Two players, both fully invested, both devastated by a defeat in which Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said they gave everything.
And therein lies the dilemma.
Should Snyder stick with his (kind of) two-quarterback system featuring Jake Waters as the starter and Daniel Sams as the second option, or go with one or the other on a full-time basis? Coming off another defeat, this one a 31-21 setback at defensively-challenged Texas on Saturday in Austin, Snyder seems to have a decision to make.
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But even with an off week to think about it before traveling to No. 11 Oklahoma State on Oct. 5, that decision appears to have been made.
“We have two quarterbacks that are playing well,” Snyder said. “And as I’ve said before, both deserve the opportunity to play and both will get the opportunity to play.
“They’re two young guys who are trying.... Carry this (quarterback competition) as far as you want, but those are two guys that want to win, who want to compete. They were two guys who were both in tears on Saturday in the locker room. They want to do everything they can to try and help.”
Waters, a highly-touted junior-college transfer from Iowa Western, has been the starter for all four games but has struggled with turnovers. He’s thrown for 948 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions in K-State’s 2-2 start. And while he didn’t throw any interceptions against Texas — his first game without any — he lost two fumbles inside the Texas 20 in the fourth quarter with the Wildcats trailing by 10 points.
The first came at the Texas 6, when he ran into offensive lineman Cody Whitehair with 2:03 to play. The second came just inside the Texas 15 with 17 seconds left, when he was stripped of the ball while dropping back to pass.
The mistakes overshadowed a 19-of-30 passing night for 275 yards. Thirteen completions went to Tyler Lockett for a school-record 237 yards.
The blowback against Waters on social media — and the call for Sams to see an increased role — was quick and hostile, something Snyder addressed.
“It’s disturbing, and No. 1 I don’t understand it and No. 2 I’m pretty confident that whatever may have been said in a negative fashion doesn’t represent the support base for this program,” Snyder said. “It is a shame when somebody can just (get on a computer) and do that without making eye contact. Those same people wouldn’t walk into this building and look me in the eye and say that, I’ll tell you that.”
But it wasn’t just anonymous faces that were critical of Waters. Senior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson said after the game that he hoped Sams could see the field in more of an expanded role.
Against Texas, Sams led the Wildcats in rushing with 48 yards on eight carries, even though the Longhorns keyed on the run whenever he was on the field. Sams, who has rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns this season (7.1 yards per carry), has completed 3 of 4 passes for 39 yards.
“It’s probably (the coaches) more than anything else,” Snyder said when asked why Sams hasn’t been allowed to pass more. “Yes, he can check into pass plays. But he’s going to stay within the offense.”
Lockett said it’s irrelevant which quarterback is on the field.
“Half the time I don’t even pay attention to whoever is back there because I trust them both, Daniel or Jake,” Lockett said. “And whatever play is called, we have to capitalize on it. The coaches call the plays, but we’re the ones who have to make the plays happen regardless of who is in (at quarterback). I feel like they’ll both take charge when they’re in and they both can lead us to victory.”