Sams and the Wildcats take aim at struggling Longhorns’ rush defense

By Joshua Kinder

AUSTIN, Texas — It seems too easy.

Just line up and pound the ball down Texas’ throat on Saturday night and Kansas State wins, right?

The numbers would say that’s exactly how to beat the Longhorns this season, because so far, Texas hasn’t stopped anyone from running the ball.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill had the game of his life two weeks ago, rushing for 259 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries — leading the Cougars to a record 550 rushing yards and a 40-21 victory over Texas. The loss cost Longhorns’ defensive coordinator Manny Diaz his job.

Then last week, under the direction of new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, the Longhorns continued to struggle against the run and allowed Ole Miss to rush for another 272 yards in a 44-23 loss in Austin.

“I think anybody right now will try to run the ball against us,” Texas coach Mack Brown said this week. “We haven’t stopped it yet. We feel like we will see a very similar gameplan to what we’ve seen the last two weeks. We’ll see option, we will see power, we will see quarterback runs.

“That’s what Bill Snyder has been so good at. We’re not stopping it well at this point.”

From the outside, Saturday’s Big 12 opener at 7 p.m. on ABC, seems like the perfect storm for K-State’s Daniel Sams, another athletic quarterback cut from the same cloth as Hill. And while Sams knows exactly what Hill did against the Longhorns’ defense, he’s expecting a little more resistance this week.

“When I first saw that, I kind of smiled about it,” said Sams, who is averaging 7.5 yards per carry this season and has a team-best three rushing touchdowns. “But things are going to be a little different when Kansas State and Texas play. It’s a Big 12 matchup. I don’t think they’re going to lay down for us. We aren’t going to lay down for them.”

Sams has never been shy either . He oozes confidence on and off the field and knows what he’s capable of, perhaps even against a defense expecting to see a lot of Sams under the lights.

“I’m not going to predict anything, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing ball,” he said. “That stage and the spot that me and my teammates are in right now — we just have to prove ourselves, and I can’t wait for that to happen.”

For what its worth, the Wildcats (2-1) are coming off their best rushing performance of the season — rushing for 329 yards against UMass and finishing with season-high 456 yards of total offense. Running back John Hubert had his best game this season with 118 yards on 18 carries. Sams rushed for 77 yards and a TD off the bench and starting QB Jake Waters gained 74 yards.

Texas (1-2) is allowing 353 rushing yards per game this season, perhaps a little skewed by the 550 yards the Longhorns surrendered in Week 2 against BYU. And though K-State coach Bill Snyder sees the obvious holes in the Texas run defense through three games, he expects the new defensive coordinator to make some adjustments before Saturday.

“You look at that and say OK, we’ve got quarterbacks who run the football, so you think that is what we should do,” Snyder said. “I can assure you they are smart enough at the University of Texas to understand they have had some difficulty there. I would expect to see some changes there in approaching the quarterback run game. They will defend that part of it well.

“That doesn’t mean necessarily changing what they do, but maybe executing better, but that is just speculation on my part. Greg is a very fine football coach… I don’t know if they’ll stay exclusively with what they have in place and try to utilize his capabilities to motivate their players to work out the kinks or whether they will graduate into some changes. I’m sure there will be some changes, but I don’t know exactly what they are.”

And then there’s that five-game win streak the Wildcats have against the Longhorns. These teams know each other well. Sams expects a battle.

“They know we’re (using) the quarterback run game, so I don’t really get too excited — not saying what BYU did was a fluke — but I’m sure they’re prepared more against what we do than what happened against BYU.”

One element that could present a problem for the Longhorns is K-State’s use of two quarterbacks. Waters has been the better passer, Sams the better runner, but Snyder isn’t afraid to ask his two QBs to do both. But Sams’ playing time has also increased with each game. Can the same be expected this week?

“Daniel will certainly play — that’s quite obvious,” Snyder said. “As I’ve said, it hasn’t changed week in and week out. There are certain things that you would like to be able to do. You have kind of a plan in place, but that will be dictated by the University of Texas as much as anything.

“Any opponent has the ability to take away what they want to take away and make you do some other things. How we utilize each of our quarterbacks is dependent upon what the University of Texas does.”

And with one coach already gone, the same could be said for Brown, who already faces an uncertain future. A sixth straight loss to the Wildcats, at home, certainly wouldn’t help.

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