MANHATTAN — Leading up to their last football game, the Kansas State Wildcats said it was difficult for them to design a defensive gameplan around stopping a quick-footed quarterback.
And, true to form, Central Florida's Jeff Godfrey caused some problems by rushing for 99 yards.
Thanks to some strong halftime adjustments, K-State was able figure out a way to contain Godfrey in the second half and come out with a win. But the Wildcats' battles with running quarterbacks are far from over.
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez poses many of the same challenges as Godfrey, and Wildcats coach Bill Snyder doesn't hesitate to compare the two.
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"Two young freshmen who have tremendous skills, have tremendous quickness, change of directions and speed," Snyder said. "They are both involved with offenses that play to those strengths."
Yet he isn't sure how much facing Godfrey will help his team when the Cornhuskers come to town on Thursday.
"Martinez is probably a little faster if you put him on the clock," Snyder said. "He throws the ball a little better, and he's got a pretty doggone good supporting cast. Not that Central Florida didn't, but this is a little different level."
A bigger, faster, stronger level.
"They're better," K-State defensive end Antonio Felder said. "We just got to be ready for it."
Martinez enters Big 12 play having rushed for more yards than every quarterback in the country other than Michigan's Denard Robinson. The redshirt freshman is averaging 124 yards per game, and has sparked a running renaissance in Lincoln.
"He's a pretty dynamic athlete," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini of Martinez. "He can do a lot of things, so you can maybe feature a couple different areas with him. He's more into the run game. He's given us multiplicity."
Indeed, the Huskers are emphasizing their ground attack like they did during their glory years. They are averaging almost 310 rushing yards per game, and are unafraid to spread the ball around. In a lopsided victory over Washington, Roy Helu Jr., Rex Burkhead and Martinez all topped the 100-yard mark.
K-State is yet to see anything like that.
"It's very scary," K-State defensive lineman Raphael Guidry said. "He has a lot of weapons around him to make him even better.
"Up front they're pretty big guys, and they're physical. I've been watching film all week and they come off the ball physical and Martinez runs the ball real well. It's going to be difficult. We got to stop the run first and force them to pass."
The majority of Godrey's runs were improvised scrambles and jaunts to the perimeter of the field without a running back nearby to pitch to. Martinez will do the same on occasion, but Nebraska's option offense will make it impossible for K-State's defense to focus solely on stopping him.
"(Martinez) has broadened the base of Nebraska's offense and given them a larger playbook to select from," Snyder said, "which makes the preparation that much more difficult."
But not impossible. South Dakota State found a way to hold Nebraska to 205 rushing yards and 17 points last week without sacking Martinez a single time. There is a model to build off.
K-State has examined that game from every angle, and has learned from its own experiences against running quarterbacks. It will take improving on both to be successful.
"It all boils down to how well we prepare and how well we play," Snyder said. "The passion we play with, the execution and devotion to detail, and focus over the course of the ballgame and just understanding that they're going to have to play every snap."
Fans encouraged to arrive early — With a sellout crowd of more than 50,000 expected for Thursday's game against Nebraska, K-State is asking that fans arrive as early as possible for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff to ease traffic congestion in the Manhattan area.
Stadium and nearby satellite parking lots will open as normal on gameday, five hours prior to kickoff at 1:30 p.m.
Could they meet again? —This is the last time K-State and Nebraska will meet as Big 12 opponents, but that doesn't mean they won't ever play again.
"I wouldn't rule anything out," Snyder said. "But I don't see it in the near future."
Bishop sighting — Snyder said several former K-State players will be on hand for Thursday's game, but senior running back Daniel Thomas knows who he most wants to meet — 1998 Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Bishop. Snyder said the former quarterback may speak to the current team in the locker room before the game.