Imagine for a moment that you are a Charlotte football player.
Your team is trailing Kansas State by three scores in the first half of a game at Snyder Family Stadium and things are about to get worse. K-State defensive back Kendall Adams has just scooped up an errant lateral and he is on his way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon.
You’re watching from the sideline, and you’re frustrated. What do you do?
Here’s an outside-the-box option that actually happened during K-State’s 55-7 demolition of Charlotte on Saturday: You point your water bottle at Adams and squirt liquid at his helmet.
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“I didn’t even notice,” Adams said. “But I’m shocked they didn’t throw a flag for sideline interference.”
If this game could be summed up in a single play, that’s the one.
It was a mismatch from the start. The No. 19 Wildcats (picked by many to contend for a Big 12 championship) hammered the upstart 49ers (still building a foundation in their fifth season of existence) in every way possible.
The Wildcats looked sharp running the ball, getting 99 yards and a touchdown from Alex Barnes and 76 yards and a touchdown from Jesse Ertz before the backups took over. They threw the ball effectively, as Ertz completed 16 of 21 passes for 178 yards. They dominated on defense, allowing just 168 yards.
And Adams had a day to remember.
“That man balled out,” Barnes said. “Two touchdowns as a safety, that is pretty rare. I am proud of all the hard work he has put in. It’s the start of a big year for him.”
The junior free safety pulled off the two biggest plays of the afternoon, scoring touchdowns via interception and fumble returns. The first came in the first quarter when he effortlessly jumped in front of a Charlotte receiver for an interception and sprinted 30 yards untouched for a score. Later, he wisely picked up a loose ball on a sideways pass, which was ruled to be a lateral, and took it 46 yards for a touchdown.
He wasn’t distracted by Charlotte’s sideline shenanigans, caught on video and spread across social media, and the Wildcats led 31-7 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The game was essentially over.
“Coach told us what the quarterback liked to do in certain situations, so we had a game plan,” Adams said. “(on the interception) I sat on the route and saw the throw and broke on it to run it in. On the fumble, we are always coached that if it’s borderline to go ahead and pick i tup and run it back. I could not really tell from where I was at and ran it back just in case, and it worked.”
K-State (2-0) cruised to its second straight lopsided victory of the season. Charlotte (0-2) took a long flight home.
The Wildcats were at their best running the ball. Unlike last week, when they looked to throw most of the night, they churned out yards between the tackles. Five different runners (Dalvin Warmack, Mike McCoy, Winston Dimel, Ertz and Barnes) found the end zone.
“We could not stop them from running the ball,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “They had (304) yards rushing.”
That was the goal.
“It just shows how diverse we are as an offense,” Barnes said. “Las week, we were not getting it done on the ground, so we threw for (333) yards. This week it was a little tougher in the air, so we just grounded the rock all day. We can really do it all.”
Still, it wasn’t all good news for the Wildcats. Right tackle Dalton Risner exited the game on the opening drive with an apparent leg injury and was unable to return. Top receiver Byron Pringle also watched from the sideline for unknown reasons. Other notable inactive players included backup quarterback Alex Delton, backup running back Justin Silmon and starting cornerback Duke Shelley.
Those absences had no impact Saturday, but they could as the competition improves starting next week with a trip to Vanderbilt. K-State coach Bill Snyder also said the team took a step back on special teams.
Are the Wildcats ready for their first true test?
“I hope so,” Snyder said. “I would like to think we have made improvement in some areas we needed to improve, but we have uncovered some other things that need to be addressed. We’ll see.”
One unmistakable positive we have seen in each of K-State’s wins: big games from defensive backs. Last week, it was junior cornerback D.J. Reed making an interception, scoring a touchdown and piling up return yards. This week, it was Adams’ turn. He is the first K-State defender to score a touchdown on an interception and a fumble in the same game since Dyshod Carter in 1999.
“That was my first touchdown since high school,” Adams said. “It just felt good.”
His success was fitting. Adams, a 6-foot-1, 221-pounder from Fort Worth, has slowly become a staple of K-State’s defense. He has started 20 straight games for the Wildcats and made several big plays. He seemed on the verge of a breakout. It came Saturday.
The Wildcats will be difficult to beat if they continue to get that kind of play from their secondary, no matter what surprises the opposing sideline throws at them.
KST—Dimel 5 run (McCrane kick), 9:22
KST—Ertz 35 run (McCrane kick), 5:21
KST—K.Adams 30 interception return (McCrane kick), 3:58
CHA—Klugh 19 run (Macauley kick), 2:17
KST—FG McCrane 22, 8:13
KST—K.Adams 46 fumble return (McCrane kick), 4:18
KST—Barnes 4 run (McCrane kick), :07
KST—Warmack 13 run (McCrane kick), 11:13
KST—FG McCrane 24, :39
KST—McCoy 15 run (McLellan kick), 8:12
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Charlotte, Klugh 10-33, Washington 7-28, B.LeMay 3-25, McAllister 6-16, Montgomery 1-5, Barden 1-3. Kansas St., Barnes 16-99, Ertz 13-76, Warmack 7-43, McCoy 4-33, Dimel 4-29, Burns 5-15, S.Thompson 2-9.
PASSING—Charlotte, Klugh 8-19-1-33, Barden 2-6-1-25. Kansas St., Ertz 16-21-0-178, S.Thompson 1-2-0-11.
RECEIVING—Charlotte, U.LeMay 2-25, Tyler 2-11, Bostick 2-1, B.LeMay 1-10, Mullen 1-8, Quattlebaum 1-5, Washington 1-(minus 2). Kansas St., Zuber 7-73, Schoen 4-61, Heath 3-24, Isaiah Harris 2-20, Strickland 1-11.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett