MANHATTAN — The most telling statistic of Kansas State’s first five football games might be turnovers.
So far, the Wildcats have lost 14 of them. By comparison, they committed two at this point last year.
“It is crazy to think about, then again it is also not because last year we were 5-0 and now we are 2-3,” sophomore receiver Kyle Klein said. “It’s not hard to see where the train left the tracks.”
The biggest turnover culprits have been K-State’s quarterbacks. Junior Jake Waters has struggled in his first season at the major-college level, throwing five interceptions and losing three fumbles. Sophomore Daniel Sams has also been turnover-prone while seeing less action, tossing three picks and losing a fumble last week against Oklahoma State. The team’s other two giveaways belong to John Hubert and Tramaine Thompson on fumbles.
Combine those numbers with a defense that has created five takeaways, and it’s easy to see why K-State ranks 121st nationally in turnover margin.
The Wildcats have spent much of the past week trying to solve their turnover problem. K-State coach Bill Snyder concedes that the process starts at quarterback.
“Both of them have turned the ball over,” Snyder said, “and that’s the issue.”
What he plans to do to help Waters and Sams remains a mystery. The easy solution might be ditching the two-quarterback system that has forced them to run in and out of games at strange times and choosing a full-time starter. But Snyder says he remains committed to a two-quarterback system.
If it continues, the key may be playing to their strengths.
K-State has asked Waters to start every game, and he has looked good throwing downfield. But he has also carried the ball 43 times, despite averaging 2.5 yards per rush. Recently, he has been used as a passing specialist on third-and-long after extended breaks on the sideline. In those situations, he has looked out of rhythm.
Sams saw his first extended action last week, and showed promise rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown. But he looked uncomfortable throwing deep. Two of his interceptions came on long passes.
“We are still trying to ensure that we can develop both of them to be able to do both,” Snyder said. “I thought we were making some progress. This last week in the first half of the ballgame (Sams) doesn’t throw any interceptions and he completes a reasonably high percentage of completions. Then it all went south in the second half.”
Teammates have encouraged Waters and Sams to stay positive.
“Mistakes happen,” receiver Torell Miller said. “The worst thing you can do is put yourself in a pickle, and put yourself down in a deep hole. You just have to make up for it.”
Snyder likes the upside of both quarterbacks. If they can limit mistakes, which he said should be “very, very manageable,” he thinks they both deserve playing time.
In the meantime, it is up to Waters and Sams to build their confidence levels up so they can bring their turnovers down.
Following the Oklahoma State game, Sams vowed to do exactly that.
“I will learn from it,” Sams said, “and I plan to come back next week and give it my all again.”