MANHATTAN, Kan. — If there was any team for Texas to run the ball against, it was Kansas State.
Coming into Saturday night’s game, Kansas State was ranked as the worst rush defense in college football — literally No. 120 out of 120 ranked teams. And Texas knew that.
Texas also knew that the Wildcats’ offense had one of the nation’s fastest running backs in Daniel Thomas, who has now rushed for over 100 yards in six different games this season. But Texas allowed him and quarterback Collin Klein to combine for 258 of the team’s 261 total rushing yards as Kansas State embarrassed Texas in a 39-14 romp.
“I don’t know [why we couldn’t stop them],” said head coach Mack Brown. “I thought we had a really good game plan, and I thought we’d line up and stop the running game. I thought it’d be a great test of us and we didn’t stop it.”
Kansas State started running the ball down Texas’ throats right from the first whistle when tailback William Powell returned the opening kickoff for 62 yards. Two plays later, Thomas scored on a 38-yard sprint to the end zone. Just 53 seconds into the game, Texas was down 7-0.
“It wasn’t the way the defense wanted to start the game,” said junior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “That was huge momentum for them and a horrible momentum shift for us.”
The Wildcats continued to run all game long. They didn’t even have to pass the ball. In fact, Klein only went two of four for nine yards passing.
“They just had a really good game plan for us and executed well,” junior safety Blake Gideon said. “They were more physical than us, and whenever you can’t stop the run, there’s no reason for a team to pass.”
Texas’ defense made the exact same mistakes against Kansas State as it made in the losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor — they didn’t cause turnovers and they allowed the Wildcats to go five of five in the red zone.
“We were really not helping our offense much,” Gideon said. “Seems to be a recurring issue that we aren’t giving our offense a short field for a change.”
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert truly suffered from starting almost every series with a long field. His drives weren’t productive as Texas went scoreless for three quarters, he threw five interceptions, one of which was in the end zone and many of his 27 incomplete passes were overthrown balls.
“I put our team in some bad situations,” Gilbert said. “We dug ourselves a hole and we had to throw the ball almost every play in the second half.”
Before the deficit got out of control, Texas wanted to run the ball. In the first quarter, tailback Fozzy Whittaker ran for two first downs in a row and it looked like Texas was going to gain some momentum when it was only down 7-0.
But then offensive coordinator Greg Davis called back-to-back passing plays — one was incomplete to tight end Barrett Matthews and the other was caught by receiver James Kirkendoll, but he was called for a holding penalty and the series, along with the running game, fizzled.
“We had to start throwing the ball to catch up,” Davis said. “But there might have been some situations where maybe we could have stuck with the run a little longer. We’ll have to go back and look at the film.”
Texas has tried so hard to have a balanced offense this year, but it should have taken advantage of Kansas State’s poor rush defense rather than force the passing game in the first place. The Longhorns only ran for 140 yards, 88 of which were by Gilbert.
The Longhorns don’t have much time to solve their problems and they don’t have time to panic, either. They need to win two of their next three games if they want to become bowl-eligible, and it’s not going to be easy with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M still left on the schedule.