LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — For Texas Tech, a visit from Kansas State is about keeping bowl hopes alive in the first season under coach Matt Wells.
For the Wildcats, the meeting on Saturday is about postseason positioning now that any chance to reach the Big 12 championship game is gone in the debut year for coach Chris Klieman.
Kansas State’s long-shot hopes to play for the conference title ended with a loss to West Virginia last week, the second consecutive defeat following a three-game winning streak that included No. 8 Oklahoma’s only loss.
“That’s ebbs and flows of your first year,” Klieman said. “We’re going to go through some really positive things, and we’re going to have some hard times. That’s the challenge of being able to right the ship and being able to stay positive.”
The Wildcats (6-4, 3-4 Big 12) are bowl eligible but can boost the profile of their postseason appearance with closing victories against the Red Raiders (4-6, 2-5) and Iowa State. Texas Tech has to win both of its remaining games, with a visit to Texas coming next week.
“We win out, we get that bowl game, and we’re pretty much looking at that as our championship game this year, especially for the seniors,” said defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr., one of the 16 seniors playing his final home game. “We’re only guaranteed two more games, and after that we’re not really sure what’s going to happen.”
The Red Raiders are coming off a 33-31 loss to TCU when they fell behind 24-3 before taking one-point leads in the third and fourth quarters. Jett Duffey, now settled in as the starting quarterback with Alan Bowman deciding to redshirt coming off a shoulder injury, had his fourth 300-yard game of the season.
Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson, a dual threat in a mold similar to Duffey, is on the verge of becoming the school’s fourth quarterback with at least 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing for his career.
“We’re not an explosive offensive group,” Klieman said. “Now, we can be. We've shown that in games. But once again, the consistency factor has to come through for us. We need to find more explosive plays. That’s the challenge this week.”
Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks, among the national leaders in tackles, will be a game-time decision after leaving the TCU game with an injury. Defensive back Douglas Coleman III leads the country with eight interceptions and is tied for second on Texas Tech’s career single-season list.
K-STATE RUNNING BACKS
Joe Ervin was suspended last week for a violation of team rules, and the Wildcats have to decide to play him or possibly use a redshirt year since he has played four games. James Gilbert, who is 10th among active players with 3,424 career yards rushing and eighth with 36 touchdowns, missed practice early in the week with an injury.
WILDCATS IN CONTROL
Kansas State leads the series 10-9 thanks to seven wins in the past eight meetings. That included a 42-35 win in Lubbock two years ago when the Wildcats erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Thompson, then a freshman, ran for a touchdown before a tying 2-point conversion and threw what ended up being the winning TD pass in overtime.
“That was probably one of my favorite memories at K-State, even though it was one of my first ones,” Thompson said.
It’s the first Big 12 night game for Texas Tech under Wells. ... The Wildcats have allowed the fewest third-down conversions in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 29. They were the last team in the country to give up a fourth-down conversion, two weeks ago against Texas. ... The Red Raiders finished the 2015 regular season with victories over Kansas State and Texas. ... Klieman needs one victory to tie for the most by a first-year coach at Kansas State.