Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Jordan Willis, Jesse Ertz, Iowa State and Farmageddon trophy ideas

K-State players, lea by K-State defensive end Jordan Willis run on to the field. (October 8, 2016)
K-State players, lea by K-State defensive end Jordan Willis run on to the field. (October 8, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Is it possible to cover a Kansas State basketball game on a Friday night in Manhattan AND to cover a Kansas State football game the following morning in Ames?

I’m about to find out.

Bruce Weber’s team plays its first exhibition at 7 tonight against Pittsburg State, and I will be at Bramlage Coliseum to write about it. Bill Snyder’s team plays its second conference road game against Iowa State at 11 tomorrow morning, and I hope to be at Jack Trice Stadium to write about that, too.

I say “hope” instead of “will” because it takes longer than five hours to drive from Manhattan to Ames, and I will be hitting the road in the dead of night, hoping what little sleep I can get will power me through. I don’t drink coffee, but I see a lot of Dr. Peppers in my future.

Here’s hoping that stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines (for the first time in history) doesn’t feel like it goes on forever.

Wish me luck. In the mean time, here is this week’s edition of K-State Q&A. Thanks, as always, for the questions.

I am predicting K-State to finish 7-5.

But the schedule does set up for a nice finish.

Iowa State will be tough on the road, but K-State will continue to find a way to own the Farmageddon series. Oklahoma State has more talent, but here’s guessing K-State will knock off the Cowboys at home. Kansas is practically a guaranteed victory. So that’s seven wins right there.

At Baylor seems like a loss. Hard to imagine the Wildcats keeping up with the Bears in Waco.

Before the season, I classified the season-finale at TCU as a likely loss, but that game is starting to look like a toss-up. The Horned Frogs are not playing nearly as well as some expected. The Wildcats won’t be favored to win in Fort Worth, but I could definitely see it happening.

Best-case scenario: 8-4. Worst-case scenario: 6-6. For now, I’ll stick with 7-5.

Crazy? Nah, I wouldn’t call you crazy for thinking K-State can win this game by more than a field goal.

I’m predicting the Wildcats to win close, but if they play well in the first half they could pull away for a relatively easy win in the final two quarters. K-State has the better offensive line and defensive line, and there is legitimate hope the Wildcats can run for 200 yards on the Cyclones. If that happens, this might not be a nail-biter.

That being said, nothing about this game screams easy. Iowa State has held second-half leads over Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas this season. All three of those games slipped through its fingers, but losing to Baylor 45-42 and Oklahoma State 38-31 shows the Cyclones can’t be overlooked.

K-State won its last two trips to Ames 32-28 and 27-21 with teams that finished 11-2 and 9-4. Maybe this game isn’t as close, but I’m expecting another single-digit margin.

A golden tractor would be fun. Maybe a bronzed array of vegetables or a barn?

You could go a lot of different ways here, so long as it isn’t that awful CyHawk trophy Iowa and Iowa State came up with a few years back.

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Or maybe instead of a trophy K-State and Iowa State could go with a golden farmer’s hat, similar to what Texas and Oklahoma play for. Maybe some special overalls the winning coach has to wear after the game. A silver rake? A golden shovel?

The more I write the more I think this series needs a trophy.

K-State’s biggest problem hasn’t been finishing games; it’s been starting third quarters.

The Wildcats have played four conference games. Want to know how many touchdowns they have scored in the third quarter of those games? Zero. Want to know how many points they have scored in the third quarter of those games? Six – field goals against Texas and West Virgina, bagels against Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

It’s hard to build off a halftime lead when you offense comes out of the locker room and does nothing.

As you point out, better halftime adjustments on offense would have allowed K-State to take insurmountable leads against West Virginia and Texas. Instead, both those teams got new life and had chances to win late.

K-State’s defense had to save the day against the Longhorns.

Dana Dimel and company need to be better in the third quarter before the Wildcats can truly finish off a game.

