Alex Delton was thrust into a difficult situation last weekend at Texas, taking over for injured Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz in a nip-and-tuck game on the road against Texas.
His first career start won't be a whole lot easier.
Delton is expected to be under center on Saturday when the Wildcats welcome sixth-ranked TCU and its stingy defense to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Horned Frogs allowed one touchdown in their first two games, and held in check powerful Oklahoma State and West Virginia offenses the past two weeks.
"Last week, we anticipated me possibly going in the game, but you never really know. Jesse was playing well" Delton said. "I feel that I was ready. When I got in there, I had some nerves going, but after the first snap I felt fine and was ready to execute our game plan."
Delton gave the offense a different look, running for 79 yards and two touchdowns while earning comparisons to former Kansas State star Ell Roberson. But the question surrounding Delton have concerned his throwing ability, something that might not be exposed in a half but would be over an entire game.
He was 2 of 5 for 30 yards against the Longhorns.
"Alex has a strong arm. He is an athlete. He throws the ball well," Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. "As for anybody at that position, he wouldn't be there if he couldn't throw the ball. I think the important thing is to manage the process and go through the progressions and make the right decisions about where to go with the ball."
Tough against Texas. Even tougher against TCU.
The Horned Frogs (5-0, 2-0) not only have the Big 12's top scoring defense, one notch above the Wildcats (3-2, 1-1), but also the league's top run defense. They are allowing just 104 yards per game, which means their strength will square off against Kansas State's strength on Saturday.
"You know they're going to come at you," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Like any ball game in the Big 12, and I keep saying this, when you have to play everybody every year, it's tough, because at some point in time, you run out of new ideas, some of them, and then you've just got to beat them.
"He's one of those groups," Patterson said of his counterpart. "They keep coming at you."
The Wildcats rolled to a 30-6 victory over the Horned Frogs to cap last season, though both teams are in far different places. Kansas State was riding a three-game win streak while the Horned Frogs, unable to stop Ertz on the ground, were scuffling toward a 6-6 finish.
Patterson was born in Kansas and played for the Wildcats after a stint at junior college, and he was the popular pick to replace Snyder during his first retirement. Time has sapped their annual meeting of sentimentality, but Patterson still has a soft spot for the school. "The younger generation, they don't know me," he said. "I still get e-mails and texts from my generation of people that are proud of everything that's going on."
The Horned Frogs already beat Arkansas along with the Cowboys and Mountaineers, three of the five teams that beat them in the regular season a year. Kansas State is next on their revenge tour before it finishes with Oklahoma on Nov. 11. "We know we've got to start off fast," TCU quarterback Kenny Hill said. "If not, they can hold the ball for a while and it really takes you out of your rhythm."
Snyder said every game in his world is against a top-10 opponent, but he understands that his players see things different. TCU has a number in front of its name and that brings an added bit of intensity. "We are all pumped," Kansas State defensive end Kyle Ball said. "It's nice coming back home for that game. They are a great team this year and this is going to be a big challenge."
Kansas State allowed Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger to throw for 380 yards and two touchdowns while running for 107 more yards. That was a big chunk of the 546 yards that the Wildcats allowed last week. "We left a lot on the table defensively," Snyder said. "We didn't do what we needed."