On Saturday afternoon (2:30 P.M., ABC), the #20/#21 Kansas State Wildcats (4-0, 1-0) play host to the Missouri Tigers (2-2, 0-1), in Big 12 conference action. Kansas State is coming off of a 36-35 win over Baylor, and the Wildcats are looking more and more like a Bill Snyder-coached team.
"Bill (Snyder) is a great coach," said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, speaking of the Kansas State Head Coach. "I have great respect for him. It doesn't surprise me (that his team is playing well). He knows what he's doing."
"I'm real impressed with (Kansas State)," continued Coach Pinkel. "Bill Snyder's stamp is starting to show on (their) program. They're playing very, very good defense. (They're playing) time of possession football. (They're) very good on third downs. They're running the football like they like to run it. That's just kind of his stamp on him rebuilding that program……………………… I see a very, very good football team, that's gotten better over the last few years."
On offense, Kansas State plays a conservative style that lends itself to controlling the football, and shortening the game. Coach Snyder's offense works in concert with his defense to try to keep the ball away from their opponent. Through their first four games, K-State has rushed the football on 68% of their offensive plays. That's more than a 2 to1 run to pass ratio! Although to be sure, a few of those QB runs probably began as pass plays. As a team, Kansas State averages 4.5 yards/rushing attempt and 5.7 yards/passing attempt. The Wildcats have converted 51% of their third downs, which ranks 14th nationally. Kansas State ranks 91st nationally in total offense, 70th in scoring offense, and 18th in rushing offense.
Junior QB Collin Klein 6'5" 226 is a dual threat, although at this juncture, it's fair to say he's a little more proficient as a runner than as a passer. Klein is K-State's leading rusher, at 105.8 yards/game, which ranks 4th in the Big 12 Conference. He's averaged 4.6 yards/carry, and has scored 4 TDs. Klein's passer efficiency rating ranks 10th in the conference, at 121.4, with a stat line of 47-85-2 (55% completion rate), and 6 passing TDs, to go along with an average of 120 passing yards/game, which ranks 9th in the Big 12. Klein has averaged 10.23 yards/completion, and 5.66 yards/pass attempt.
"He's a really good QB," said Coach Pinkel, speaking of Klein, who accounts for almost two-thirds of Kansas State's total offense. He runs a lot of that option, and he's really good at it. They're very creative with it, as well. He's a big guy. He's got a good arm. He runs well. He's a really good athlete. He has a good combination of quickness, size, and speed."
Sophomore RB John Hubert 5'7" 185 is K-State's 2nd-leading rusher, averaging 85.8 rushing yards/game, which ranks 8th in the Big 12, and 5.7 yards/rushing attempt, which is an impressive per carry average that currently ranks 3rd in the conference. Hubert is also the Wildcats' 3rd-leading pass receiver, with 1.8 receptions/game, and 9.4 yards/reception. He's scored once on the ground, and once through the air. Junior RB Angelo Pease 5'11" 215, a junior-college transfer from Hutchinson, averages 5 carries/game, 4 yards/carry, and is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. Pease is a former QB, who will also line up in the shotgun, or Wildcat.
Junior WR Chris Harper 6'1" 225 is K-State's leading receiver, averaging 4.3 receptions/game, and 11.1 yards/reception. He's scored twice. No other receiver has scored more than once for the Wildcats so far this season. Senior WR Sheldon Smith 5'11" 180 averages 2 catches/game, and 5.6 yards/reception. Freshman WR Tyler Lockett 5'11" 170, and sophomore TE Andre McDonald 6'8" 276 have each averaged 1 reception/game, but McDonald averages 19 yard/reception, and Locket, who also returns punts for K-State, averages 12.5 yards/reception, and has also scored. The Wildcats will run Harper, and other receivers, on sweeps.
With Klein at QB, and with Hubert at TB, Kansas State often utilizes more of an option running game. They're very good at it. Hubert is super quick, and also very, very fast. Generally, Hubert runs outside, while Klein runs inside, although just when you think you know what they're going to do, they'll switch up, and fool you. Then, they mix in the play-action pass, or Klein will throw on the run, often utilizing a run-pass option. They do a good job of keeping the opposing defense off-balance. When the K-State offense is functioning well, they'll move the ball on the ground, or with short passes, on double-digit play drives that keeps their defense, and the opposing offense, on the sideline for half a quarter at a time. Then, when the defense grows impatient, and begins to load the box, the Wildcats will pull the ball down, sneak someone out, and go over the top.
The Wildcats are also good in the kicking game, which is typical of a Bill Snyder-coached team. Senior CB David Garrett 5'8" 175 ranks 3rd in the conference in kick-off returns, averaging 24.1 yards/return. Sophomore WR Tramaine Thompson 5'7" 165 has averaged 21 yards/punt return, although he's not K-State's primary punt returner. And, junior place-kicker Anthony Cantele 5'10" 189 is 7 for 10 on his FG attempts. Junior punter Ryan Doerr 6'2" 182 is averaging 37.4 yards/punt.