Jordan Willis is up to fourth on K-State’s all-time sack list with 22.5, trailing Dirk Ochs (24), Nyle Wiren (27.5) and Darren Howard (29.5).

That means he needs seven sacks over his final six games (let’s presume K-State makes a bowl) to tie the record and eight to own it all by himself.

It won’t be easy, but he definitely has a shot here. Willis had eight sacks in his first seven games. If he maintains that pace, he will come up just short. He probably needs a big game somwhere down the line, perhaps something crazy like four sacks against Kansas. That would be enough to make up for any games he goes without a sack.

Dimel’s record with injured quarterbacks is kind of incredible.

It does make you wonder if he tries to get too cute with quarterbacks that are at full strength (example: trying nothing but deep throws against West Virginia) and settles for plays that have a higher probability of working with quarterbacks that are playing hurt.

Whatever the case, K-State should do more of what it did against Texas regardless of Jesse Ertz’s arm strength. The Wildcats asked Ertz to attempt short, high-percentage passes and he looked great in the first half.

It was a sign of what Ertz can produce when used correctly.

Texas was bad on defense in the first half, sure, but pretty much every team in the Big 12 is bad on defense. The Longhorns didn’t appear any worse than Texas Tech or Oklahoma.

The only way I see that happening is if K-State agrees to play one of those “neutral-site games” on opening weekend that are becoming more and more popular. If Arrowhead Stadium ever started one of those, that could work against a regional opponent like Nebraska or Missouri. Or, K-State could agree to do what LSU and Wisconsin did, playing one game in Houston and another in Green Bay. Perhaps K-State could play two games against Georgia with one it Atlanta and one in Kanass City. That could work.

Arrowhead hosting the Big 12 championship game would also present an opportunity.

Other than that, it will be a hard sell. Bill Snyder doesn’t want to give away a home game to play in Kansas City. John Currie isn’t big on the idea, either, now that K-State has poured millions into renovating its stadium in Manhattan. He told media over the summer that as fun as it would be to play at Soldier Field or Jerry World or Arrowhead, they aren’t as fun as home games.

Iowa State makes sense for an Arrowhead series within the conference, but neither fan base could fill the stadium when they tried that. No other Big 12 team is going to agree to play K-State in Arrowhead. That’s a long shot.

So it may be a while before we see K-State football return to Kansas City.

Give it time.

Unless Charlie Strong can finish the season on one hell of a winning streak he won’t be the Longhorns coach next season.

I assume the switch is performance based.

Ian Patterson began the year on kickoff duty and promptly booted two of his first 10 kicks out of bounds while only recording two touchbacks. Matthew McCrane replaced him and has done a better job. Of his 31 kickoffs, 11 have ended in touchbacks and only one has gone out of bounds.

Walsh didn’t have the best game against Texas, averaging 33 yards per punt, but I wouldn’t worry about that. He’s still averaging 42.5 yards on the season.

I think both teams will exceed preseason expectations.

The K-State football team was picked eighth in the Big 12 media poll, ahead of just Iowa State and Kansas. As of now, it seems like the Wildcats are headed to a middle-of-the-pack finish. They should top Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas in the standings and compete with Oklahoma State and TCU for fourth.

The K-State basketball team was picked ninth in the Big 12 coaches poll, ahead of just TCU. That seems way too low for a team that returns that bulk of its scoring and experience a year after finishing eighth in the conference standings. Bruce Weber’s team has the ability to finish quite a bit higher than ninth.

Even longer ago than when the Bruce Weber-led Cats split the Big 12 championship in 2013.

As much as I hate it when coaches give out multiple MVP awards to their players at the end of a season, I think this needs to be a year where Bruce Weber honors two players at the end-of-the-year banquet. Wesley Iwundu needs to be one of them. The other needs to be D.J. Johnson or Dean Wade.

Iwundu figures to be K-State’s best player this season. His improvement on offense may determine how far the Wildcats can go. But he won’t be able to take them anywhere alone. He will need Johnson to average something close to a double-double or Wade to match him in scoring.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett