Containing the array of talented Big 12 quarterbacks has been a mixed bag this season for Kansas State's defense.
The good news for the Wildcats is they seem to be trending in the right direction.
That said, they'll have their hands full again Saturday, when they face one of the league's best in Texas junior Sam Ehlinger. Kickoff for the game, which will be televised on ESPN, is 2:30 p.m. at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.
No. 20 K-State is 6-2 overall, 3-2 in the Big 12 and riding a three-game winning streak. Texas (5-3, 3-2) is coming off a bye last Saturday after a narrow escape against Kansas and a 37-27 loss two weeks ago to TCU.
But Ehlinger has been solid throughout, though he did throw four interceptions in the TCU game.
"It's definitely going to be a test," K-State defensive end Wyatt Hubert said. "Sam Ehlinger is a great quarterback with a pretty experienced offensive line and really skilled receivers and running backs.
"(But) it's something we've seen in the past with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and the weapons that they have on offense. It's not something we haven't seen already before and I think we're going to prepare for it the same way we prepare for any team."
Like Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders and more recently Oklahoma Heisman Trophy candidate Jalen Hurts, Ehlinger poses a dual threat. Though he's not quite as likely to run the ball as those two, he is averaging 45 yards a game on the ground.
"(He's) probably (most) similar to Jalen (Hurts)," K-State coach Chris Klieman said of Ehlinger. "The designed runs, they're just different schemes, but the fact that he can beat you running the football and he can beat you throwing the football.
"I think he's a terrific football player."
Hurts certainly gave K-State some trouble in its 48-41 conquest of Oklahoma, passing for 395 yards and running for 96, but the Wildcats sacked him twice and did not give up a run of longer than 15 yards. They also shut out the Sooners in the third quarter on the way to a 41-23 lead.
"Defending a quarterback like that definitely takes a lot of reps and a lot of experience and a lot of games," Hubert said. "You have to obviously know your film and know your keys — know the difference between pass and run sets, stuff like that.
"Once you see it a few times you kind of get the hang of it later on in the season, so that's where we're at."
Last week the Wildcats shut down Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley, who had been on a recent tear, limiting him to 115 passing yards and sacking him four times. Stanley was not the moving target that Sanders, Jalen Hurts or TCU's Max Duggan presented, but Ehlinger will be more difficult to corral.
"I love to see somebody who'll just sit in the pocket and throw the ball," senior defensive end Reggie Walker said. "That's a D-end's dream. But not in the Big 12.
"I played against Sam before, so we know what he's going to do and stuff like that — what he likes and not likes — so it's always a good advantage to know stuff like that against an opponent."
Senior defensive tackle Trey Dishon said the Wildcats will focus on the Longhorns' balanced rushing attack first. Keaontay Ingram leads the team with 494 yards, followed by freshman Roschon Johnson with 418 and Ehlinger with 361.
"Once you stop the run, you can really get after the passer and get in some coverages that you like for our defense," said Dishon, whose three sacks trail only Hubert's four for the team lead. "The one thing that we are going to be focused on is the third-and-long, like third-and-8 situations or more.
"We don't want Sam beating us on his feet, so I think that's going to be a big key for our defense on third down, is we have to handle the scramble. I remember two years ago when we went down there, he beat us with his feet on third-and-long."
Ehlinger ran for 107 yards and threw for 380 in Texas' 40-34 victory two years ago in Austin.
"Texas definitely runs a lot of RPO (run-pass option) play-action passes, so that's definitely more challenging for a defense to put pressure on the quarterback, playing from a run stance rather than a pass stance," Hubert said. "But as long as everyone's rushing, doing their job, I think we can get pressure on him."
Getting to Ehlinger may take on added importance for K-State this week with starting cornerback AJ Parker sidelined with a high-ankle fracture. The Longhorns also have one of the league's top receivers in Devin Duvernay, who has 69 catches for 800 yards and seven touchdowns.
But Hubert expressed confidence in senior backup Kevion McGee, who started much of last year and has seen extensive playing time this season.
"Kevion McGee was a starter last year and he's been in every single situation that AJ's been in, so I'm definitely confident that he's going to have a good game Saturday," Hubert said. "Our defense, with all the blitzes and stunts we do, puts the corners on an island a lot with the wide receivers.
"Kevion McGee is probably the best corner on the team when it comes to man-to-man coverage."
KANSAS STATE AT TEXAS
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Records: Kansas State 6-2 (3-2); Texas 5-3 (3-2)
TV/Radio: ESPN/KSAL-AM (1150)
Line: Texas by 7
Up next: West Virginia at K-State, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 16