Kansas State University

Why Bill Snyder draws inspiration from Army as K-State prepares for Oklahoma

While it is natural to assume Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder spent the majority of his weekend deciphering every angle of Oklahoma’s most recent game, a 52-27 victory over TCU in which the Sooners debuted a new defensive coordinator, that’s not the matchup he focused on.

He was more fascinated by a different game on Oklahoma’s schedule — a 28-21 overtime victory against Army.

Snyder’s face lit up when asked about the peculiar game at his weekly news conference on Tuesday, and gushed over Army’s statistics. The Black Knights held the ball for a whopping 44 minutes, 41 seconds, ran the ball 78 times for 339 yards, limited Oklahoma’s vaunted offense to 355 yards on 40 plays and nearly won in regulation.

“It was just interesting watching the ballgame,” Snyder said. “Army had 40 minutes of possession time and Oklahoma had 40 snaps. Outside of that game I think they average somewhere between 85 and 90 snaps. It just limited their opportunities to put points on the board.”

The Sooners survived after a fourth-quarter interception by Kenneth Mann followed by a CeeDee Lamb touchdown in overtime. But Army pushed the Sooners harder than most expected.

Behind quarterback Kyler Murray, they are averaging 526.3 yards and 48.6 points per game. The Sooners have the nation’s seventh-rated offense and have scored as many as 63 points in a game this season.

But there was Army, dominating time of possession with its triple-option offense.

Snyder would love to follow that blueprint when K-State takes on Oklahoma on the road Saturday.

“The key element is can you maintain possession of the ball for that long?” Snyder said. “They had the ball for as long as they did, because they were getting first downs. It’s interesting when you watch the game, because their gains are one yard, three yards, four yards, five yards, two yards. However many snaps they took, I would guess 95 percent of them, were five yards or less gains, but they were so consistent about it.”

It’s hard to envision K-State copying Army’s strategy. The Wildcats don’t use the triple option, and they are playing with slightly more tempo than they have in the past under new offensive coordinator Andre Coleman.

But they will try to mimic Army in their own way.

Behind running back Alex Barnes, the Wildcats have eclipsed 260 rushing yards in back-to-back games. They also held the ball for 37:52 during a 31-12 victory over Oklahoma State.

They think they can simulate much of what Army accomplished against Oklahoma.

“I have looked at (their game) a couple times,” Barnes said. “They really did just pound the rock on those guys. They ran the clock and kept OU off the field. That’s why it was such a low-scoring game. We are going to try and take a similar approach ... Army came out and punched them in the mouth and played really physical against them. That’s something we need to do, too.”

Most weeks, K-State would take scoring drives no matter how long they last. This time around, they are hoping to methodically move the ball into the end zone.

“It is going to be huge, just to control the clock by being able to run the ball,” K-State center Adam Holtorf said. “Oklahoma has such a prolific offense, their ability to score quick is huge. Being able to control time of possession is going to be big.”

It’s rare to see football players from power conferences openly talk about emulating a service academy. The way Army and Navy play feels prehistoric compared to most modern offenses, particularly in the high-flying Big 12.

But the Wildcats would love to turn back the clock and use Army’s old-school style against Oklahoma.

Can they replicate it? Even Snyder says “probably not.”

But the Army model is still mighty useful to study.

“Sometimes the best defense is to have the ball yourselves,” K-State receiver Zach Reuter said. “So we are going to definitely look to do that ourselves.”

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