MANHATTAN — Following a tough 6-26 loss to No. 4 TCU Oct. 14 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, K-State (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) must now try to prepare for another top-10 opponent: the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12).
“This is a big game. It’s another top-10 opponent coming into our stadium. Obviously our backs are against the wall a little bit sitting at 3-3. We know it’s a game we have to prepare for and focus for. We have to go out and get it,” sophomore wide receiver Dalton Schoen said Tuesday afternoon at the Vanier Family Football Complex in Manhattan.
K-State enters Saturday’s matchup against Oklahoma, which kicks off at 3 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, having lost three of its past four games.
These include a 7-14 loss at Vanderbilt Sept. 16, a 34-40 loss at Texas in double overtime Oct. 7, and the 6-26 loss to TCU Oct. 14.
K-State is coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season. It only gained 216 yards of offense against TCU, and failed to score twice in the red zone. At his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, K-State head coach Bill Snyder talked about how his team can improve its red zone efficiency.
“We just have to do what we do better and do the right things and do them better. That was a significant element of the ballgame (against TCU). We had first-and-goal on the seven yard line and couldn’t get it in. There were a lot of things that contributed to the loss. You can’t rely on (field goals) all the time. You have to get it (in the end zone),” Snyder said.
K-State’s offense will need to convert in the red zone to keep up with an explosive Oklahoma offensive attack. The Sooners rank No. 10 nationally with an average of 42 points per game, and rank No. 3 nationally with 575.5 total yards of offense per game. The leader of Oklahoma’s attack is senior quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield ranks fourth nationally with 377.7 passing yards per game, and leads the nation in pass efficiency with a quarterback rating of 212.11.
On the season, Mayfield — who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year and is one of the favorites to win it this year — is completing 73 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,937 yards and 17 touchdowns while only throwing one interception. Snyder talked about Mayfield’s growth from last season to this season.
“I think he’s continued to grow. I think his confidence level has become very appropriate and very beneficial for them. His leadership is stepped up. What he’s always been able to do, and now to an ever greater level, is that he has good vision. He’s able to find open receivers. He knows how to go through his progressions. He has a good understanding of defenses. His offensive line’s done a good job of protecting him. He gets an awful lot of time to make some of those decisions,” Snyder said.
Senior linebacker Jayd Kirby talked about what makes Mayfield tough to defend.
“He’s crafty. He can get out of the pocket and do some stuff. He can keep the play alive and make plays. He’s improved on everything he does. He’s got more experience and that definitely helps him out,” Kirby said.
On the other side, Oklahoma’s defense ranks No. 50 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 23.3 points per game. The Sooners also rank No. 49 in total defense, allowing 368 yards per game. They also rank No. 93 in pass defense (241.8 yards per game) and No. 36 in rush defense (126.2 yards per game). Oklahoma has put together some strong defensive performances despite these numbers. Against then No. 2 Ohio State Sept. 9, Oklahoma held the Buckeyes to 16 points. Schoen talked about what he has seen from Oklahoma’s defense.
“They do a good job of hiding their coverages. They mix it up pretty well. They have some decent defensive backs. They’re pretty physical and try to get their hands on you,” Schoen said.
Snyder noted that senior quarterback Jesse Ertz may not start against Oklahoma. That would mean that sophomore quarterback Alex Delton would gain a second-straight start.
“I want to believe that (Ertz) is going to be able to play, but I don’t know that yet,” Snyder said.
Delton talked about his comfort level heading into his potential second start.
“I’m confident in (things going smoother). I think that (TCU) had a great defense. I was prepared last week. I studied my butt off and did a lot of things to be ready for the game. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end. I’m going to do the same this week and prepare hard and be ready to go against the Oklahoma defense,” Delton said.
Delton talked about what a win over the Sooners would mean for his team.
“A win would be huge. We’re expecting a win Saturday. We’re going to do everything we can, preparation-wise, to get any advantage we can on (Oklahoma). They’re a good ball club. We’re going to have to play well to beat them. I’m confident we can do so,” Delton said.