AUSTIN (KXAN) — As if Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn wasn’t enough for opposing teams to prepare for, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said his team is preparing for two completely different quarterback styles for Saturday’s game.
The Wildcats’ wide-ranging offense is one of the reasons they climbed to No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25, and backup quarterback Will Howard had a redeeming performance in last week’s 48-0 rout of Oklahoma State.
With the status of Wildcats quarterback Adrian Martinez unknown, Sarkisian said Monday he’s preparing for both Martinez’s mobility and Howard’s vertical passing ability because “he has to.”
“The style of player that Adrian Martinez is, the way he plays quarterback is a real factor in the success they’ve had with him,” Sarkisian said. “Howard has the ability to throw the ball and push it downfield. We are happy that we have two weeks to prepare and whoever plays, they are both good. We have to be ready for both.”
Martinez, who transferred from Nebraska at the end of the season, was a late scratch in the Oklahoma State game with an injury, paving the way for Howard to win back some fans in a big-play fashion after a few years that perhaps fell short of fan expectations when has played before.
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Howard threw for 296 yards with four touchdowns on 21-of-37 passing in the Wildcats’ win over the Cowboys. With the win, Kansas State slipped to second in the Big 12 standings behind TCU.
Sarkisian knows the program pretty well, despite only coaching in the Big 12 for two seasons. He was recruited by legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder before eventually going to BYU to play quarterback for the Cougars, and after coaching in college after his playing days, he saw the impact Snyder had on the program .
Sarkisian told a short story about his last collegiate game, which was against Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl in 1997. BYU won the game 19-15 and Sarkisian threw a perfect pass to KO Kealaluhi with 3:39 left in the game to lift the Cougars to victory. Sarkisian finished the game 21-for-36 passing for 291 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to rally the Cougars from a 15-5 deficit after three quarters. Sarkisian said Snyder wrote him a note congratulating him on the good game afterward.
“There’s a lot about integrity in the way they go about their business, and I think they’re doing it the right way,” Sarkisian said. “It started with Coach Snyder and obviously Coach [Chris] Klieman has done a great job continuing this process.”
Sarkisian said the bye week was great in terms of what the team needs to do — heal the bumps and bruises and develop depth — and defensive backs Anthony Cook and Ryan Watts are headed in the right direction when it comes to the opportunity to play again. Both left the Longhorns’ previous game with injuries, Cook with a broken hand and Watts aggravating a shoulder injury he suffered against Iowa State.
Sarkisian said it was “a little too early” to make a decision on whether any of the players would play against Kansas State, but everyone who was hit was able to get healthier, he said.
Preparing for two varieties of quarterback plus one of the best running backs in the conference in Vaughan is, to use a seasonally descriptive term, pretty spooky. Vaughn is second in the Big 12 with 902 yards rushing with five touchdowns. He had one of his best games of the season, a 153-yard performance against Oklahoma State last week, and has had success against the Longhorns in the past. Last year, the Cedar Ridge graduate rushed for 143 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown against the Longhorns. In 2020, Vaughn needed just 10 carries to run for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a really versatile back,” Sarkisian said. “They do a good job of being creative with him, moving him around and he has great balance and body control. He can make you miss in tight spaces and keep his balance on the power play. You definitely have to be aware of where he is at all times.”
Texas and Kansas State kick off at 6:00 pm CT on Saturday from Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. The game will be televised on FS1, Fox Sports’ cable network.