Easier said than done: Stopping the run. It is a phrase that sounds relatively simple, but is No. 14 (BCS) Texas Tech's best chance at beating No. 3 Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan.,
At this point, it is no secret that Kansas State's offense flows through its Heisman Trophy candidate in senior quarterback Collin Klein. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound quarterback is best known for his running and ability to orchestrate long, methodical drives.
Klein is the team's second-leading rusher, having gained 551 rushing yards on 110 carries. Running back John Hubert leads the Wildcats with 658 rushing yards on 114 carries. Klein, though, has scored 14 rushing touchdowns to Hubert's eight.
In total, Klein is responsible for 24 touchdowns and 1,948 yards of offense this season. But, while Klein has improved his passing ability, he is not perceived as an elite passing threat.
That may be perfectly OK with the Red Raiders, who shut down West Virginia's Geno Smith two weeks ago. Because they have displayed they are capable of stifling a premier passing offense, the Red Raiders need to contain Kansas State's running game if they hope
to beat a Top-5 team for the second time in three weeks.
Saturday could turn develop into a collision of strengths, as Tech has limited opponents to 3.28 yards per attempt while Kansas State averages 5.46 yards per rush. Tech's front seven will need to maintain control of gaps when defending the run, and would like
to make 3rd-down conversions as long and difficult as possible. In a game that could be decided on run offense and defense, penalties will be critical.
As a result of solid run defense, the Red Raiders' most ideal scenario will be one that forces Klein to beat them with his arm. Klein's best passing performance was a 19-of-21, 323-yard outing against West Virginia last week. The Wildcats, though, led comfortably
the entire game, alleviating Klein of any pressure.
Against what may be the Big 12 Conference's best defense, Klein completed 13 of 21 passes for 149 yards and zero touchdowns in a 24-19 at Oklahoma. Klein, however, carried the ball 17 times for 79 yards and one score. The Wildcats rushed for 213 total yards
and forced three turnovers.
In its 55-14 demolition of the Mountaineers, Kansas State intercepted Smith twice — his first two interceptions of the season. During last year's 41-34 win in Lubbock, the Wildcats intercepted Tech quarterback Seth Doege three times. Despite early turnovers,
Tech led 28-20 at halftime.
Klein, as he has been this season, was a force, rushing for 110 yards on 23 carries for three touchdowns, in addition to a passing touchdown. "Optimus" Klein, as the current Heisman frontrunner has been referred to, has thrown just two interceptions and has
been sacked five times through seven games.
So, if Tech wants to make its case for a BCS bowl, it has to contain Kansas State's running game, but most importantly, Klein.
And as has been the case for Kansas State's opposition this season: Easier said than done.
By Jose Rodriguez — Special to the Star-Telegram