MANHATTAN — More than a week has passed since the Kansas State football team opened the season with a forgettable offensive performance against Eastern Kentucky, yet the Wildcats are still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.
Coach Bill Snyder insists he deserves a fair share of blame. If he hadn't hampered his players with an extremely limited playbook, he thinks K-State could have churned out much more than the 303 yards and 10 points it managed on 77 plays.
"We probably put 15 percent of it on the field," Snyder said.
From a player's view, they simply didn't play well enough. The offensive line struggled from start to finish and K-State committed five turnovers. It's hard to be successful under those circumstances.
"If we had executed the game plan we had out there we wouldn't be having this conversation right now," junior quarterback Collin Klein said. "It's definitely a two-way street. We could have 500 of the best plays known to man and they could all be duds if not executed properly. We just have to execute."
K-State will look to redeem itself in both areas with Kent State coming to Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday.
Though off to an 0-2 start, the Golden Flashes should be a tougher opponent than the Colonels. In their first game at No. 2 Alabama, they intercepted the Crimson Tide four times and ended the game with five takeaways. Last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, they came up with three more turnovers and allowed 159 yards. The downside for Kent State is an offense that averages 138 yards per game.
The Wildcats passed for 128 yards and ran for 175 yards against Eastern Kentucky.
With that in mind, K-State has made several personnel changes. Nick Puetz and Colten Freeze will move into starting roles at left and right guard, respectively, and B.J. Finney will take over at center.
And after rushing for 91 yards on 17 carries against Eastern Kentucky, sophomore running back John Hubert has emerged as the Wildcats' top running back. Instead of splitting time with Angelo Pease and Bryce Brown, Snyder said Hubert will start against Kent State and Pease will likely back him up.
The changes in the line are expected to create more running lanes in the center of the field.
"I think the offensive line is doing a whole lot better than they were before," Pease said. "They're a lot more focused right now."
They will need to stay that way. This week, Snyder will ask them to block for more complicated plays than they did in their first game.
"We're at a point in time where you have to have it all available to you," Snyder said. "We're in the position where we're going to try and do that, make it all available."
When asked if that would help or hurt his preparation, Klein compared the situation to working in his garage with a tool box.
"In general the more tools you have the quicker your job is going to get done," Klein said.
Whatever the case, K-State's offense will be motivated. After holding Eastern Kentucky to 119 yards and seven points, the Wildcats' defense took all the credit on opening day.
In Game 2, the offense wants to do its fair share.
"We're kind of out there to prove something this week," Puetz said. "We can play and we have some players. We can go out there and get the job done. It's a team effort, but we don't have to have the defense win us the game. We need to go out there and show that we're a good offense."
Third string — Few expected Justin Tuggle to start the season as K-State's third-string quarterback when he transferred from Blinn Community College looking to challenge Klein for the starting job. Still, Snyder said Tuggle has accepted his role and is helping the team in practice.
"It's disappointing for Justin to be third on the totem pole but you would never know it by watching him perform," Snyder said. "His effort every single day is as good as it can be and he picks things up. He's progressing well."
Still confident — When asked for his thoughts on the future of the Big 12, Snyder once again said his long history with K-State and its loyal fans makes him confident the Wildcats will land on their feet no matter what happens.
"I don't know how it's going to play out. I truly don't," Snyder said. "... Whatever takes place, we'll still be around."
No scrimmages — To encourage improvement during K-State's bye week, Snyder asked his players to focus solely on film study and practice drills. It wasn't until their normal practice week began for Kent State that Snyder allowed the Wildcats to scrimmage against each other.
Back healthy — Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and safety Tysyn Hartman both came out of the opener early with minor injuries, but Snyder said both will play Saturday.