Tag Archives: Kansas State football

Offseason Update: K-State Football

2 Feb

Basketball is in full swing, but the football news keeps coming. Here is a quick recap in case you have been, well, devoting your attention to basketball.

Contract Work

Bill Snyder is not going anywhere. That was the message when the coach and school inked another five-year deal that will pay the Kansas State football program’s venerable leader $14.75 million in the coming years. For the 2013 season, Snyder will earn at least $2.75 million with the possibility to rake in much, much more.

If the coach had been under the same terms for this season, his take would have included a total of $300,000 in bonuses alone: $100,000 for winning the Big 12 Championship, $100,000 for reaching a BCS bowl and $100,000 for finishing in the BCS Top 10.

When will Snyder have time to spend this money? No one knows, but it would be hard to believe he does not have a plan, and if forced to guess, one would have to imagine that many, many descendants of Snyder will not have to worry about college tuition money.

Coaching Carousel

Kansas State lost two of its youngest coaches – and not coincidentally two of its best recruiters – with the departures of defensive ends coach Joe Bob Clements and wide receivers coach Michael Smith. Both played for the Wildcats, and both had coached at Kansas State for over a decade.

Clements is now the defensive line coach for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Smith will be the wide receivers coach at Arkansas.

Stepping into the defensive ends coaching position for Kansas State is Blake Seiler, who played for the Wildcats from 2004-2006. As another young assistant coach – quite a bit younger, actually, than Clements or Smith – Seiler should be able to relate to recruits. Before he gets to do any coaching, he may need to win over the hearts of those incoming players whose initial contact with the program was through Clements, who is obviously no longer with Kansas State. It will not be long before everyone sees how well Seiler managed in that regard; National Signing Day is Wednesday, Feb. 6.

 

 

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Much for which to be Thankful

22 Nov

On Nov. 13, when the Kansas State men’s basketball team destroyed Alabama-Huntsville by 61 points, the largest margin in Bramlage Coliseum history, Chargers coach Lennie Acuff said something profound.

“It just shows you that everything you do isn’t based on basketball,” he said, “because it goes from one extreme to the other real quick.”

The night before that 87-26 defeat by the Wildcats, Alabama-Huntsville gutted out a 78-75 nail-biter against North Texas that came down to free throws.

The parallel between what happened to the Chargers between Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 and what happened to the Kansas State football team just a few days later is an easy one to draw.

Last Friday, the Wildcats only need to win out, and they have a clear path to the national championship, which would be the first time ever a Kansas State team would play for the BCS title.

By Saturday night, those hopes were all but dashed after the Wildcats were defeated handily by Baylor, a team that entered the game with a losing record and whose only conference victory came against KU.

So much emphasis is placed on sports these days, and central to that is an emphasis on winning. There is nothing wrong with that. Still, it is important to remember that a W-L record is not what truly defines an individual. Not even close.

Deep down, most people understand that, and it is a testament to coach Bill Snyder and the Kansas State football program that when asked about Thanksgiving on Tuesday afternoon, many players seemed to have a very firm grasp of that reality.

Needless to say, no one mentioned the W-L record.

“These guys are my brothers,” said center B.J. Finney, “and the family that we have here is incredible. I am just thankful again to God that we have been blessed with such good health and few injuries. We have kept a really good head on our shoulders, and I am just thankful for that.”

“It has been an incredible experience,” said kicker Anthony Cantele. “The most important thing to me is the friendships that I have made with these guys along the way. We always talk about family, and this is definitely a family atmosphere. That is never exaggerated. I am incredibly thankful. I could not be more blessed to be in the situation that I am and have these kinds of teammates.”

“It has been a great journey,” said linebacker Arthur Brown. “Just the process of growing together with the team has definitely been something that I will take with me and remember for the rest of my life. It has helped mold me as a person, and I think I will continue to grow and develop from here.”

“It is a special group,” said quarterback Collin Klein. “It is a group that has been through a lot through our time here. We have come a long way, and it is a group that we truly care about each other in a pretty special way as brothers would or family members would. We are still having fun, and that is important.”

Big Man on Campus: John Hubert

8 Oct

Not more than a month again, I wrote an article for the Associated Press about how running back John Hubert does so much to get Kansas State down the field but rarely gets to be the one to take the ball into the end zone.

It appears coach Bill Snyder has set out to prove that story incorrect.

Through five games, Hubert now has eight touchdowns, including four on Saturday in the Wildcats’ rout of Kansas.

In 2011, Hubert scored just three times despite racking up 970 yards of offense.

