What did Kansas State learn from its defensive struggles against Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger?
We’re about to find out.
A week after allowing Ehlinger to scramble for 107 rushing yards and to throw for 380 yards in his third start as a freshman, the Wildcats turn their attention to another mobile passer – TCU senior Kenny Hill.
“He becomes a nemesis to us,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said, “because just coming off this past ballgame you have a quarterback that gets over 400 yards collectively against us. Quarterback is an issue.”
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Nemesis is a strong word, but Snyder uses it accurately. K-State defenders looked hapless trying to tackle Ehlinger during a 40-34 loss at Texas last week.
The main reason why: Nobody seemed to realize he was such a gifted runner. Defensive coordinator Tom Hayes tried to rattle Ehlinger with an array of blitzes, but that strategy backfired. Instead of taking sacks or throwing picks against pressure, Ehlinger spotted the blitzes and ran away from them with ease.
K-State defenders were surprised, and K-State coaches were slow to adjust.
“The scrambles hurt us big time,” K-State defensive end Kyle Ball said. “We weren’t expecting that. There would be times we rushed so aggressively it opened up lanes for him to take. That happened quite a few times. We hadn’t really faced someone like that.”
Well, they have now. The Wildcats will face another skilled dual-threat quarterback at 11 a.m. Saturday when TCU comes to Snyder Family Stadium.
Hill has been sharp this season, completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,153 yards and 10 touchdowns on top of 203 yards and four touchdowns as a rusher. He has made noticeable improvements since last year, and he his one of the key reasons the Horned Frogs are 5-0.
“He’s throwing the ball well,” Snyder said. “I think he’s 10th in the nation completing 69 percent of his passes. He can bring the ball down when he wants to and run. There are clips of him on tape and you watch him for a while and think he’s got a little bit above average speed, and then you see a couple of plays he makes and you think he’s got excellent speed, which I think he really does.”
K-State defenders don’t want to give away their strategy for this game, but they vow things will be different. This time around, they know what to expect.
“Everybody has got to play against a running quarterback,” K-State linebacker Jayd Kirby said. “All 11 players just have to keep their eyes on him and be aware of what is going on.”
Even small breakdowns can lead to ugly results.
The Wildcats are eager to move past what happened last week against Ehlinger and show improvement against Hill.
“They are both great quarterbacks,” Ball said. “But I think Kenny has a lot more speed. So we have to be even more aware of his legs, and that is something we are really focusing on this week. He can definitely hurt us with his legs if we don’t’ do anything about it.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett