Two weeks ago, Bill Snyder summed up Kansas State’s first two opponents by saying, “It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
Considering he was talking about North Dakota State and Louisiana-Lafayette — two small-name opponents from two small-name conferences — the statement contained a certain degree of hyperbole. The Big 12 football schedule will offer considerably harder challenges. Still, there was sincerity involved, too.
That much is now clear.
The Wildcats opened the season with a surprising loss and now must try to bounce back against an opponent that has won nine games in back-to-back seasons and defeated K-State the last time they met in 2009. Louisiana-Lafayette will provide a difficult test the same way North Dakota State did.
If the Wildcats hope to get their season back on track, they will have to play well against another capable nonconference foe.
“They are bigger and they are more physical,” said junior center B.J. Finney when asked to compare Louisiana-Lafayette to North Dakota State. “They are a strong defensive unit. Obviously, their offense is very, very good. Their defensive line is very big and very, very physical. We have to get back to the way we played last year and go out and execute if we want to win.”
The most important execution may come on defense.
The Ragin’ Cajuns run an explosive offense behind dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway, who amassed 3,611 yards of total offense last season and played a part in 26 touchdowns. Junior receiver Jamal Robinson, who went to high school with K-State quarterback Daniel Sams, can stretch the field, and running back Alonzo Harris is coming off a 1,637-yard campaign.
Those playmakers struggled at times during a 34-14 loss at Arkansas last week. Louisiana-Lafayette fell behind early and gained 274 yards, but third-year coach Mark Hudspeth is expecting a stronger effort on Saturday.
“The game could have been different. I’m disappointed we didn’t make it a game,” Hudspeth said at his weekly news conference. “To be honest with you, we moved it good a lot of the game. We just didn’t get a lot of big plays. We only had a little under 300 yards. But if you add three or four big plays, then you’re right at 400, 400-plus. We will hit those. We’ve got those type of players.”
Snyder hopes K-State’s defenders understand that.
“We are trying to correct our mistakes and prepare for the balance in their offense,” Snyder said. “If you go back and study their offense ... They are totally balanced between run and pass. That creates a problem for anybody.
“They run around well both up front and then there perimeter players, as well. Speed is always an issue for us. We have a little bit, but we don’t have great speed. That is an issue day in and day out.”
On offense, K-State will try to execute on the ground. It was unable to get senior running back John Hubert going last week, and totaled 41 rushing yards on 23 attempts. Everyone from the offensive line to the coaching staff shared blame on the poor performance, but they can redeem themselves on Saturday against a suspect defense.
The Ragin’ Cajuns allowed 292 rushing yards to Arkansas last week, despite loading up defenders at the line of scrimmage. Arkansas was continually able to open up holes and blow by out-of-position defenders in the secondary. It averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Hudspeth was so displeased with the effort that he has said he will use new players in the secondary against K-State.
If Jake Waters and the rest of the offense performs up to preseason expectations, big plays may be in store.
If not, anything could happen.
“It is going to be a fun game,” Sams said. “They look sound on film. I compare them to North Dakota State as far as the way they fly around the ball. They are always assignment sound.”