With more than twice as many touchdowns as last year , Hubert is on track to blow away his previous yardage numbers as well. He has already amassed 527 yards on 76 attempts, averaging 105.4 yards per game and 6.9 yards per carry.

Currently, the 5-foot-7 Hubert is among the top 30 running backs in the country in yards, yards per carry and touchdowns.

He does not get nearly as much press as quarterback Collin Klein, but with his running style and his blocking ability, he is definitely an integral part of the Wildcats’ offense.

No. 15 Wildcats upset No. 6 Sooners

23 Sep

Quarterback Collin Klein and the Wildcats outran the Sooners on Saturday night, flourishing yet again in their underdog role.

In the last couple seasons, fast-starting Kansas State teams encountered what some would consider harsh reality checks – a 58-17 defeat by Oklahoma in 2011, a 48-13 whooping by Nebraska in 2010.

This year, it looks like no one is stopping the Wildcats. That idea gained significant credence Saturday night in Norman, where Kansas State won, 24-19, for the first time since 1997.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was 14-0 against ranked teams there going into the game against the 15th-ranked Wildcats.

Now he is 14-1.

Kansas State knocked off the Sooners for the first time since 2003, so this win is clearly one that will stick with the program for years to come. Though the current players only get to enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling for the next 24 hours or so, the longer-term effects of such a victory are not going anywhere.

“It gives us confidence and momentum,” Kansas State running back John Hubert said. “We just want to rest and keep getting better. We are one of those teams that can be in the top five easily, but we like to be underdogs. It gives us confidence to go out and play hard.”

On Saturday the Wildcats’ offense continued its trend of finishing strong, scoring 10 points in the second quarter and 14 points in the fourth. The Kansas State defense held the Sooners to one score per quarter – a field goal in each segment of the first half, a touchdown with the extra point in the third quarter, and a touchdown sans two-point conversion in the fourth.

Flashy plays are what make the highlight reels, but the proper execution of fundamentals ended up being what won the game for the Wildcats – and what lost it for the Sooners.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones fumbled and threw an interception, while backup quarterback Blake Bell also fumbled. Kansas State took advantage of the extra opportunities and offered none to the Sooners in return. By my count, the Wildcats allowed 14 passing plays of 10 yards or more. That number still sounds a bit high, but in fact, that stat is 44 percent lower than what Kansas State gave up to Oklahoma last year – 25 such plays. Also, the Wildcats sacked Jones, forced a fumble by him and intercepted him.

Troubling for the Sooners and confidence-inspiring for the Kansas State is the fact that the Wildcats converted in seven third-down situations. Two of those came during the final drive of the game and were essential in allowing Kansas State to run out the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of the Oklahoma offense.

“It was just one of those things where we were finally able to move the ball in the fourth quarter,” Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein said. “We knew we had to get it; we credit our offensive line for giving us the ability to let us to what we had to do. We were able to execute when we had to execute.”

The Sooners finished with 386 yards of offense, but the Wildcats nearly equally that total with 362. Moreover, Kansas State actually displayed a much more balanced attack than Oklahoma, who relied on passing for over two-thirds of its yardage.

The Wildcats rushed for 213 yards and passed for 149. Hubert went for 130, racking up plenty of those yards after contact that make him so valuable, and Klein added 79. Both found the end zone on the ground. Through the air, Klein completed 13 of 21 passes, spreading the ball around to six different targets.

Kansas State returned to its normal occupation of ball control specialist, retaining possession for 34:37 compared to 25:13 for Oklahoma. The win lifted the Wildcats to 4-0 on the year and 1-0 in Big 12 play. Certainly, it was a heck of a way to kick off the conference portion of the schedule.

For their part, the Sooners seemed stunned.

“It’s kind of uncharacteristic stuff for us there,” Oklahoma offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. “We just put the defense in bad spots. That game, the offense we played, we didn’t play well enough for this team to win the game. You just have to look at it and it’s just kind of some weird stuff that happened. But you just have to move on.”

The Wildcats will have to move on as well, but surely, they will do so a bit reluctantly. Saturday is a night they won’t soon forget.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

5 Sep

Kansas State found itself at a crossroads going into last season’s Miami game, and this season the situation feels similar.

Although the No. 21 Wildcats defeated Missouri State 51-9 in their season opener, the score did not tell the whole story – not even close. At halftime, the ball game that should have been a blowout was tied at 6. Kansas State did not score a touchdown until midway through the third quarter.

That it took the Wildcats so long to get to full throttle did not please coach Bill Snyder. He made it an emphasis throughout the offseason that the team needs to get going faster this season after winning eight games by a just touchdown or less last year. His frustration was evident in a sarcastic statement after the game.

