MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker was still wiping away the sweat dripping from his brow in the minutes after a thorough dismantling of Massachusetts when his focus shifted to Texas.
The Wildcats knocked off the Longhorns in their regular-season finale last year to wrap up the Big 12 title, and now open defense of it with a return trip to Austin on Saturday night.
“To go down to Texas and make a big win happen, that’s big,” Walker said. “That really kicks off our season no matter where we are in our schedule.”
Where the Wildcats are in their schedule is three games deep into a roller-coaster ride.
They opened with a disheartening defeat to lower-division North Dakota State, bounced back with a lackluster performance against Louisiana-Lafayette, and then dazzled at times — and still looked baffling at others — in a 37-7 victory over the Minutemen on Saturday night.
The Wildcats trailed UMass early on before a 21-point second-quarter binge put the game on cruise control. Still, there were enough questions in the run defense, the passing attack and at quarterback, where Daniel Sams and Jake Waters continue to share reps, to make coach Bill Snyder a bit queasy about heading to Austin and getting into the meat of the schedule.
“We have to get a lot better real quick,” he said. “Real quick.”
Then again, maybe not.
As much trouble as Kansas State (2-1) has had early in the season, the Longhorns (1-2) have had even more issues. They were run over by BYU a couple weeks ago, shook up their defensive staff this week and then were walloped 44-23 by Ole Miss on Saturday night.
“I understand they’re going through some difficult times, but don’t dare underestimate Texas,” Snyder warned. “They’ll be a handful for anybody. They’ve got good people.”