K-State hopes to unsettle Oklahoma State with methodical offense

Charles Jones has gotten the bulk of the carries for a Kansas State offense that runs 72.7 plays per game, good for 80th in the nation.

Scott Sewell / USA TODAY Sports

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy long ago embraced the modern era of fast-paced offenses, the kind that prefer to go no-huddle, keep defenses off balance and rip off more than 80 plays per game.

In fact, those offenses are so pervasive that preparing to face them is the status quo.

And that makes getting ready for Kansas State a unique challenge.

When the No. 22 Cowboys visit the Wildcats on Saturday for a game crucial to their Big 12 title hopes, they will have to deal with a plodding, lurching offense that bleeds just about every second off the clock on every play it runs, leading to immense frustration for opposing coaches.

"You're not going to have as many possessions," Gundy said, "just based on the fact that the number of times they snap the ball with two seconds or less is four times the number of most teams in this league."

Indeed, the Cowboys (6-2, 4-1) are averaging 79.7 plays per game this season, putting them behind only Baylor and Texas Tech in the Big 12 and firmly in the top 20 of the 128 teams in major college football.

Kansas State (5-3, 3-2) runs 72.7 per game, ranking 80th nationally.

"When they go down methodically, score and eat up five or six minutes on the drive, that's an element that makes them a good, efficient offense," Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. "It's frustrating on you when you can't get the ball back and your offense is sitting on the sideline."

One of the ways Kansas State dominates time of possession is with its running backs.

Charles Jones has gotten the bulk of the carries, but Justin Silmon, Dalvin Warmack and Alex Barnes have been featured prominently in the offense. Then there is quarterback Jesse Ertz, their leading rusher, who has embraced the way Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein bulldozed through defenses a few years ago.

"They are all good, young guys and can do what you want them to do," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "It's about developing a hot hand, so to speak. Sometimes when somebody gets on fire, then they tend to perform higher than hat the expectation might be."

On the flip side, Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph always seems to have a hot hand.

The trigger for their fast-paced offense, Rudolph already has thrown for 2,532 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. And against Kansas State a year ago, he threw for 437 yards and three TDs while rallying the Cowboys to a last-minute field goal and a 36-34 victory.

"The game has slowed down for him," Snyder said, "and when that happens, the innate capability that he has comes to the forefront. He has the ability to make good decisions and the poise to go through his reads and progressions and be an accurate thrower."

As two vastly different offenses prepare to meet Saturday, here are some things to watch:

View from the sidelines: college football cheerleaders 2016.

Scott Sewell / USA TODAY Sports

BIG 12 HOPES: The Cowboys still have to play Oklahoma, the only unbeaten in league play, so winning at Kansas State is crucial to their conference title hopes. They have won four straight after knocking off then-unbeaten West Virginia last Saturday in Stillwater.

NO HANGOVER: Oklahoma State insists it did not dwell on the win over the Mountaineers, a good thing considering the home team has won the last five matchups with Kansas State.

"Right after the game, we watched we needed to watch," Cowboys linebacker Chad Whitener said, "then we moved right on to Kansas State. That's our whole focus all week."

BACK TO NORMAL: Kansas State had its streak of 56 straight red-zone scoring trips snapped against Texas, but bounced back to go 5 for 5 in its win over Iowa State last Saturday. The Wildcats have converted 62 of 63 trips into points dating to last season.

COACHING MILESTONES: Gundy won his 100th game against the Mountaineers. Snyder needs two wins to reach 200 -- despite missing four seasons due to a brief retirement.

MORE ON ERTZ: The Kansas State quarterback ran for a career-best 106 yards against the Cyclones. Ertz also threw for 151 yards and a touchdown in the 31-26 victory, showing the kind of moxie that Snyder and the Wildcats have expected to see from him since his season-ending injury in the opener a year ago.

"You can really see how much he's grown," Kansas State tight end Dayton Valentine said. "It's exciting to come out every week and see him be able to settle in, take control of the offense."