September 9, 2008

Valentine hopes to boost running game

Kansas State junior Keithen Valentine celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday. But after already celebrating two decisive wins, the starting running back didn't much care about blowing anything else out. Instead, the junior college transfer retreated to watch Louisville game film, probably in hopes that his quickness and running ability on the field might contribute to a belated birthday wish on national television when the Wildcats visit Papa John's Stadium next Wednesday night.

Not much could top the elation Valentine felt when he sailed into the end zone from four yards out on the first carry of his career in a K-State uniform against North Texas on Aug. 30. But leaving Louisville with a victory would likely fit the bill as the Wildcats hope to take an important step in their biggest non-conference test of this early season.

"It's going to be exciting with everybody watching," Valentine said. "Playing on ESPN is a big opportunity and a big privilege. It's a big game and a big atmosphere. (With a win) we'll be able to show we're a good team and that we can beat tough teams on the road. It'll be exciting but I'm going to be ready for it."

The Wildcats, 2-0, hope their running game, which has been relatively quiet in averaging 171.0 yards (48th nationally and sixth in the Big 12), will be ready to face the Cardinals' staunch run defense, which enters the week ranked No. 7 nationally and has allowed just 96 total rushing yards and one touchdown in their first two games. Louisville, 1-1, allows an average of 1.7 yards per carry.

More precise, K-State coach Ron Prince seeks more chemistry and consistency from his trio of inexperienced running backs and a veteran offensive line as the running attack looks to better complement a vaunted aerial attack commanded by Big 12 passing-efficiency leader Josh Freeman.

"Once again, I don't want to come off sounding so sour and negative here, but the truth is we just need to have a more consistent performance up front so that the running backs can get the yards that are out there," Prince said. "At the position, we need to be able to finish each play and get all of the yards that are there to be gotten. That's experience. Some of that is chemistry and timing and we're going to continue working on that. But those are two areas we need to do a good job at."

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