Texas Football: 5 Things Texas Must Do to Stop Collin Klein
The No. 18 Texas Longhorns (8-3, 5-3) are in a position to make a final, positive statement in a regular season that has been mired by shortcomings and injuries.
When they travel to Manhattan, Kan. on Saturday to tangle with No. 6 Kansas State (10-1, 7-1), the Horns will look to execute a game plan to control the efforts of KSU's dynamic senior quarterback, Collin Klein, who has provided much of the inspiration in its offense.
Baylor forced Klein to throw the ball 50 times in its upset win over the Wildcats two weekends ago, a number that smashed Klein's season-high of 29.
While turning Klein into a pocket passer is one way to control the KSU offense, it requires a disciplined effort from the entire defensive unit to really keep him under wraps.
With the Heisman candidate a huge focal point, here are five things that will help the Longhorns defense limit his production.
Alex Okafor Has to Play and Play Well
Hobbled by an ankle injury suffered against TCU on Thanksgiving, DE Alex Okafor is listed as questionable for Saturday's game against Kansas State.
Texas lost its other starting defensive end earlier this season when Jackson Jeffcoat underwent surgery to repair a torn pectoral, and to lose the All-American Okafor would be a huge blow in what might be Texas' biggest game of the season.
If he does play, Okafor will have to put in a huge night as one of the anchors to the Texas defense.
Okafor is fourth on the team in tackles with 61 and leads the team with 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks. His 18 quarterback hits is double that of sophomore Cedric Reed's nine.
The Longhorns lost some of their bite when Jeffcoat went out, and if Okafor cannot go, the defense will have to overcome an even bigger challenge.
Pressure is always the start of good things defensively, and the Texas defensive line has been inconsistent in generating it when and where it has mattered.
Whether by injury, effort or execution, the Longhorns have been gashed on the ground on several occasions this season, and it can be expected that Kansas State will gladly test Texas' run defense.
Allowing Klein to execute his offense at his leisure means he is in control, and getting into the backfield can easily disrupt the his rhythm in comfort in the pocket, rendering him much more vulnerable.
Generate Negative Plays
Pressure alone may not be enough to stifle the Heisman-contending quarterback and Kansas State's physical offense.
When and if the Longhorns do generate that traffic in the backfield, they have to finish with tackles for loss.
Having been mostly inconsistent in those creating those negative plays, Texas has to find ways to disrupt Kansas State's rhythm and cash in at the same time.
But in the most critical situations, when Texas has a chance to put Klein on the ground, the Longhorns have to follow through with power and tenacity.
Klein has proven to be a reliable passer at times, but when he has to consistently deliver balls on time and with accuracy, he has been far less effective.
Exhibit A comes against Baylor when he completed 27 of 50 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Forced to open things up to play catch-up in that 52-24 loss, Klein showed a lack of touch at times.
The Wildcats are likely to test Texas' run defense, as it should, but if the Longhorns get the required stops and force Kansas State to go vertical, Texas has to back it up with solid and opportunistic coverage at the second and third levels.
Run the Ball
In the Big 12, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
The Longhorns have a very potent running game that has been productive in bunches, but as it goes, so does the success of the Texas offense.
With a variety of looks that can control the tempo of the game, Texas would do well in leaving Klein on the sidelines while it eats the clock.
More offensive snaps for Texas ideally would means less for Klein and Kansas State.