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Cats, Aggies meet in pivotal Big 12 match-up



MANHATTAN, Kan. Kansas State closes out its tough three-game assignment vs. the Big 12’s South Division today, when the Wildcats host Texas A&M in a battle of 4-2 clubs seeking to move ever closer to the magic six-win total needed for bowl eligibility.


This afternoon’s match-up with the Aggies will be the first of a crucial but brief two-game home stand for K-State that marks the only time the Wildcats will play in Manhattan on successive Saturdays this season. Having already equaled its win total for all of last year, the Wildcats can become bowl eligible by holding serve at home over the next two weeks against Texas A&M and Colorado.


And it couldn’t be a better time for Kansas State to return to the friendly confines of KSU Stadium for a little home cooking as the Wildcats look to use their home field advantage to build some momentum for the stretch run of the season.


Kansas State brings a three-game home winning streak into today’s game but will be looking for its second bounce-back win of the year after falling to a red-hot Texas Tech squad last weekend in Lubbock. The Wildcats found themselves in a similar situation two weeks ago heading into the annual Sunflower Showdown and rebounded nicely for a 12-3 win over Kansas.


It’s been and up and down season thus far for Texas A&M, which was way up last week in a dominant 62-23 win in College Station over Oklahoma State. The win marked the second time this season that the Aggies have crossed the 60-point mark in a game.


Still, Texas A&M has struggled to put forth consistent performances in back-to-back weekends. The Aggies have also yet to win on the road this year.



Today’s game will pit youth vs. experience at the quarterback position.


The Kansas State offense appears to be coming back to life under the direction of freshman quarterback Allan Evridge. The first freshman to start for the Wildcats since Paul Watson in 1988, Evridge helped the Wildcats broke out of a brief two-game slump at Texas Tech last week as K-State totaled over 300 yards of offense - including 114 yards on the ground - for the first time in Big 12 play.


K-State will look to build on that momentum with Evridge once again at the controls. He completed 14-of-25 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown while gaining a team-high 64 yards on the ground against the Red Raiders after coming off the bench to lead the Wildcats to a 12-3 come-from-behind win over Kansas the previous week.


Three of Evridge’s completions at Texas Tech went to sophomore Jordy Nelson, including an 80-yard strike that was his sixth touchdown reception in six games this season. Nelson, a former walk-on defensive back who has emerged as one of the top receivers in the Big 12 Conference, continues to share the team lead in receptions (21) with junior Jermaine Moreira, who also had three catches at Tech.



On the other sideline, Texas A&M senior quarterback Reggie McNeal directs one of the most potent offenses in the nation. The Aggies have averaged over 200 yards on the ground and through the air this season and statistically rank as one of the nation’s most imposing units.


Behind McNeal, who averages over 84 yards per game on the ground himself and enters that game as the Big 12’s No. 2 player in terms of total offense, Texas A&M ranks ninth in the country in rushing and 10th nationally in total offense. The Aggies are also scoring nearly 40 points per game this year and should present plenty of challenges for a Wildcat defense that has displayed flashes of brilliance but continues to struggle with overall consistency.


Led by junior team captain Brandon Archer, Kansas State’s defense ranks 36th nationally this week in total defense and 58th in scoring defense. Those numbers are somewhat skewed by last week’s air-raid by Texas Tech and the number of short fields the unit has faced so far this season as the unit has actually played better than the numbers would indicate.


Of the 152 points the Wildcats have given up this year, 50 (8.3 per game) are a direct result of six turnovers inside the K-State 35-yard line, a safety and a pair of blocked punts, meaning that opponents have need to drive a grand total of 104 yards to score one third of their points. Overall, 11-of-23 opponent scoring drives have traveled less than 50 yards, with two others requiring no drive at all.


The once ballyhooed Texas A&M wrecking crew hasn’t fared much better. The Aggies rank 88th nationally in total defense and 112th in pass defense and may be vulnerable to an emerging Wildcat passing game that has seen K-State complete 58 of 100 attempts for 918 yards and seven scores, for an average of 229.5 yards per game over its last four outings.


Still, Kansas State’s defensive unit continues to be snake bit when it comes to field position. The Wildcats rank 46th nationally in scoring defense, yielding an average of 22.5 points per game.


However, the unit has actually played much better than that. Of the 13 scoring drives K-State has given up, eight have resulted on drives of less than 50 yards, with two others requiring no drive at all.



Texas A&M leads the all-time series 7-4, in this, the 12th meeting between the two programs.  The Aggies have won four straight in the series, including a 42-30 victory in College Station last season.  The winning streak dates back to the 1998 Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship Game when the Aggies earned a 36-33 victory over the Wildcats in double overtime.


The series dates back to 1912 when Kansas State earned its first victory in College Station, a 13-10 win on Nov. 12, 1912.  The Wildcats won the next year in Manhattan by a score of 12-0.  The two teams met just five times before the start of the Big 12 in 1996.


Texas A&M has won four of the six meetings since the inaugural year of the Big 12, including a 31-24 win its last visit to KSU Stadium on Oct. 20, 2001.  The Wildcats have not beaten the Aggies since a 36-17 victory at KSU Stadium on Oct. 18, 1997. 


Despite the four-game winning streak by Texas A&M, the series has been a high-scoring affair of late.  The two teams have combined to average 58 points in the last four games with the Aggies holding the upper hand and averaging 33.8 points compared to the Wildcats’ 24.2 points.



Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder hit another milestone in his career last week at Texas Tech, coaching in his 200th career game. He is now one of just 17 active coaches to serve as a head coach in at least 200 college contests. On the list, which includes coaching legends such as Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, Snyder ranks fifth in number of wins during his first 200 games as a head coach with 135 and a winning percentage of .678.



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 135-64-1 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 Division I-A 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.


Dennis Franchione, who served as an assistant coach at Kansas State from 1978-80, is in his third season at the head coach at Texas A&M. With a career record of 170-89-2 as a head coach, Franchione is the fifth winningest active Division I-A coach in college football.


Also one of the most well traveled head coaches in the country, one of Franchione’s eight head coaching assignments was just down the road at Pittsburg State, where he led the Gorillas from 1985-89.