“I said that when I came back, I did not think there would be any generation gap, but I am beginning to believe there is,” Snyder said. “It seems like we are not very good at explaining what we are talking about. I am going to tell the team to have a really slow start next week and see what happens.”

Kansas State started the 2011 season slow as well, just barely scraping by Eastern Kentucky, 10-7. Though they defeated Kent State 37-0 the next week, the Wildcats had given credence to the prediction that they would finish eighth in the Big 12. When they went on the road to Miami, Kansas State had a lot to prove.

The same is true this year.

The Wildcats’ secondary struggled in 2011 to contain the high-octane offenses of the Big 12, and after losing safety Tysyn Hartman and cornerback David Garrett, the unit looked vulnerable again on Saturday night. Missouri State scorched Kansas State for 323 yards through the air. The team averaged just 176.2 passing yards per game last season, but it had nearly that amount by halftime against the Wildcats.

“We did not necessarily start the way we wanted to, but at the end it is bend but do not break,” said cornerback Nigel Malone. “We took that motto from last year against Eastern Kentucky.”

Offensively, Kansas State failed to score touchdowns several times when it got in the red zone. Kicker Anthony Cantele got a significant amount of practice in the first half, going 3-for-3, but obviously field goals are not going to cut it going forward.

“There were critical downs, a couple third downs [receiver] Chris [Harper] and I weren’t able to get on the same page,” said quarterback Collin Klein. “Third and eight … there’s a drive killer. We weren’t able to connect on the touchdown in the first half, there’s another one. I underthrew [receiver Tyler] Lockett on the one post route down the middle, so there’s always those little things that you look back and it’s like, ‘Darn! I wish I could have that one back.'”

Mistakes were made, but the Wildcats are moving on. Their experience against the Bears could help them with more than just getting first-time jitters out of the way. The no-huddle offense Missouri State runs gave Kansas State real-time practice against the sort of offenses they will see all season long. Miami will be another test in that regard, a higher-level one.

It is a valuable opportunity for preparation considering the Wildcats do not have the tools to replicate the speed of such offenses by themselves in practice. In fact, linebacker Arthur Brown said the coaching staff this season has used a new technique to get the Kansas State defense accustomed to the reactionary nature of playing against no-huddle offenses. The defense has to turn its back to the play, and then when the whistle blows, the offense is already set up and the defense has to scramble to get into the correct formation.

Though the high-tempo offense is not something Kansas State has adopted, the system has its advantages.

“It definitely gives the offense more control over the tempo of the game,” Brown said. “It causes us to react and respond to what they do, so we definitely have to prepare and condition throughout our preparation for those types of teams.”

Against the Hurricanes last season, the Wildcats held a 28-24 lead going into the final minutes of the game. Miami had first and goal at the 2-yard line. Kansas State kept the Hurricanes out of the end zone four straight times, recording a valiant goal line stand that Brown called the defining moment of the season.

This Saturday will mark the first time ever that Miami has visited Manhattan, and the Wildcats hope it will be another one to remember.

Getting Defensive: An Introduction to New Coordinator Tom Hayes

8 Aug

Tom Hayes will still coach defensive backs this season, but now he has the added responsibility of coordinating the entire defense. (Photo from K-State Sports Information.)

After last season’s defensive coordinator Chris Cosh took a job offer from South Florida, Kansas State found a replacement from within. Tom Hayes joined the staff in 2011 as the secondary coach, and this season he takes the reigns of the defense as a whole.

While some coordinators like the bird’s-eye view of the press box, Hayes always worked from the sidelines, and he plans to do the same this season for the Wildcats. At the Kansas State football media day on August 3, Hayes attributed this preference to two reasons.

“One, I coach the secondary as well as coordinate defense,” Hayes said. “If something bad’s going to happen to the defense, we’re going to get beat the fastest with that group I coach, so I’ve got to fix the problem right away on the sideline. The other thing I want to be able to do is look in the eyes of our defensive team every time they come off the field and make sure they’ve got the right approach, the right attitude, the right adjustments, all those things. Those are necessary because every series we’ve got to fix something, and I’ve got to make sure that they’re down there doing that and they’re into it.”

Though Kansas State’s pass defense was sometimes identified as a weakness last year, especially against the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12, the secondary over which Hayes presided in 2011 included such successful players as Walter Camp All-American Nigel Malone and All-Big 12 selections David Garrett, Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman. The defense as a whole ranked fifth in the Big 12 and second in interceptions.

