We’ve finally caught a glimpse of the team that the Kansas State football team has the potential to be. In Saturday’s game against the No. 15 Baylor Bears, the Wildcats showed characteristics typical of a Bill Snyder-coached team and improvements that could foreshadow the tone for the rest of their season.
In front of a crowd of more than 52,800 fans in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the Wildcats kept pace with the 5-0 Bears team, holding them to a score of 25-21 until the fourth quarter. By bumping up rushing yards from their last game and reclaiming their grasp on fundamentals, the Wildcats were able to get back on track and pose as a significant threat to the Bears.
With as stellar as the Bears’ offense has been this season, it is worth noting that their total yardage, 446, only exceeded the Wildcats by one. This was a big gain for the Wildcats who left Boone Pickens Stadium with only 336 total yards in their game against the Cowboys. Though the Bears dominated the passing game with 332 yards to the Wildcats’ 118, the roles were reversed as the Wildcats tore up the field with 327 rushing yards to the Bears’ 114. Overall, the Wildcats showed tremendous gains in their rushing action, coming away with a 183-yard improvement from the Cowboys game.
Fundamentals played a huge role in the Wildcats’ improved performance. Penalties accounted for a big portion, with the Wildcats accumulating only 4 penalties for 37 yards, a significant improvement from the 92 yards lost from the 12 penalties garnered last week.
The Wildcats regained their characteristic ownership of possession time against the Bears. The Wildcats held the ball twice as long as Baylor: 39:24 to the Bears’ 20:36.
The Wildcats turnover rate also showed definite improvement, though their one turnover in the fourth quarter could easily be considered their biggest mistake of the game. Despite leading the Bears through all three quarters, Wildcats quarterback Daniel Sams’s ill-timed interception gave the Bears a 93-yard touchdown that provided them with just enough to seal the game.
As in every game thus far this season, both of the Wildcats’ quarterbacks saw playing time. Sophomore Daniel Sams saw a lot more time than in past games and produced 41 passing yards, 30 carries for 199 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. However, Sams took a step back in his passing game against the Bears compared to the 181 passing yards he racked up against the Cowboys. Junior Jake Waters accounted for 41 passing yards and had 10 carries for 43 rushing yards.
All of the possession time and offensive work wouldn’t have been possible without the Wildcats defense being on their A-game. They forced six punts; a significant amount given the fact that the Bears had only punted seven times in their previous four games.
Junior defensive end, Ryan Mueller, had one of his best games to date and stuck it to Bears quarterback Bryan Petty with two sacks and one strip and recovery. Mueller’s seven tackles were only outmatched by senior linebacker Blake Slaughter, who had nine in the game.
The Wildcats still have a lot room to improve, but by the end of the season, they could prove to be the biggest comeback kids in the Big 12. The Wildcats will go into another bye week before facing the West Virginia Mountaineers at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 26.
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