MANHATTAN — At some point, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder will have to choose between Jake Waters and Daniel Sams.
But that moment isn’t coming any time soon.
Both quarterbacks, who have been deadlocked in a position battle since the departure of Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, put up big stat lines against an inferior defense during the Wildcats’ spring game on Saturday.
Waters, a junior-college transfer, completed 14 of 18 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns to go with 27 yards and a touchdown rushing. He looked sharp throwing the ball in the pocket and on the run, hitting receivers in stride.
Sams, a sophomore, connected on 18 of 28 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 28 yards and a score. He kept plays alive with his legs, but also made a few mistakes, including an interception.
They both played well, overall. They both wished they could have a few plays back. Snyder used a coin toss to decide which quarterback would start with the first-team offense. When it was over, he said they were still tied.
“I cannot give you a distinct answer right now until we sit down and scrutinize things a little more closely in regards to this game as well as the other 14 practices,” Snyder said. “I saw some very positive things with both of them. We saw some issues that we have been aware of during the course of the spring.
“I thought we have a little bit of athletic ability … I thought we threw the ball with more consistency than we have during the course of the spring, but it was pretty basic as far as the defense is concerned. I was pleased.”
So were Waters and Sams. Even though they both want to win the starting job next season, they have been helping each other on and off the field throughout spring practices.
On Saturday, they showed their skills in front of 16,383 fans at Snyder Family Stadium.
It was a new experience for Waters, but he wasn’t nervous. After winning Snyder’s coin toss, Waters opened the game by leading K-State’s Purple Team on back-to-back touchdown drives. First, he scored on a seven-yard run. Next, he hit Tramaine Thompson for a 35-yard touchdown.
But his biggest highlight came on the first play of the third quarter, when he hit Tyler Lockett deep for a 76-yard touchdown.
“I got the ball to the playmakers,” Waters said. “It’s a work in progress. I’m getting comfortable with a lot of the stuff. I have a long way to go, but I am getting comfortable. I got in a little groove today, and that was good.”
Snyder wanted to give both quarterbacks equal opportunities to play with the Purple Team, which outscored the second-string White Team 76-3 but lost the game 41-38 because the score was reversed at halftime, so Sams also led a handful of touchdown drives.
His throws weren’t as sharp as Waters’, but he connected with Torrell Miller, who caught five passes for 105 yards, on a 55-yard touchdown pass and Lockett on a 38-yard score.
But his top play came with the White Team. In the first half, with the pocket breaking down around him, Sams scrambled to his left and then escaped tacklers to his right before finding Stanton Weber for a 17-yard gain and a first down.
Sams didn’t get many chances to throw as Klein’s backup last season.
“I showed I can sling it a little bit,” Sams said. “I still feel like I have stuff to work on. I made some bad throws. I underthrew some receivers, missed a couple touchdowns. But, overall, as a team I thought we all did well. From here, all we can do is grow.”
K-State can show the most growth in terms of depth. The Wildcats’ second-team defense was no match for the first-team offense, and K-State’s second-team offense managed three points against the first-team defense. There was no competition.
Still, a few players showed they may be capable of breakout seasons. Running back Robert Rose, who filled in for injured starting running back John Hubert, rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Senior linebacker Blake Slaughter had a game high 8.5 tackles. Dante Barnett made an interception. And Snyder raved about Miller.
K-State’s top two receivers may have proved the most, though. Tramaine Thompson grabbed six passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and Lockett made nine catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns, including an acrobatic grab in which he tipped the ball to himself while falling into the end zone.
Plays like that will help K-State’s next starting quarterback be successful, no matter whom it is.
“Everybody in the stands and even the coaches and players were able to see a little glimpse of what every one of us is capable of doing,” Lockett said. “Now we need to work on being consistent, being able to do it the first game of the year and also the eighth game of the year and to be able to build off it like we did last year.”
Worth noting — Three notable players were absent from K-State’s spring game. Starting center B.J. Finney, receiver Curry Sexton and starting running back John Hubert did not play. Snyder said all three were injured, but expects them to participate fully when fall practices begin. Linebacker Tre Walker also sat out while recovering from a knee injury that ended his season last year.… K-State has named its captains for the 2013 season. They are Ty Zimmerman, Walker, Slaughter, Lockett and Finney.
P—Waters 7 run (Cantele kick)
P—Thompson 35 pass from Waters (Cantele kick)
P—Miller 55 pass from Sams (Cantele kick)
P—Thompson 21 pass from Sams (Cantele kick)
P—Sams 10 run (McCrane kick)
P—Cantele 24 FG
P—Lockett 76 pass from Waters (Wilson kick)
P—Gronkowski 8 pass from Waters (McCrane kick)
P—Rose 4 run (Sams run)
P—Lockett 38 pass from Sams (Gronkowski pass from Sams)
W—Cantele 51 FG
P—Miller 3 pass from Sams (McDonald pass from Sams)
Rushing — White, Jones 14-40, Sams 5-31, Cook 4-25, Hubener 6-14, Waters 2-4, Weber 1-4, Mack 2-2, Roberts 2-1. Purple, Rose 17-141, Sams 4-28, Waters 5-27, Gronkowski 4-19.
Passing — White, Hubener 2-6-1-24-0, Cook 1-5-0-8-0, Waters 2-4-0-8-0, Sams 2-3-0-22-0. Purple, Sams 18-28-1-391-4, Waters 14-18-0-249-3.
Receiving — White, Weber 1-17, Munds 1-16, Green 1-8, Echols 1-8, Johnson 1-6, Burton 1-5, Klein 1-2. Purple, Lockett 9-231, McDonald 8-80, Thompson 6-161, Miller 5-108, Gronkowski 2-16, Klein 1-29, Johnson 1-15.