With a 1-2 record and two lopsided losses in back-to-back weeks, much has been made about the state of the Texas Longhorn defense.
The unit has been a disaster for head coach Mack Brown, allowing an average of 308 yards on the ground to opposing teams while landing in the league cellar when it comes to rushing defense and scoring defense.
Yet the Longhorns are still a 5 1/2 point favorite at home on Saturday against the Kansas State football team.
With the defense playing as poorly as it is, odds makers must have great faith in Texas’ offense, which is using an up-tempo style made popular by numerous other Big 12 teams.
Regardless of whether it’s David Ash or Case McCoy at quarterback, the Longhorns have been able to move the chains this season. Facing tougher competition that most, they’ve averaged nearly 500 yards per game, good for third in the Big 12 in total offense.
While K-State head coach Bill Snyder said he thinks Ash will return Saturday, the Wildcats have to prepare for all that Texas has to offer.
“It’s guess work on our part,” he said. “You have to prepare for all that you can, all that they have.”
Snyder said Texas’ up-tempo attack is quicker than he’s seen.
“Texas is playing at a far greater rate of speed, or faster tempo, than they ever have before,” he said. “You go back and look at their spring game and they were snapping the ball - at times, not consistently - during the spring game at 9, 10, 11 seconds between when the ball is blown dead to when they snap it.
“That is extremely fast. The fast teams don’t go that fast.”
Playing in the Big 12, hurry-up offenses are nothing new, though this group of K-State defenders hasn’t seen much of it yet.
K-State linebacker Jonathan Truman said the only way to prepare is to practice faster, which the team has been doing.
“It’s a challenge, for sure, to get the call and get lined up and be where we’re supposed to be when they’re snapping the ball so fast, but that’s how about 95 percent of the teams are nowadays,” he said. “So that’s something we get used to.
“We have to go faster in practice. We have to prepare like we’re going to play in the game.”
Truman said the elusiveness and speed of K-State quarterback Daniel Sams has helped the team gear up for dual-threat quarterbacks in practice.
“Daniel is Daniel,” he said. “He’s the same on the practice field as he is on gameday. So going against him, a guy that can run and pass in practice - that makes us better for any dual-threat quarterback.”
Part of slowing down the Texas offense will be making the most of chances on third down. K-State hasn’t been particularly efficient in that department in the first three games, and the team knows it needs to improve.
Defensive tackle Travis Britz said improving on third down is a matter of focus.
“It’s an attitude, to some degree,” Britz said. “We need to really focus on bowing up and on third down, stopping them and forcing a punt.”
While Texas has plenty of talent at its skill positions, Britz said Texas’ offensive success starts up front.
“They’re very experienced,” he said of the Longhorn offensive line. “They’re well coached and they’re big and physical so we have to really come out and be ready to play.”
Although Texas and other teams in the league have had success with a high-octane offense, don’t expect Snyder to make the switch anytime soon.
“I can’t think that fast,” he said. “You have to process things a little bit better than that. We kind of are who we are. We can, it’s not that we don’t the ability to do that. We have the capacity.