“The biggest difference [this year] is I am responsible for a lot more organizational things as well as the oversight of the staff and players, but I have had several of these jobs, so this is nothing new to me,” Hayes said.

Hayes has been coaching for several decades, and as a former coordinator at both Oklahoma and Kansas, where he was also an interim head coach for several games, Hayes is no stranger to head coach Bill Snyder.

“We have played against Tom on previous occasions,” Snyder said. “He has a plethora of experience as a coordinator … He has had the experience on an ongoing basis, which I think is significant, and he certainly demands a respect from his players because of his knowledge of defensive football and of football in general.”

In addition to his time at Oklahoma and Kansas, Hayes has also been the defensive coordinator at Stanford and UCLA. He also has NFL coaching experience, including five years coaching the defensive backs of the Washington Redskins in the 1990s and two years coaching the defensive backs of the New Orleans Saints in 2006 and 2007. While Snyder said the NFL experience is not the most significant part of Hayes’ resume to him because NFL football is different from college football, he said it definitely contributes to his overall prowess as a football coach.

With so many years of coaching under his belt, Hayes said he has learned from many other coaches, and that will help him this season.

“You just have to hope that all of those experiences will guide you through the current position you’re in, and they should,” Hayes said. “I’ve been at a lot of Division I institutions and a few NFL teams. I have had the chance to be around great coaches and great players, and as a result I have learned a lot of football by being around them. I am looking forward to the challenge and I can’t wait to get going.”

On the Offensive: Slow and Steady

13 Oct

Photo by J Pat Carter / AP

Kansas State faces a variety of foes with fast attacks. Baylor, Missouri, and – on Saturday – Texas Tech are just a few fellow Big 12 teams who place a high priority on hurrying. Their efficiency in getting to the line of scrimmage, calling the play and snapping the ball can put defenses on their heels. While this style may work for some teams – although apparently not against the Wildcats – Kansas State employs a slightly different modus operandi.

The Wildcats regroup behind the line of scrimmage, strategize, converse, compare notes. Smaller numbers continue to replace larger ones on the play clock. The players break from the huddle and get set. Quarterback Collin Klein and others look at their coaches on the sideline. The crowd begins to count. “Five! Four! Three! Two!” Center B.J. Finney snaps the ball.

That sort of routine is why the Wildcats lead the Big 12 and the nation in time of position, on average holding the ball for nearly 36 minutes per game. Keeping the other team’s offense off the field is certainly a priority, but Kansas State has also been careful to actually make use of that time.

“The time of possession doesn’t mean anything if we’re not getting points,” wide receiver Chris Harper said. “We had opportunities last game where we should have put more points on the board and we didn’t. We’ve got to improve on that.”

As far as the slower-moving strategy, Harper has bought in.

“I think it’s to our benefit because we get that much more time in the huddle, more time to regroup and things like that,” Harper said. “You can go harder on the next play. There’s benefits to it. Obviously you don’t get as many plays, but I think you get more quality plays.”

Besides that, resisting the urge to turn the game into the foot race shows a certain obstinate attitude, and it fits the Wildcats well.

“When we chew up the clock, it means we’re controlling the game, that we’re trying to do what we want to do instead of play at their game pace,” Finney said. “So to be able to do that is a huge advantage in our favor, obviously.”

Those steamy summer two-a-days and weight room sessions pay off when the Kansas State offense is on the field for drives that last five minutes or more. They also give the Wildcats an advantage in the fourth quarter, when the team must stifle the comeback attempts of its opponent or launch a final rally of its own.

“I firmly believe that our conditioning has helped us win the games, especially on offense,” Finney said. “When we have those five minute drives like we had this past game, being conditioned helps you execute a lot better, takes fatigue off of your mind, and helps you get your wind back in between plays. Being in shape is a huge factor going into late quarters.”

At 5-0, the Wildcats are in better shape than most imagined they would be. Pervasive skepticism before wins over Miami, Baylor and Missouri has dwindled some, but Kansas State is still the underdog going into Lubbock this weekend. The players, however, seem a little tired of addressing what they can’t control – like the perception of whether Kansas State is a legitimate threat for the Big 12 title and possibly more.

“That’s in the eyes of the media and the nation,” Finney said. “In our eyes, we are a legitimate team and shouldn’t be taken lightly because we are 5-0. We come in every day and improve, and we just take that work ethic with us and the discipline to do everything right.”

So far, that’s looking like a good strategy.

 

How the Wildcats Beat the Bears

3 Oct

The consensus among the Baylor Bears after losing 36-35 to Kansas State on Saturday night was that the Wildcats did not beat them as much as they beat themselves. That’s a common refrain among teams. It’s not necessarily an inaccurate one, depending on the situation, but this time I disagree with the assessment.

