September 15, 2017
Dores welcome No. 18 Wildcats for nonconference clash
By Zac Ellis
Previewing Vanderbilt’s matchup with No. 18 Kansas State on Saturday:
History Lesson: Vanderbilt is 1-0 all-time against Kansas State by virtue of a 26-14 win in Nashville in 1984. That was 33 seasons ago, but it was just five seasons prior to Bill Snyder becoming head coach at Kansas State in 1989. This season, the Wildcats are 2-0 following dominant victories over Central Arkansas (55-19) and Charlotte (55-7).
Names to Watch (Kansas State):
QB Jesse Ertz
This offense begins and ends with the senior quarterback. In 2016, the dual-threat Ertz threw for 1,755 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 1,012 yards and 12 other scores. Ertz has carried that momentum into this season, completing 70.3 percent of his passes (26-of-37) with four touchdowns and no picks.
RB Alex Barnes
Barnes finished 2016 second in school history among freshmen with 442 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. He also led the Big 12 in yards-per-carry average (7.89). Now he teams with junior Justin Silmon to form Kansas State’s stout running game. Last week, Barnes reeled off 99 yards on 16 carries (6.2 per carry) and a touchdown in the win over Charlotte.
DE Reggie Walker
Walker was a stud as a freshman in 2016, leading first-year Big 12 players in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (11.5) en route to Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. Walker is a big piece along a defense line that lost fellow end Jordan Willis, a third-round NFL draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals who tied a K-State record with 11.5 sacks as a senior.
Kyle Shurmur’s passing efficiency rating through two games, which ranks first among SEC quarterbacks. The Dores’ junior quarterback has authored a blistering start to the 2017 season, completing 76.1 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Shurmur threw for nine touchdown passes all of last season.
Number of defensive categories in which Vanderbilt ranks in the top 10 nationally. The Commodores rank first in FBS in red-zone defense and third-down defense, second in scoring defense, third in total defense and ninth in rushing defense. Mason’s unit sits just outside the top 10 in pass defense, as well, at No. 11.
Combined points scored by Kansas State in its first two games. The Wildcats have been especially productive in the first two quarters, scoring 76 of their total points before halftime. In 2016, Kansas State was 8-1 in games in which it held a halftime lead.
The Big Question: Which team is for real? Neither Kansas State nor Vanderbilt has faced a Power Five opponent during identical 2-0 starts. Still, the Dores beat Middle Tennessee – an eight-win team a year ago — 28-6 on Sept. 2, one week before the Blue Raiders upended Syracuse on the road. Kansas State, meanwhile, overwhelmed a pair of overmatched opponents in both of its early wins. Saturday’s game is a chance for both teams to cement their worth in respective conference races.
Vanderbilt Needs To: Win the turnover battle. Vanderbilt has yet to commit a turnover this season while notching three takeaways of its own. But Kansas State has caused more havoc, ranking first in FBS with a plus-6 turnover margin through two games. The Wildcats’ defense is opportunistic and will look to stifle Shurmur and company into mistakes.
Did You Know? Kansas State coach Bill Snyder ranks third among active head coaches in career wins with 204. He trails only Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (231) and Alabama’s Nick Saban (207). In two separate stints in the Little Apple, Snyder has spent 25 total years at Kansas State, the most of any active head coach at his current school.
He Said It: “You get what you earn in this defense. You better bring a hard hat and a lunch pail and a cup of coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because we’re going to get to work. So if you miss a cup of coffee and can’t get a sandwich that day, well, that’s on you.” –Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason
Vanderbilt and No. 18 Kansas State kick off on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT at Vanderbilt Stadium. The game is televised on ESPNU.