Kansas State University

Why K-State’s football game against UTSA could reveal a lot about the Wildcats

It’s too early to say anything definitive about the direction of Kansas State’s football season.

The Wildcats struggled in their opener against South Dakota, but Bill Snyder teams tend to start slow. Then they were outclassed by Mississippi State in Week 2, but the No. 16 Bulldogs had an obvious talent advantage. At 1-1, K-State is living up to preseason expectations, even if it hasn’t looked impressive while doing so.

Should fans prepare for more lackluster play in the Big 12? Or should they expect improvement?

Perhaps we will get a better read on these Wildcats in their next game against Texas-San Antonio on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.

This is a game K-State should win handily. It is favored by 21 points over UTSA, which is coming off a pair of blowout losses to Arizona State and Baylor. The Roadrunners are allowing 498.5 yards per game while putting up just 237.5. On paper, this is K-State’s easiest game on the schedule.

If the Wildcats take advantage and win by a large margin, they will enter their Big 12 opener at West Virginia with momentum and confidence. Forget about the first two games. But if they slog their way to another uninspiring result, well, they may have some major problems.

“I look at it as an opportunity,” K-State center Adam Holtorf said. “You look at last week, we try to correct all of the mistakes here. Let’s try and play mistake-free football, get a run game going, protect the quarterback and the pass game, go out and get it done.

“There is no waiting around. It has to happen now. There is a sense of urgency in practice and it’s not just the offensive line. Everyone knows we need to get things corrected and they need to be corrected yesterday.”

Snyder made it clear how important this game was when he began the week by saying the Roadrunners “aren’t a team we are in a position to overlook. We’re not in the position to overlook anybody.”

K-State certainly needs to improve in several areas. Its offense is averaging 310.5 yards (113th nationally) and its defense is allowing 436 yards (101st nationally). The Wildcats won’t win many Big 12 games with that type of production.

Players seem to have taken that message to heart.

“We’re pretty anxious,” defensive tackle Joe Davies said. “We’re coming out with a chip on our shoulder, ready to play and redeem ourselves from last weekend.”

A good showing against UTSA could do more than simply boost confidence and ease concerns within the fan base. It could also give K-State an opportunity to play backups and freshmen. Many wondered how Snyder would handle college football’s new redshirt rules, which allow players to appear in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility, but K-State hasn’t been able to experiment with personnel.

“Unfortunately,” Snyder said, “our games have not put us in position to get somebody on the field just to give them an opportunity to take advantage of that.”

This is K-State’s best shot to change that with a drama-free victory.

The schedule gets tougher after UTSA, with a road trip to No. 14 West Virginia followed by a home game with Texas. At Baylor is up next, followed by three straight games against ranked teams — Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and TCU.

Now is the time for K-State to improve.

“It’s a huge game,” linebacker Sam Sizelove said. “We need to find an identity and go out there and impose our will the way we have done it the last eight years. We need to come together.”