Give credit where credit is due: Kansas State – and its defense in particular – bent but did not break and consequently defeated Baylor.

Going into the matchup, junior quarterback and early Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III had 13 touchdowns and 12 incompletions. His offensive line had allowed only three sacks over the course of three games. He throws 30- and 40-yard passes as effortlessly and accurately as if they were little dinks to the sideline. Throughout his career, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is nearly 5:1 – 59 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and he holds 42 records at Baylor. This season in particular, his numbers just boggle the mind.

Yet the Wildcats sacked Griffin five times and hurried him into eight incompletions and an interception. He still passed for 346 yards and five touchdowns, so if this were any other quarterback, the conversation would be what a fantastic game he had. It was a great performance, but it wasn’t enough.

In my opinion, that’s much more of a reflection on Kansas State than it is on Griffin.

The Wildcats got past the Bears’ hulking veteran offensive line and snuffed Griffin out time and time again. They pressured on him, and while he still completed the vast majority of his passes, he looked a bit rattled. At one point he fumbled without being touched by anyone.

Even though he torched the secondary for four touchdown passes of more than 30 yards each, he and Baylor as a whole could not cash in on their longest possession of the game, when they spent almost twice their usual drive time (about four minutes) getting down the field only to miss a field goal.

For the final piece of evidence that 1) the Wildcats contained the Bears and 2) the Kansas State defense is a whole different animal from last season, consider this. Last year, Baylor hung a school-record 638 yards of offense on the Wildcats. In this year’s game, they only amassed 429.

For some reason, no one wants to admit that this Kansas State defense has some serious heart and even some pretty impressive talent. People were skeptical as the team went to Miami, as the team returned to face Baylor, and some are questioning even now, with Missouri coming in this weekend. I’m not sure what will convince everyone that this is a good defense … except, of course, one more win.

But really, that’s okay, because that’s all coach Bill Snyder wants his team thinking about anyway.

For more conversation about Kansas State and Baylor, check out my appearance on the Pulse Network with Tyler Pyburn.

Numbers to Know about Baylor

1 Oct

Griffin runs for a 58-yard touchdown past Washington State's Mike Graise in 2008, in Waco, Texas. What's scary is that Griffin is so much better now than he was then. (AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald, Jerry Larson)

Mention of the last game between Kansas State and No. 15 Baylor likely makes Wildcat fans cringe and Bears fans fondly reminisce. Baylor hung a school-record 638 yards on Kansas State that day, giving Waco a 47-42 happy ending to Homecoming Week. A little less than a year later, the Bears still terrorize defenses. When they come to Manhattan on Saturday, however, the defense across the field (currently ranked No. 6 in the nation) from them probably won’t look very familiar.

With so much having changed from last year to this year, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen in this game. That said, here are some stats that tell you what’s happened to Baylor before during the tenure of coach Art Briles.

  • 15-4 when leading at halftime
  • 3-17 when trailing at halftime
  • 11-6 when scoring first
  • 7-16 when opponent scores first
  • 0-12 when scoring less than 20 points
  • 9-0 when scoring more than 40 points
  • 10-0 when opponent scores less than 20 points
  • 8-22 when opponent scores more than 20 points
  • 4-19 when opponent scores more than 30 points
  • 0-11 when gaining less than 300 yards
  • 8-1 when opponent gains less than 300 yards
  • 4-13 when opponent converts on third down at least 50% of the time

The “Inner Arthur” Brown

21 Sep

Kansas State middle linebacker and team captain Arthur Brown is known as a quiet guy, the epitome of the “leader by example” who lets his play on the field do most of his talking for him. At least, that’s how he is most of the time.

Safety Tysyn Hartman said that while Brown is not the type of guy to get excited about much, it’s a riot when he does.

“Every now and then we’ll tell a joke or something, but when he does laugh and get funny, he gets kind of physical,” Hartman said, unable to talk about his teammate without smiling. “That’s one of the only times where he actually gets loud and the inner Arthur shows. Shaking shoulders and doing all that, it’s pretty funny.”

When Hartman first saw this lighter, more jovial side of Brown, it took him off guard. When he talks about that initial impression, he can’t help laughing.

“Me and Chris [Harper] saw it on separate occasions, and it was funny because he had brought it up to me and I was like, ‘That just happened to me like two days ago!’ so it was pretty funny that I wasn’t the only one experiencing it.”

Whether he’s completely focused or having a little fun, it’s hard to argue that Brown has been anything but a perfect addition to the Kansas State defense.