Wildcats Continue Homestand Today vs. Marshall

MANHATTAN, Kan - Kansas State continues its season-opening four-game, non-conference homestand today, when the Wildcats renew their rivalry with the Marshall Thundering Herd. Kick off is set for 11:40 a.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will be televised throughout the Big 12 region and most of the nation by Fox Sports Net. Today’s game will also air live across the 31-station K-State Sports Network.

Head coach Ron Prince and the Wildcats enter today’s game with a 2-0 record on the young season following a dominating 45-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic.

K-State is also riding a six game winning streak in non-conference games that dates to the 2004 campaign. Overall, the Wildcats have won three in a row dating to last season and have not lost on Wagner Field since Oct. 29 of last year.

Marshall sits at 1-1 on the year following its 54-31 victory over I-AA Hofstra last week in Huntington, W.Va. The Thundering Herd, who opened the season with a   42-10 loss at preseason No. 6-ranked West Virginia, will be playing their second road game of the year.

Both teams should enter today’s game with a dose of payback in mind. After all, the visitor hasn’t been shy about celebrating at midfield following last-second victories in each of the first two meetings.

Marshall will be out to avenge its last-second loss to the Wildcats in Huntington, W.Va., last season that saw K-State snuff out a potential game-winning drive at the 12-yard line thanks to a Justin McKinney interception of a Jimmy Skinner pass with just three seconds to play.

Across the field, the hometown Wildcats still have 24 players on their roster from the 2003 game that saw Marshall snap Kansas State’s 41-game regular-season non-conference winning streak.

But beyond the drama, today’s game should provide plenty of intrigue for those in attendance.

Both teams have averaged over 30 points per game thus far, with K-State       ranking No. 25 nationally in scoring offense at 34.5 points per game. Marshall (32.0 ppg) owns the NCAA’s No. 13-ranked rushing attack and has averaged an impressive 233.5 yards per game on the ground, which should provide K-State’s No. 28-ranked rushing defense a stiff test.

A LOOK AT THE WILDCATS
Coming off its most dominant performance in nearly a year, K-State will look to maintain its early-season momentum with another strong effort in today’s game.

The Wildcats clicked in all three phases of the game in last week’s 45-0 whitewash of Florida Atlantic. The K-State offense scored on six separate scoring drives, while the Wildcat defense pitched its first shutout at home since 2002 and its first shutout anywhere since blanking Iowa State by the same score in 2003.

The Kansas State special teams also got into the act for the second straight game, as Justin McKinney returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a score and the Cats’ nation-leading third special teams touchdown of the season.

Thomas Clayton provided a boost to the Kansas State ground attack, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts (5.6 ypc) in his 2006 debut. All told, eight Wildcats combined for 221 yards on the ground as K-State topped the 200-yard rushing plateau for the third time in the last four games.

Big plays were a key feature of K-State’s ground attack against Florida Atlantic, with Clayton, Yamon Figurs, Terry Petrie and true freshman Leon Patton all registering runs over 25 yards, including a 38-yard reverse by Figurs and a 32-yard gallop by Petrie that both went for touchdowns.

Through the air, quarterback Dylan Meier was good on 10-of-20 passes with two touchdowns for his first multiple TD game since Oct. 9, 2004, at Kansas. Meier connected with five different receivers on the night, with the scoring strikes going to Jermaine Moreira from 21 yards out and to Daniel Gonzalez from 14.

A total of 31 players recorded defensive statistics as a host of Wildcats helped contribute to the shutout victory.

Butkus Award candidate Brandon Archer was his usual steady self, collecting six total tackles in limited playing time. But it was veteran Maurice Mack who ended up leading the way as he totaled a team-high seven total stops off the bench.

K-State fans also received a glimpse of the future in the secondary as true freshman cornerback Joshua Moore was impressive in his most extensive action to date, logging six tackles, including a pair behind the line of scrimmage.

He wasn’t alone in the Owls’ backfield as K-State seemed to set up camp behind the FAU line of scrimmage. All told, the Wildcats made 12 tackles for losses, including four quarterback sacks.

As a result, Kansas State now leads the nation in tackles for losses with 22. The Wildcat defense also ranks 13th in sacks as K-State made a 20-spot jump in the NCAA’s rushing defense rankings after holding the Owls to just 59 yards on the ground.

SCOUTING THE THUNDERING HERD
Second-year head coach Mark Snyder has the Marshall Thundering Herd living up to their nickname through the first two games of the season as MU has posted some gaudy numbers on the ground in the early going.

Marshall enters the week ranked No. 13 nationally in rushing offense and comes into today’s match-up averaging 233.5 yards per game on the ground.

Junior Ahmad Bradshaw, who was held to just 58 yards on 16 carries by the Wildcats last year in Huntington, has been the work horse thus far for the Herd. Bradshaw has totaled 222 yards on 36 carries (6.3 ypc) through two games with four rushing touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Bernard Morris, who was knocked out of last year’s K-State game on a blitz by free safety Marcus Watts, has also gotten into the act on the ground, netting 188 yards on 22 attempts (8.5 ypc). In the passing game, Morris has been nearly perfect, connecting on 65 percent of his attempts (32-for-49) for 321 yards.

A total of 13 different Marshall players have hauled in receptions this far, led by sophomore Emmanuel Spann. He enters today’s game with 12 receptions (three times any of his teammates) for 110 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, the Thundering Herd hasn’t been quite as impressive. Marshall has allowed 36.5 points per game this season and ranks 109th in the nation in scoring defense. The Herd, which ranks 90th nationally in total defense, gave up nearly 500 yards in its opener at West Virginia before regrouping with a solid effort against Hofstra last week. The Pride did manage to pass for 269 yards through the air but were held to negative five yards rushing. Still, the Herd defense has yielded and average of 36.5 points per game this season (109th nationally).

Marshall has also had trouble holding on to the ball. The Thundering Herd has turned the ball over five times (4 fumbles/1 interception) in two games to rank 106th in the NCAA in turnover margin (-1.50 pg).