Bob Lutz: K-State’s Daniel Sams needs to play through the growing pains

Daniel Sams reminds me of somebody. Oh, yeah, Michael Bishop.

You remember him. He's the Kansas State quarterback who spent a lot of time shooting himself in the foot until he figured out that really hurts and then became a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy 15 years ago.

Sams is that kind of quarterback. I'm not saying Sams, a K-State sophomore who spent Saturday thrilling and killing — emotionally speaking — a purple-clad fan base is Bishop.

But despite Sams' ups and downs, the great escapes and devastating interceptions, he needs to be the Wildcats' quarterback.

Every down, every situation, every second.

But, alas, it doesn't sound like that's going to happen. In the wake of a 33-29 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon in a game the Wildcats had, let get away, grasped again, lost again and finally let slip away, KSU coach Bill Snyder sounded like a man determined to remain undetermined.

He said it's most likely K-State will continue to play two quarterbacks — Sams and junior Jake Waters.

It was Waters, strangely, who was out there to engineer what Snyder hoped would be a last-ditch touchdown drive due to his strong arm.

But when Waters missed on two passes, Sams came into the game. He ultimately threw his third interception as K-State dropped to 0-2 in the Big 12 and 2-3 overall.

Snyder was curt with the media after the game. He answered questions, but tapped his fingers as he did so. He was stewing, probably as unsure about some of the decisions he's making as everybody else is.

Sams has a rifle arm and feet that seem to turn 180 degrees. He spins and jukes and can turn on after-burners to speed away from defenders.

But he's erratic. He can take your breath away on one play and make your skin crawl on the next.

He won Saturday's game. He lost Saturday's game. He did everything with Saturday's game except put it in the oven and bake it.

And it's obvious that he irritates his coach, who likes precision, intelligence and decisiveness.

Except Snyder isn't being decisive when it comes to his quarterbacks.

He flip-flops between Sams and Waters, although the dose of Sams on Saturday was more than a spoonful.

Sams is emotional and K-State needs a jolt now and then. He provided the offense with 118 rushing yards and 181 passing yards. He completed 15 of 21 attempts, evidence to the contrary of those who believe his accuracy is non-existent.

But there is a flip side to Sams, no doubt about it.

He sometimes throws when he should run and he sometimes runs when he should throw. He has lapses at the line of scrimmage that cost the Wildcats several penalties.

He's not going to get past the mistakes, though, unless he plays. Unless he starts. Unless he's Snyder's guy.

"Well, there were the good things we all saw and the bad things we all saw,'' Snyder said of Sams. "It was just exactly like we saw it.''

Unless we were covering our eyes, because a player like Sams isn't always easy to watch. Exciting to watch? Yes. But not always easy.

It was Sams who was quarterbacking on the first two drives of the game. On the first, he got K-State out a deep hole in its own territory before the Wildcats were forced to punt. And on the second, he struck for a 67-yard touchdown pass to Glenn Gronkowski on the first play.

But Waters was at quarterback for the third series. And although Sams was out there for most of the game and most of the plays, there was just enough of Waters to make you wonder why.

This is not an indictment of Waters. I love his strong arm and in a different system he would be a no-brainer as the starter. He might even be a no-brainer as a starter for Kansas State if there wasn't this bright, shiny toy named Daniel Sams.

Turnovers and penalties were Kansas State's bugaboo against Oklahoma State. And Sams was right in the middle of most of them.

Then again, the Wildcats probably wouldn't have been as close as they were if Sams hadn't been dodging defenders and throwing bullets.

He had the misfortune of playing quarterback in a game in which receivers Tramaine Thompson (out) and Tyler Lockett (injured early) were non-factors.

Sams' first interception came on a touch pass with 5:30 left in the third quarter. He had a narrow window between his intended receiver and a couple of defenders and missed it, setting up an Oklahoma State field goal that brought the Cowboys to within 21-20.

The second interception came with just more than four minutes remaining in the game as Sams attempted to complete a pass to Torell Miller, who caught an earlier touchdown pass.

Miller had run a deep out pattern on first down from the Kansas State 21-yard line, shortly after Oklahoma State had taken a 30-29 lead on a Ben Grogan field goal.

It was a risky pass and one that Sams hadn't made all game long. And it was picked off by Shaun Lewis, who returned it 24 yards to the Kansas State 17 to set up a field goal that put the Cowboys up by four.

Not many college quarterbacks can make that throw and Sams shouldn't have been called on to try. Sams had been at his best all day when running and throwing safer passes to underneath receivers.

You don't want him to make mistakes? Don't set him up to make mistakes.

Sams is still learning how to play quarterback. He was beaten out during the offseason by Waters, the junior college player of the year in 2012 at Iowa Western. But Waters never rested comfortably with the starting job with Sams lurking.

And Sams must wonder whether his topsy-turvy Saturday against Oklahoma State did more harm than good in the eyes of his detailed and uncompromising coach.

The same coach, by the way, who witnessed the growing pains of Bishop. Sometimes the only way to grow is to endure pain. Sams might never be Bishop, but there's only one way to find out.

He's gotta play.