Manhattan, KS (SportsNetwork.com) – The 25th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats play
their final non-conference game of the regular season when they entertain the
Miners of Texas-El Paso on Saturday.
Both teams come in sporting identical 2-1 records, with UTEP sandwiching
victories over New Mexico (31-24) and New Mexico State (42-24) around a loss
to Texas Tech (30-26), and Kansas State getting past both Stephen F. Austin
(55-16) and Iowa State (32-28) before falling to Auburn (20-14).
The Miners enjoyed a bye last weekend, and this is their second bout against a
foe from the Big 12 Conference this season. UTEP is coached by one of its own
in Sean Kugler (class of 1989), and he directed the team to a 2-10 record in
his first season in 2013. The Miners will open Conference USA action next week
at Louisiana Tech.
Kansas State already has a conference win under its belt (Iowa State), and the
club will get back to its league slate with next week’s visit from the Texas
Tech Red Raiders. Bill Snyder has been masterful in his lengthy career at K-
State, and the Wildcats can improve to 66-5 since 1990 in non-conference home
games under his tutelage with a victory this week. It would also be the team’s
19th win in 23 games against current members of C-USA.
The all-time series between these two teams is knotted at 1-1, with each
winning previously at home. KSU won the last meeting, 40-7, in Manhattan in
1999. UTEP’s victory was way back in 1947.
The UTEP offense is averaging 33 points and 433.3 yards per contest,
preferring to the do the bulk of its damage with a punishing rushing attack
that generates 314 ypg and has accounted for 11 touchdowns. Aaron Jones has
been the star of the Miners offense, as he has turned 70 carries into 549
yards and seven scores. Nathan Jeffery and Jameill Showers have both gained
more than 100 yards, but have combined for just a single TD.
As for the passing attack, Showers hasn’t been all that effective in hitting
just 52.4 percent of his tosses for a mere 358 yards and two TDs. He has been
picked off just once, but has only 63 pass attempts to his credit. Jarrad Shaw
paces the receiving corps with 10 catches for 142 yards and a score.
Defensively, UTEP is permitting 26 points and 468.7 yards per game, as foes
are using a balanced attack (242 ypg rushing, 226.7 ypg passing) to keep the
Miners on their heels.
Jameel Erving (19) heads a list of nine guys who have logged double-digit
tackles to this point, but a glaring lack of push at the point of attack (two
sacks) is an obvious concern.
In the last outing against New Mexico State, the ground attack amassed 344
yards, the most by UTEP against a Division I opponent since 1991. Jones led
the way with 168 yards and two TDs, while the team as a whole averaged 5.9 ypc
and found the end zone five times via the run. Showers was efficient in
hitting 13-of-16 passes for 126 yards and a TD, while also adding a rushing
score as part of his six-carry, 41-yard effort.
As for NMSU, it was held to 90 rushing yards, prompting the Aggies to air the
ball out 41 times in generating 335 yards via the pass. The UTEP defense was
pretty well-rested considering, spending only 20:34 on the field. Nick Usher
led the Miners with nine tackles, including two TFL, while the defense as a
collective unit was credited with a pair of takeaways.
Coach Kugler spoke recently about the difficult task his team faces this week.
“We’ve got extreme challenges on all sides of the ball. This is a well-
coached, well-disciplined, physical football team [Kansas State]. This is an
opportunity for our young men to go on the road against a quality Big 12
opponent that won six of their last seven games last year and won a very
physical bowl game against Michigan. They return about half of their starters
on offense and defense. They are a true quality top 25 team. We are going to
have to be at our best to have an opportunity to beat these guys.”
Kansas State had difficulty running the football last week against Auburn,
finishing with only 40 net yards, but the team did score its two touchdowns on
the ground. Quarterback Jake Waters wound up going 24-of-40 for 245 yards, but
he failed to throw a scoring strike while being picked off twice. He was also
sacked three times. Curry Sexton seemed to be wide open all night, as he
hauled in 11 balls for 121 yards.
The Wildcats performed well on defense against what was a solid Auburn offense
coming in, yielding 359 total yards, only 128 of which came by way of the run.
In fact, the Tigers averaged just 2.8 ypc and did not reach the end zone on
the ground. Randall Evans led the ‘Cats with nine tackles, eight being solo
efforts, but the unit as a whole came up with only one turnover while failing
to log a sack.
Waters knows his team let one get away against Auburn.
“I am not in to moral victories or anything like that. We lost the game, so
you have to give credit to Auburn. At the end of the day, we are going to go
back and watch film and realize that we should have won. This was our game,
and we let it slip. That is hard to take.”
For the season, Kansas State is putting up 33.7 ppg while allowing 21.3 ppg,
and the Wildcats also hold a sizable advantage in terms of total yards (411.3
to 324.0 ypg). Waters has pretty much been the entire offense for Snyder’s
club, hitting the mark on 60.8 percent of his throws for 707 yards, although
he has only two TDs versus three INTs. He is the team’s leading rusher as
well, churning out 186 yards and four scores, while Charles Jones has hit pay
dirt five times in totaling 152 yards.
The Wildcats continue to play the run well, yielding a mere 100.7 ypg on the
ground. Jonathan Truman and Evans sit atop the team’s tackles list with 22
apiece, but the team has been credited with only five sacks and three