, the Cats have already forced eight turnovers (3 interceptions/5 fumble recoveries) and led the nation in turnovers gained through two games.
Still, North Texas could present a stiff challenge on the ground this afternoon. Boasting the last two NCAA rushing champions in senior Patrick Cobbs (2003) and sophomore Jamario Thomas (2004), the Mean Green will be looking for their first break-out game this season after averaging just 111.0 in their first two outings.
Keep an eye on...
Rushing Yards: K-State has had a 100-yard rusher three-straight games... The Wildcats have also topped 200-yards as a team in each of their first two games this season... Since 1990 K-State is 78-12 and with a 100-yard rusher and 75-5 when rushing for 200 yards.
Lights, Camera, Action: The nation’s leading rusher, Thomas Clayton, has piled up 329 yards in the first two games... It is the most rushing yards in school history for the first two games of a season... He needs 221 yards today to equal the best three-game start in school history and 70 yards for the second-best start.
Tough Test: K-State’s defense has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game this season but faces a test today.... UNT’s Jamario Thomas averaged over 180 yards per game last season and Patrick Cobbs over 152 in 2003... Both figures led the nation.
Today’s second home game is Kansas State’s latest since the 2001 season, when the tragedies of Sept. 11 forced the postponement of the Wildcats’ scheduled home opener vs. Louisiana Tech on Sept. 15. That season, the Wildcats finally debuted at home vs. New Mexico State on Sept. 22. K-State’ second home game did not occur until Oct. 6, when the Wildcats hosted Colorado.
Today’s game will be K-State’s latest scheduled second home game since the 1997 campaign, when the Cats played Bowling Green in home game No. 2 on Sept. 27.
Kansas State Head Coach Bill Snyder, architect of what many have called the greatest turnaround in the history of college football, is in his 17th season at the helm of the Wildcat football program.
During his tenure in Manhattan, Snyder has guided K-State to an impressive 133-62-1 record, which includes fourth Big 12 North Division crowns and a Big 12 championship in 2003. The fourth winningest coach in the country since the start of the 1993 season, Snyder ranks seventh in terms of career winning percentage among active NCAA D-IA coaches.
Snyder has also guided Kansas State to 11 bowl berths in the last 12 years a feat accomplished by only seven other teams in the country and 10 seasons with nine or more victories.
For ninth-year North Texas Head Coach Darrell Dickey, today’s game will be a homecoming as Kansas State welcomes back one of its heroes of the past.
Dickey, who has rallied the Mean Green football program to four straight Sun Belt Conference titles (2001,2002, 2003, 2004), was the Wildcats’ starting quarterback during the 1997-1982 seasons and stands as the only quarterback of the modern era to lead the Wildcats in passing four straight years. Just the second 4,000-yard passer in K-State history, Dickey’s 4,098 yards still ranks seventh on the Wildcats’ career passing chart.
But despite all the individual accomplishments, Dickey my be best remembered for leading the Wildcats to their first ever bowl game the 1982 Independence Bowl vs. Wisconsin and school’s first winning record since 1970.