EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 21st in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Date with WVU: Thursday, Nov. 20, 7 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Site: Mountaineer Field (60,000, FieldTurf), Morgantown
Series: Kansas State leads 3-1
Last meeting: Kansas State defeated WVU 35-12 on Oct. 26, 2013 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.
Coach: Bill Snyder (23rd year, 178-90-1)
Checking them out
Kansas State began last season with a loss to North Dakota State and a 2-4 record and ended it with the school’s first bowl win in 11 years, over Michigan, and a 6-1 finish, once again proving that just when you’re ready to count out Bill Snyder, that’s when he’s most likely to prove you wrong.
Perhaps that’s why no one is counting out Snyder and the Wildcats this year. Sure, he’ll turn 75 during the season and he still doesn’t haul in the kind of recruiting classes that make fans swoon, but what he gets out of the players he does have is sometimes fascinating.
Consider the five players Snyder brought to Big 12 media days in Dallas last week. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett is from Oklahoma but wasn’t recruited by OU or Oklahoma State. Quarterback Jake Waters had to go to junior college before an FBS program showed interest in him. And defensive end Ryan Mueller, center B.J. Finney and linebacker Jonathan Truman all are former walk-ons. All have the potential to be, or already are, All-Big 12 players.
Yes, the Wildcats are generally overachievers and it would be wise not to bet against that again this year. On offense, K-State has just enough returning parts to make this a very dangerous team. Daniel Sams, the running quarterback, transferred, but Waters returns after throwing for 18 TDs in essentially part-time duty. He has Lockett to throw to along with Curry Sexton, and the line in front of him has Finney and tackle Cody Whitehair as anchors. All but Whitehair are seniors.
There are some questions, namely the loss of 1,000-yard rusher John Hubert and three line starters. There is also the issue of QB depth if Waters is hurt and at receiver behind the two returners. But given the way Snyder is able to plug players in, maybe those aren’t worries.
On defense, there are some big holes to fill. 2013 wasn’t great to start with and that was with Ty Zimmerman holding things together at safety. Now an underperforming line has to improve, two starting linebackers must be replaced and the secondary will be green save for strong safety Dante Barnett and corner Randall Evans.
The special teams return kicker Jack Cantele and Lockett as a kick returner, but punting is an issue and Tramaine Thompson isn’t back to scare opponents as a punt returner.
Offense: WR Tyler Lockett, C B.J. Finney, OG Cody Whitehair, QB Jake Waters
Defense: DL Ryan Mueller, LB Jonathan Truman, S Dante Barnett
Special teams: KR Tyler Lockett, K Jack Cantele
Kansas State’s schedule is definitely a plus. The Wildcats play seven home games, including six of the first eight. The down sides are that three of the last four are on the road, as are the games against Oklahoma and Baylor. … Former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is now a member of the Wildcats’ coaching staff, serving as assistant director of recruiting/defensive quality control. Klein was a Heisman finalist in 2012 but went undrafted and couldn’t make a roster in separate tries with the NFL and CFL.
Date Opponent 2013
Aug. 30 Stephen F. Austin DNP
Sept. 6 at Iowa State* W41-7
Sept. 18 (Thu) Auburn DNP
Sept. 27 Texas-El Paso DNP
Oct. 4 Texas Tech* W 49-26
Oct. 18 at Oklahoma* L 31-41
Oct. 25 Texas* L 21-31
Nov. 1 Oklahoma State* L 29-33
Nov. 8 at TCU* W 33-31
Nov. 20 (Thu) at West Virginia* W 35-12
Nov. 29 Kansas* W 31-10
Dec. 6 at Baylor* L 25-35
* Big 12 Conference games
2013 record: 8-5 overall, 5-4 Big 12 (W 31-14 over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl)
Dropped: North Dakota State (L 21-24), Louisiana-Lafayette (W 48-27), Massachusetts (W 37-7)