Texas A&M-Kansas St. Preview
Kansas State's best start in 12 years put the team in the hunt for the Big 12 title, but back-to-back losses have the Wildcats playing catch-up.
Texas A&M has also lost some traction after getting its season turned around last month.
The No. 17 Wildcats look to avoid their first three-game skid in three seasons Saturday in Manhattan, where they'll face an Aggies team that has dropped two straight and is missing leading rusher Christine Michael.
Kansas State (7-2, 4-2) did not receive any votes in the preseason Top 25, but a 7-0 start - its best since opening 9-0 in 1999 - lifted the team to 10th in the poll and eighth in the BCS rankings.
The Wildcats, though, suffered a 58-17 home loss to then-No. 11 Oklahoma on Oct. 29 and fell 52-45 to then-No. 3 Oklahoma State last Saturday.
The disheartening defeats have left Kansas State two games behind the conference-leading Cowboys one back of the Sooners.
"I think we're a good football team, we just haven't proven that in circumstances such as what we had tonight and what we had last week as well,'' Snyder said. "The fact that they played hard throughout, I'm proud of them, but we just have a lot to learn.''
Snyder's team has to get back to playing better defense. Kansas State was allowing 20.7 points per game before its last two contests, but gave up more than 500 yards each of the last two weeks.
The WIldcats can at least feel encouraged about their offense. Junior Collin Klein is second in the nation among quarterbacks with 100.7 rushing yards per game after running for 144 and three scores Saturday, and he's becoming more of a threat through the air. Klein set career highs with 22 completions, 38 attempts and 231 yards against Oklahoma State.
"You can see how he's really progressed throughout the year (as a passer)," Aggies assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter told the school's official website. "Early on I'm not sure what the offense really knew what they were or who they wanted to be because he was a new starting quarterback for them but he has really matured."
Facing the nation's worst passing defense, which is allowing 311.2 yards per game, Klein will try to help Kansas State avoid its first three-game skid since an 0-5 stretch Oct. 18-Nov. 15, 2008.
Texas A&M (5-4, 3-3) will be closing out its road schedule following another second-half meltdown. The Aggies, outscored 101-30 after halftime in their losses, yielded 28 unanswered third-quarter points after trailing by two at the break in a 41-25 loss to then-No. 7 Oklahoma last Saturday.
Senior Ryan Tannehill was picked off twice in the third, and Texas A&M also punted four times and missed a field goal in the period.
"You can't throw interceptions, it'll kill your drive,'' Tannehill said. "I looked up at one point in the fourth quarter and we had more yards than them. That just goes to show what turnovers will do to you.''
The Aggies, losers of two straight following a three-game win streak, are sixth in the nation with 520.6 yards per game and are averaging 37.7 points, tied for 15th. However, they won't have Michael for the rest of the season after he suffered a torn ACL last week.
Michael, who has run for 899 yards, missed the final five games last season with a broken leg. Texas A&M will rely more heavily on second-leading rusher Cyrus Gray, who has 733 yards and seven TDs, though none of those scores have come in the last four games.
Along with Klein, who has run for 19 TDs, Kansas State gotten 748 rushing yards from sophomore John Hubert. Freshman Tyler Lockett was named Big 12 special teams player of the week after recording 315 all-purpose yards.
The Aggies are 23rd in the FBS against the run at 110.2 yards a game, yet they've allowed 433 and six TDs on the ground in the last two weeks.
Kansas State has given up 1,022 passing yards and nine scores in its last two contests.
The Wildcats have won the last two meetings with Texas A&M by a combined 106-44.