October 20, 2006

Defense will need to keep Cats in game

Kansas State has two big problems going into its game with the Missouri Tigers: How the Wildcats match up with the Tigers' offense, and how the Wildcats match up with the Tigers' defense. Ouch.

Offensively, the Tigers operate a spread attack that is effective both running and throwing the ball, but it's the "Chase" combination of sophomore quarterback Chase Daniel throwing to sophomore tight end Chase Coffman that most worries K-State coach Ron Prince.

"They have a number of excellent running backs and receivers, not to slight them, but with this quarterback and this tight end it make for a very interesting matchup and one that we'll have to be very well-prepared for," Prince said.

On the other side of the ball, the Tigers rank second in the Big 12 in scoring defense (13.7 per game) and second in overall defense (276.1 yards per game.)

"This will be one of the first times where we've gone into a game anywhere in a while where defensively in statistics the opposing defense is ranked above where we are and it's for good reason," Prince said. "They're a good defensive unit. They're excellent in their pursuit. I like the way the team is put together."

It's easy to see why the Wildcats' chances of not only winning Saturday in Columbia, but extending the program's current 13-game winning streak over Missouri, seem slim. This is a tough matchup for a K-State team still trying to find its identity under a first-year coaching staff.

K-State is 4-3 on the season and 1-2 in Big 12 play, but this will only be the Wildcats' second road game of the season. K-State lost at Baylor 17-3 in its Big 12 opener.

"We're excited for the opportunity to go on the road and compete in the conference and getting a first conference road win would do us a lot of good," Prince said. "We expect to play well and we've looked at how we're going to have to play this game."

Missouri, meanwhile, is experiencing one of its best seasons in years. The Tigers were a juggernaut that was slowed down last weekend at Texas A&M when the Aggies toppled the 24th-ranked Tigers, 25-19. It was the first loss for Coach Gary Pinkel's team, but Missouri is still 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12.

Maybe the most useless stat of the game is K-State's 13-year winning streak over Missouri. It was a streak engineered by the now-retired Bill Snyder against a collection of Missouri teams few of which could match up with this Missouri team. Keep in mind, though, that some very good K-State teams sometimes struggled to win in Columbia against far weaker MU teams than the one the Cats will face on Saturday.

"I can't do anything about the past, none of us can," Pinkel said. "We can't do anything about that and all we can do is try to play our best football game. So we're going to work hard, obviously they're going to read about it, it's going to be out there, but hopefully we're disciplined enough to focus on what we have control over. And we certainly have control over 2006."

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