I’ll remember this season for the Wildcats for what might have been. And the challenges facing Bill Snyder as he has tried to navigate his through a season with two talented, but vastly different, quarterbacks.
Snyder never settled on one guy. He never tried to settle on one guy. He committed himself and the Wildcats’ offense to a two-quarterback system from the get-go and it has provided the kind of mixed results you’d expect with a 6-5 record.
For a while on a cold Saturday morning/afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett were making beautiful music together. They had a second quarter to behold as K-State erased an early 14-0 deficit to Oklahoma and took off for the races. Almost literally.
Waters and Lockett hooked up on four big pass plays in the second quarter that were good for 177 yards and three touchdowns. There were 48-, 30- and 90-yard scoring strikes. They were Unitas-Berry, Montana-Rice, Brady-Moss, Manning-Harrison.
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Nobody wanted to see halftime come except the Oklahoma secondary and Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. They probably sprinted to the locker room for warmth, which I imagine the fiery Stoops provided in mass quantity.
And whatever fire the OU defensive boss was breathing worked to ignite the Sooners’ defense. It limited Kansas State to just 10 second-half points. The only touchdown came late. And Oklahoma won, 41-31.
What happened to Lockett?
Oklahoma decided that it wasn’t going to get burned by the speedy junior. The Sooners filled his area with bodies. Not always warm bodies, but they took up space and made finding it more difficult.
Lockett still caught eight passes for 101 yards in the second half. It wasn’t like he was blanketed. But he didn’t catch a touchdown pass nor anything longer than 19 yards.
That’s because Waters had nobody else to go to. The running game was non-existent. Tailback Jon Hubert continued his very strange season.
And Daniel Sams, who has shared the quarterback position with Waters all season, was on the field for one offensive series. He had a couple of rushes that didn’t amount to much.
Lockett has had an incredible season, considering he’s not known from game to game or series to series who his quarterback will be.
When it’s Sams, Lockett might as well order up some carryout and watch a movie because Snyder hasn’t turned Sams loose in the passing game.
He did attempt 21 passes during a close loss at Oklahoma State in September, completing 15 for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Problem is, Sams was intercepted three times in that game and Snyder has treated him like a 13-year-old learning to drive a car ever since.
Outside of that one game, Sams has thrown only 31 passes in 10 games. He has completed 24 for 271 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Overall, Sams has completed 39 of 52 passes. That’s a 75 percent completion percentage. Even so, Sams is apparently under strict orders not to throw.
So he runs.
And Waters passes.
It’s simple, really. Probably too simple.
Things had been working out for Kansas State recently. The Wildcats took a four-game winning streak into Saturday’s game, but it was a mirage. Wins over West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU don’t tell much of a story.
Against the good teams on its schedule, Kansas State is 0-5. And yes, I’m putting North Dakota State into that “good teams” category.
Waters is an outstanding passer but without many targets. So he stares down Lockett so much that I’m surprised Lockett doesn’t get a complex. They work well together, but it would be advisable to mix in some other types of offense.
Lockett had the best receiving day in Kansas State history Saturday, breaking the mark he set earlier this season with a 247-yard game at Texas. But the Wildcats lost both of those games, so what does it matter?
I think Lockett will be a success in the NFL. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Waters gets a look. He has a strong arm and good mobility.
They’re an outstanding duo. But sometimes even Batman and Robin need help and nobody was stepping up to provide much Saturday.
Sams spent almost all of the game wrapped up on the sideline. His motor never got about an idle.
But when Sams plays, Lockett disappears. Because Sams isn’t allowed to throw.
So you see the conundrum. Snyder has not come up with a way to get all three on the field at the same time, although I’ve been curious from the get-go to see how that might look.
So Waters has a 348-yard passing day. Lockett has a 278-yard receiving day. And Kansas State loses. There’s something wrong with that picture.