Daniel Sams gives Kansas State a running dimension at quarterback when he fills in for Jake Walters.
MANHATTAN, Kan. - West Virginia truly has no idea what to expect from Kansas State's offense today.That's common and almost cliché when it comes to some teams, especially those that play two diverse-in-style quarterbacks.But there are extenuating circumstances today that make Kansas State's offensive direction a notch above hard to predict - they make it virtually impossible.Consider that Jake Waters has started every game this season for Kansas State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12). He's a junior college transfer who throws the football. A lot.
Consider, too, that Daniel Sams has relieved Waters in every game. He's a sophomore who runs the football. A lot.Kansas State's two most recent games would seem to suggest a heavy dose of Sams today. After running the ball 27 times and throwing just four passes in the first four games, Sams has run 57 times and thrown it 28 in just the last two. Waters, meanwhile, has passed for just 88 yards the last two games after throwing for 948 the first four.In other words, all the trends would seem to point toward K-State relying more on Sams. And that might be true.
But consider, too, that for the past two games the Wildcats have been without - or with the limited services of - receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. Both are expected to play today when West Virginia (3-4, 1-3) arrives for a 3:45 p.m. game.So do the Wildcats continue to ride the legs of Sams or do they allow Waters to air it out now that he has his two best targets?Chances are, the answer is a bit of both, but who knows?"It does start with the quarterback [Sams] making things happen with his feet,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "But if they have the receivers back they may end up putting the other quarterback in there and throwing to those guys the whole time. So we're going to have to adjust."
No matter what Kansas State decides to do, West Virginia's defense will be challenged. Running quarterbacks are among the hardest threats to defend in all of football. But Lockett and Thompson make the Wildcats a lot more dangerous through the air."I think we know what to expect. One has the strengths to run the ball while the other throws it effectively,'' said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "But we don't prepare any differently in what we did with Oklahoma State with [J.W.] Walsh and [Clint] Chelf. There's a lot of similarities I would say.''Perhaps, but the differences are more striking. Sams went through the first four games of the season throwing just four passes, but running for 205 yards. But then against Oklahoma State he went 15-of-21 passing (although three of the six incompletions were interceptions).Perhaps the most unexpected part of Sams' game, though, was when coach Bill Snyder just committed to him in the running game. Against OSU Sams ran 27 times for 118 yards. Against Baylor he ran 30 times for 199 yards and all three KSU touchdowns.
Snyder was asked this week if he thought Sams could continue to handle that kind of rushing workload."Well he did it, so I would like to think that he is capable of it,'' Snyder said. "I have never thought otherwise, never believed that he could not."But again, just because Sams has had success running and has been asked to do it much more frequently, one shouldn't assume that Waters and the passing game are being pushed into the background. Lockett caught 13 passes for 237 yards against Texas and had nine catches for 194 yards last year against West Virginia. Thompson had six for 108 in the opener.Getting those two back could easily change Snyder's mind about which direction to go.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.