September 30, 2014

After splitting two straight non-conference contests, Kansas State feels it's prepared to resume Big 12 play.

The No. 23 Wildcats try for a fourth consecutive victory over a visiting Texas Tech squad that could be without its talented quarterback Saturday night.

Nine days after falling 20-14 to fifth-ranked Auburn at home, Kansas State (3-1, 1-0) had little trouble bouncing back in a 58-28 rout of UTEP last Saturday.

"That was really important to get (Auburn) behind us and come out strong to help us prepare for conference play," said Jake Waters, who went 10 of 15 for 209 yards with a touchdown and also ran for a score.

Though UTEP hardly challenged the Wildcats, who scored the first 45 points, a decisive victory was something they believed showed their true character.

"Our confidence level is pretty high," defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "If you prepare well you should be confident."

The Wildcats' defense should feel confident while sitting tied for ninth in the FBS allowing an average of 2.7 yards per carry. The Wildcats yielded 128 rushing yards to Auburn - 132.5 below the Tigers' season average - then 59 versus UTEP, which totaled one first down and 23 yards of offense in the first half.

Though Kansas State has given up eight passing touchdowns and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 61.8 percent of their passes, it could catch a break if Texas Tech's Davis Webb is unable to play.

Webb, the Big 12 leader with 14 TD passes, injured his non-throwing shoulder in last Thursday's 45-35 loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State. Considered a game-time decision, the sophomore is second in the conference with 1,356 yards and has been sacked once.

"Just (have to) make sure he can protect himself, really, and operate at a level we need him to operate," Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "But more than anything, that he can handle taking a hit and protect himself."

Freshman Patrick Mahomes, who threw a touchdown and an interception while being sacked twice in his collegiate debut last week, likely would start in Webb's place.

Though the Wildcats have outscored Texas Tech 145-84 during their three-game winning streak, star senior Tyler Lockett has 14 receptions for 136 yards and no receiving touchdowns in those contests. However, he did take a kickoff back 100 yards for a score in a 41-34 victory over the Red Raiders in 2011.

Lockett, who scored on a 58-yard punt return last week, made four catches for 84 yards against the Miners to pass his uncle Aaron for third on the school's all-time receiving list with 2,469 yards. He's now in pursuit of Green Bay's Jordy Nelson (2,822) and his father Kevin (3,032).

''It's a great achievement, a great accomplishment, but I just look at it like that's an individual thing I can look back on at the end of the season,'' said Lockett, who has 17 receptions for 274 yards and a TD this season. "Right now, I just want to help us win every game we can.''

Kansas State recorded a season-high 263 yards through the air last weekend and could be in for another big game against a Texas Tech defense that gave up 370 to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders (2-2, 0-1) yielded 405 passing yards in their first three contests.

Waters, who threw for 239 yards and rushed for 138 in the Wildcats' 32-28 league-opening victory at Iowa State on Sept. 6, threw a touchdown and ran for two against the Red Raiders in 2013.

The senior has rushed for five TDs while throwing three with three interceptions this year.

"I think the quarterback is playing at a much higher level, and Lockett is one of the best players in the country, so (there are a) lot of things to worry about," said Kingsbury, whose team has a minus-5 turnover ratio and leads the Big 12 with 46 penalties.

"First and foremost, we have to worry about ourselves."

Texas Tech receiver Bradley Marquez leads the Big 12 with six TDs while teammate Jakeem Grant is second with 32 receptions.

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