Is Texas a Trap Game for the Wildcats?

| October 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Cole Manbeck



Texas has a 3-4 record. The Longhorns are coming off a 48-45 win at home against Iowa State – a game that appeared destined for overtime prior to a last-minute Texas drive. So the Longhorns might be easy to overlook. But this is a Texas team that’s improving rapidly and presents several issues for Kansas State this Saturday in Manhattan.


I hate the phrase “trap game,” but this is a dangerous contest. The Wildcats are coming off their biggest win of the season – a 31-30 win at then-ranked No. 11 Oklahoma. And now come home for an 11 a.m. kick against a 3-4 Texas squad that K-State cannot look past, which I highly doubt it does.


Jake Waters had his throwing shoulder dinged up against Oklahoma last Saturday. Texas is not a team you want to face a week after suffering an injury. The Longhorns defense gets after it. Texas has 24 sacks on the season, and its 3.43 sacks per game rank 13th in the country. It will be going up against a K-State offensive line that has allowed 14 sacks and 2.33 per game, ranking 88th in the country. The Longhorns have recorded 58 tackles for loss, ranking in the top 20 nationally.


Texas’ pass defense is terrific. The Longhorns rank 12th nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense. They only allow 164 passing yards per game, ranking fifth nationally and lead the Big 12 in that category. They only allow 10 yards per completion, ranking No. 7 in the country and No. 1 in the Big 12. They give up just 5.6 yards per pass attempt, which leads the conference and ranks No. 9 nationally. Texas’ 11 interceptions are tied for the sixth-most in the country.


Texas is allowing just 4.4 yards per offensive play. Only seven teams in the country allow less. ESPN created a statistical formula for overall defensive efficiency. Texas ranked No. 9 nationally using ESPN’s criteria.


Prior to the Iowa State game, Texas had held its previous three Big 12 opponents to a combined 31-of-73 passing (42 percent) and 380 yards through the air. That averages out to only 127 yards per game and 5.2 yards per pass attempt. Two of those opponents were Oklahoma and Baylor. The Bears were 7-of-22 passing for 111 yards against Texas, yet they threw for more than 500 yards against TCU two weeks ago. That tells you how good Texas’ defense was against Baylor.


The Longhorns held those three teams to a combined 934 yards of offense on 214 plays, a 4.4 yard-per-play average (what they allow on average this season).


Texas ranks 91st in the country in run defense, allowing 184 yards per game. But the Longhorns aren’t bad against the run, as they only allow 3.9 yards per rush, which ranks 49th nationally.


Texas is led by junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The 6-foot-2, 320-pound junior leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Jordan Hicks is the anchor to the Longhorns defense. The senior linebacker already has 98 tackles and nine for loss. Steve Edmond, a 6-2, 260-pound senior who starts alongside Hicks, has 76 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Senior corner Quandre Diggs, who has made 42 career starts, leads Texas’ strong secondary.


Switching sides of the ball, Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes appears to be getting significantly better. The 6-4, 240-pound sophomore had some struggles throwing the football early in the season, but continues to grow within the offense. In Texas’ last two games, Swoopes has combined to complete 51 of his 80 passes (64 percent), throw for 655 yards and three touchdowns to two interceptions. He has rushed for 145 yards on 25 carries in those two games, an average of 5.8 yards per rush.


Swoopes has two solid targets to throw the ball to in John Harris and Jaxon Shipley. Harris has 607 yards receiving on 40 receptions this season, an average of 15.2 yards per catch. Shipley, who has more than 2,000 yards receiving in his career, has 452 yards this season and is averaging 10.3 yards per catch.


The Longhorns aren’t a big-play offense, however. They only average 10.6 yards per completion, ranking 106th out of 125 teams in the FBS. Texas averages just 5.1 yards per offensive play. K-State’s offense averages 6.2 yards per play.


One of Texas’ biggest weaknesses is third-down offense. The Longhorns rank 107th in the country in third-down efficiency, converting only 34 percent of their third-down attempts into first downs. However, the same was true for Oklahoma last week, yet the Sooners converted on 7-of-11 on third down against the Wildcats. I’ll repeat what I said last week (even though Oklahoma converted several third and longs), if K-State can get Texas in obvious passing situations on third downs, its defense will be in good shape. But the Wildcats will need to keep an eye on Swoopes when he drops back to pass, as he will take off and run.


Texas has plenty of talent at running back with Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray, but due partially to a struggling offensive line, it hasn’t translated to on-field success. The Longhorns average just 3.9 yards per rush, which ranks 95th in the country and No. 8 in the Big 12.


This is a difficult game for K-State, as the numbers above suggest. Texas’ strength is its pass defense. The Wildcats’ strength is its passing offense. So K-State is in for a battle. But Texas is 3-4 for a reason and this is its first difficult road game. The only true road game Texas has played this season was at KU, and until the Jayhawks’ program gets better, I’m going to decline to put much stock into that road victory.


I still like K-State in this game, but I don’t see the Wildcats winning by a huge margin. I would look for a 10-14 point K-State victory.


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