October 19, 2007

Five Keys to Victory: K-State at O-State




KANSAS STATE at OKLAHOMA STATE
When: Saturday, Oct. 20
Kickoff: 6:05 p.m. (CDT)
Location: Stillwater, Okla.
Venue: Boone Pickens Stadium (44,700)
TV: None


After playing well at Auburn and winning at Texas, the 25th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats feel perfectly at home on the road. "I don't think going on the road is a big deal for us," senior safety Marcus Watts. "Obviously we have shown we can play on the road. We went to two tough environments -- going to Auburn and to Texas -- and we played pretty well in both those games. So I don't think it is any different than playing at home for us."


K-State, 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12, hits the road for the third time this season when it travels to Stillwater, Okla., to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys. O-State sits at 4-3 and 2-1, but the Cowboys are coming off an astonishing 45-14 win at Nebraska. The 6 p.m. contest is not being televised.


"We're going to play an opponent at a place which is always very tough and from what I can ascertain -- this will be my first time going down there as a coach -- it's getting tougher and tougher with the way they're building their environment. With that, Oklahoma State is an offensive juggernaut," K-State coach Ron Prince said.


The respect is mutual. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy appreciates how the Wildcats have upgraded their talent and overall team speed in Prince's one-and-a-half seasons in Manhattan.


"They're a very fast football team. They've done a nice job acquiring some junior college players, in my opinion, that have upgraded their team speed," Gundy said. "Coach (Bill) Snyder did a nice job of that in the past and it looks like coach (Ron) Prince continued to do that. They're a fast football team and they have good schemes and they get to the football and then offensively they have guys that can make you miss in space."


Both teams have had their highs and lows this season, which makes this a hard game to call. But K-State and Oklahoma State have both scored points in 2007, meaning the Cowboys' Homecoming game could be a thriller for the fans.





KEY 1: STOP THE RUN

Oklahoma State's offense is advertised as a high-flying, pass-happy arrangement that riddles opposing defenses via the air. In reality, Oklahoma State would prefer to run the ball and pound a defense into submission, which is not to say OSU cannot throw effectively.


The key during Oklahoma State's recent improved play has been the running of senior back Dantrell Savage. Savage missed a win over Florida Atlantic and the Cowboys' embarrassing loss at Troy, but has returned to averaged 141 yards a game during the last four contests. Savage averages an impressive 6.5 yards per carry this season. Savage gashed the Nebraska defense for 212 yards on 25 carries last weekend.


"I think he probably averages more than six yards a carry the way they are running the ball, and especially after the Nebraska game," K-State junior Ian Campbell said. "I don't think the Nebraska defense is weak, so I think they must be doing pretty good."


Taking away Savage as a first option, which may not be easy for a K-State defense that has struggled against the run the past two weeks, is the foremost key in winning this game.


"He's doing a nice job of competing and making people miss in space and then he's getting north and south, where he's getting all of his yards," Gundy said. "He's close to getting healthy, but I don't think he is (completely healthy)."


Even with taking away Savage, though, the Cowboys still have Adarius Bowman, OSU's physically gifted receiver but at least at that point, the Cowboys would be one-dimensional.



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