On defense, Kansas State ranks 2nd in the Big 12 in total defense (292 yards/game, 5.0 yards/play), 3rd in rushing defense (87.5 yards/game, 2.9 yards/attempt), and 3rd in scoring defense (16.5 points/game).
Earlier, Coach Snyder was asked about the improvement in his defense since last year.
"I think we've matured," explained Coach Snyder, talking about the year-to-year improvement in his defense. "We've gotten a little bit faster. We've played a little bit better up front. We've gotten more size-able, and quicker linebackers. Our secondary, certainly has gained experience, as well. And, has been reasonably responsible. There's just a number of things. I think if you had to identify one, you would probably say that the experience factor and the maturity factor combined probably gives us a little reason to believe that we've made some improvement."
Junior MLB Arthur Brown 6'1" 223 leads the Wildcats, and is 4th in the conference, with 33 tackles (8.2 tackles/game). He's also leads K-State with 4.5 tackles-for-loss, and has garnered a pair of sacks, and an interception, on the season. Brown is playing at an All-Conference level.
"Arthur Brown is very impressive," said Coach Pinkel. "He just stands out! He's a really good athlete. He plays fast. That kind of athleticism at LB is real impressive. He plays with great speed. He's a tough player. He's hard to block. He's a competitor. It's fun to watch him, and certainly, we've got our hands full."
Sophomore WLB Trey Walker 6'3" 222 is a sideline-to-sideline defender, who has 17 tackles on the season.
"He's everywhere," said Coach Pinkel, speaking of Walker. "He also, is a very, very good athlete. He's playing very, very well."
Up front, Kansas State's run defense is anchored by senior nose tackle Ray Kibble 6'4" 305, who has 14 tackles on the season, including 2 TFLs, and a sack.
With 3 sacks apiece, senior DE Jordan Voelker 6'3" 250 and junior DE Meshak Williams 6'3" 245, are giving the Wildcats outstanding production from one DE spot. Junior DT Vai Lutui 6'2" 280, with 12 tackles, has also been very productive up front.
The secondary is one of Kansas State's strengths. Garret is 2nd on the team, with 21 tackles, to go along with an INT, and a fumble recovery. The Wildcats other starting corner, junior Nigel Malone 5'10" 176, has made 16 tackles, and his team-leading 3 INTs is tied for the conference lead.
The Wildcats feature a pair of outstanding safeties in sophomore Ty Zimmerman 6'1" 202, who was named a Freshman All-American a year ago, and has garnered 19 tackles to date this season, and senior Tyson Hartman 6'3" 206, who has made 14 tackles, and also came up with an interception, so far this season. Zimmerman and Hartman are also K-State's primary punt returners.
Coach Snyder has really upgraded Kansas State's overall talent and team speed, primarily through the JUCO ranks. This is a tough team, both physically and mentally. They won't go away, and have already won a couple of big games late. They're very physical, on both sides of the football, and have shown the discipline that has become an earmark of a Bill Snyder-coached team.
On Monday, Coach Pinkel talked about how Kansas State has improved in recent seasons.
"Bill Snyder is a great coach! Program-wise, he knows what he wants to do, and he knows how he wants to do it," said Coach Pinkel. "I just see everything kind of improving year to year. It's certainly something that I expected. They're playing very, very good."
"It's a combination of a lot of things," replied Coach Pinkel, when asked what he thinks is responsible for K-State's improvement under Coach Snyder. "I think it's coaching well. I think it's recruiting well. I think it's player development. I think it's everything that they do. Certainly, they have some outstanding players, JUCO players, playing at a very high level."
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
517.00 [11th]___ Total Offense___ 348.00 [91st]
253.25 [8th]____Rushing Offense__ 217.25 [18th]
9____________TDs Rushing___________ 6
263.75 [37th]___Passing Offense_ 130.75 [115th]
150.00 [34th]__ Passing Efficiency__ 121.64 [83rd]
8____________TDs Passing___________ 6
36.00 [30th]____Scoring Offense___ 27.75 [70th]
349.50 [44th]___ Total Defense___ 292.00 [16th]
87.00 [16th]___ Rushing Defense___ 87.50 [17th]
4_________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 2
262.50 [97th]___Passing Defense__ 204.50 [42nd]
143.22 [99th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 128.36 [60th]
7_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 7
20.25 [30th]____Scoring Defense___ 16.50 [17th]
+0.75 [T-21st]_ Turnover Margin__ +0.50 [38th]
3 / 2________ Fumbles/Lost_______ 10 / 4
1_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 2
4_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 6
19.85 [94th]___Kickoff Return Avg.__ 22.55 [44th]
11.00 [32nd]___ Punt Return Avg.____ 7.83 [61st]
40.95 [12th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 34.71 [98th]
2.00 [53rd]______Sacks By______ 2.50 [31st]
1.75 [T-58th]___ Sacks Allowed_____2.50 [89th]
30:31 [48th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.____35:19 [4th]
29.1% [113th]___3rd Down Conv.__ 50.8% [14th]
57.1% [T-45th]__4th Down Conv._ 50.0% [T-57th]