MANHATTAN — After a dominating 2-0 start, the No. 18 K-State football team will face its first true test of the 2017 season. K-State will travel to Nashville, Tenn. Saturday to face off against the Vanderbilt Commodores, which also holds a 2-0 record and received two top-25 votes in the latest AP Top 25 poll.
In his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, K-State head coach Bill Snyder talked about some of the challenges of facing an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school like Vanderbilt.
“What I know about (the SEC), and from what I’ve seen firsthand, the teams that seem to surface to the top are very well-coached. They’re very sound in what they do. They are a group of teams that play very physical football. They’re just sound in what they do. They’ll line up and run at you like a lot of people. They have some of the same schemes (as other teams), they just seem to do it better with a lot of good people,” Snyder said.
One of the main players on Vanderbilt that K-State will have to defend against is junior quarterback Kyle Shurmur. So far this season, Shurmur is completing 76 percent of his passes and has thrown for 498 yards and seven touchdowns through two games. Snyder talked about what he has seen from Shurmur so far this season.
“(Shurmur) is a young guy that really plays within himself quite well. He can be accurate. He is accurate. He can put the ball where it needs to go. He takes what you give him. He’s pretty good about that. That’s a real significant trait for a quarterback. It only comes from experience. He certainly has that,” Snyder said.
Senior safety Brogan Barry talked about the challenge of defending Shurmur Saturday.
“I haven’t watched too much film yet, but I know he’s definitely a guy who, if he’s throwing that high of a (completion) percentage, is making good decisions. We’re going to have to be in the right place at the right time. If he’s making good decisions, we’re going to have to make better plays,” Barry said.
In addition to having a strong quarterback, Vanderbilt also boasts one of the best defenses in college football, allowing only 66.5 rushing yards per game, 105 passing yards per game, 172 yards of total offense per game, and only allow opponents to convert 12 percent of third downs.
Sophomore center Adam Holtorf talked about how his team, which is coming off a performance against Charlotte where it rushed for 315 yards and five touchdowns, can establish a running game against Vanderbilt’s defense.
“They’re a physical front-seven. We’ve just got to make sure we take our time and do our due diligence in practice preparing for the different looks they’re going to give us. We have to make sure that we come off the ball and we’re physical at the point of attack and really work to finish blocks this week,” Holtorf said.
Sophomore wide receiver Dalton Schoen talked about how his team can convert on third down.
“We’re going to have to win against man coverage. From our breakdown, we know that they run a lot of man (coverage) in general, especially on third down. I think it just comes down to winning against man coverage. I think, also, if we can do good on first and second down and put ourselves in good spots and not get into third-and-long situations, that’s definitely going to help us stay on the field and keep the ball moving,” Schoen said.
Vanderbilt also ranks No. 1 in the country in red zone defense. Junior tight end Dayton Valentine talked about how his team can convert scoring opportunities in the red zone.
“I think, for us, it’s just a matter of not making mistakes and just being able to execute. I think we were pretty good last week (in the red zone), but we had a penalty that brought us back and we ended up having to kick a field goal. I think we need to just go out there, execute and be sharp and not make any mistakes like we did last week. If we do that, it’ll take care of itself and we’ll be able to execute in the red zone,” Valentine said.
K-State and Vanderbilt will kick off at 6:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU.