Wildcats ready to keep pace

Running down play clock has worked in past games, but Texas Tech offers another high-octane offense.

10/12/2011 12:00 AM

10/12/2011 6:33 AM

MANHATTAN — Kansas State's offense can often seem out of place in the Big 12.

While most in the conference use a no-huddle approach that reduces time between plays, the Wildcats prefer to wait until the last possible moment to snap the ball. Instead of throwing downfield for big plays, they run the ball and value possession time.

It's a strategy that is older than Bill Snyder, K-State's 72-year-old coach, and is being used less and less in major-college football.

But it's a system that is working for the No. 17 Wildcats. Despite being outgained in their past three games, they are undefeated thanks to an average possession time of 35 minutes, 57 seconds.

"When we chew up the clock, it means we're controlling the game," freshman center B.J. Finney said. "We're playing the game the way we want to instead of playing at their game pace. To be able to do that is a huge advantage."

Especially against an opponent like Texas Tech, which K-State will face on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas. The Red Raiders have long been known for their passing attack and their no-huddle offense.

Though they are slightly more balanced under second-year coach Tommy Tuberville, and favor the running game in certain situations, they still value precision.

"This will be the fastest tempo that we have played against," Snyder said.

Snyder has downplayed the importance of controlling clock in past games against Miami, Baylor and Missouri, saying that touchdowns mattered more than possession time.

So far, K-State has gained 20 or more yards on 15 plays. Snyder has described the lack of big plays as "a weakness of our offense." But that may not be a concern this week.

"As far as the big plays, we're one block or inch away from having those big plays," Finney said. "The big plays are helpful, but if you can have a team that can grind out the ball, chew up the field and clock, that's truly helpful, too."

If limiting turnovers, slowing the game down and running the ball with Collin Klein and John Hubert was enough for K-State to win its first five games, there's no reason to go away from that formula in Game 6.

"The previous couple weeks have been beneficial," Snyder said.

Chris Harper, a wide receiver who transferred to K-State from Oregon, is fine with that logic. He understands how important it is to keep opposing offenses off the field.

"It's to our benefit, because we get that much more time in the huddle, more time to recoup and things like that," Harper said. "You can go harder on the next play. There are benefits to it. Obviously you don't get as many plays, but I think you get more quality plays."

It took him a while to appreciate a safe, run-oriented offense after beginning his college career at perhaps the fastest offensive program in the nation. He admits to opposing it last season.

But now that he has spent time in K-State's system, analyzed Snyder's past successes, and been a part of a five-game winning streak, he looks at blocking the same way he does running a fly route.

For the Wildcats, they are equally important.

Still the underdog — Much was made last week when Missouri was labeled a 3 1/2-point favorite over K-State despite the Tigers entering Snyder Family Stadium with a 2-2 record. The Wildcats felt disrespected. They didn't take the news of being a three-point underdog to Texas Tech much better.

"It's the same feeling every game," Harper said. "We just do what we do, and we'll be fine. The guys who draw up the lines, they don't play the game. They don't know anything about it. So I don't pay any attention to that."

TCU a rival? —Snyder said he was happy to see TCU join the Big 12. He called coach Gary Patterson to congratulate him on the news, and is looking forward to playing the Horned Frogs.

But he doesn't see it becoming a rivalry, even though Patterson began his coaching career as a K-State assistant and both teams wear purple.

"Because of the color schemes?" Snyder said. "We've played guys that are K-Staters before. Quite a few of them, in fact. I don't know if any of those have necessarily become rivalries."

Campaigning — K-State has begun promoting junior linebacker Arthur Brown and Snyder for postseason awards. The university devoted two pages of its weekly release to push Snyder as a Big 12 Coach of the Year candidate and Brown for the Nagurski and Butkus awards.

Quickly — Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens, who was averaging 118 rushing yards, will not play against K-State and is out for the season with an injury.... Manase Foketi, a senior left tackle who started 15 straight games for the Wildcats before leaving the Kent State game with an injury, is likely out for the season, Snyder said.... Angelo Pease, a running back who missed the Miami game with an injury and did not play against Missouri, will be available at Texas Tech.... Snyder said he had no updates on Bryce Brown, a running back who has not been seen at K-State in more than two weeks.

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