Kansas State Q&A: Winning close games, running the ball, Duke Shelley and Kody Cook

K-State players in warm up before taking on #2 rank TCU (October 10, 2015)
K-State players in warm up before taking on #2 rank TCU (October 10, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

We’ve got some fun questions -- thanks, as always, for asking them -- this week, so let’s get right to them.

That’s a good comparison. Had K-State held on against Oklahoma State and TCU, the Wildcats would probably be ranked in the top 20 (if not higher) and undefeated just like the 2011 squad. Looking back at the year K-State had Collin Klein and Arthur Brown as juniors, the Wildcats were 8-1 in games decided by single digits. They beat Eastern Kentucky 10-7, Miami 28-24, Baylor 36-35, Missouri 24-17, Texas Tech 41-34, Texas A&M 53-50, Texas 17-13 and Iowa State 30-23. That’s a whole lot of close victories.

The only close game they lost was at Oklahoma State 52-45. Hey, that score sounds familiar. Oklahoma and Arkansas defeated K-State convincingly.

I think we will learn more about K-State starting this weekend. Oklahoma State and TCU were two of the toughest games on the schedule. Oklahoma and Texas are both more manageable, at least on paper. Baylor looks unstoppable, but the back end of K-State’s schedule is friendly. It’s not that they can’t win close games. They beat Louisiana Tech in three overtimes. They just need to coach and play a little better in late-game situations. That will be a simpler task against a softer schedule.

I’m picking K-State to beat Oklahoma 35-33, so the close-losses streak could come to an end soon.

I have a hunch Bill Snyder was referring to a change in play calling when he said K-State coaches were ready to change their halftime approach earlier this week. Oklahoma’s defense is susceptible against the run, so this seems like the perfect game to hand the ball to Justin Silmon and Charles Jones and let Joe Hubener manage the zone read twice as often as he throws.

Then again, that was the obvious strategy up 18 in the second half against TCU, as well. So I can’t predict what the Wildcats will do when they have the ball.

To be fair, K-State coaches only deserve part of the blame here. Hubener did audible out of run plays and into pass plays last Saturday. Without his pick six, that game is completely different. Receivers also dropped a few passes that should have worked. Still, everyone needs to be on the same page if they are in that position again. When the team is rushing it well, it needs to stay committed to the run.

After watching two games slip away, there will be play calling adjustments. I’m just not sure how major the changes will be.

The secondary certainly faces a difficult test against Oklahoma. But it won’t be as tough as TCU, simply because you won’t have Jesse Mack defending Josh Doctson. Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel are both expected to be available, which should help. But Sterling Shepard abused Burns last season in Norman. Maybe the addition of Duke Shelley gives them a boost.

Bill Snyder didn’t address Dante Barnett’s injury status this week, but he did remove the defensive back from K-State’s depth chart for the first time all season. Alex Delton and Cre Moore or no longer on the depth chart, either. I have no idea what that means. Part of me thinks it might be a smoke screen and those players are all active against Oklahoma. But I am not expecting Barnett to play. We’ll see.

On Duke Shelley, I think he replaces Danzel McDaniel this week. Shelley played well against TCU, showing promise as a cover corner. And Snyder said Shelley will continue to play. McDaniel has had a rough go this season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if K-State’s starting corners on Saturday are Morgan Burns and Shelley.

That would explain why they rarely do it. Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel definitely seem afraid of turning around when the ball is in the air.

Bill Snyder was actually asked about this topic (minus the the lava reference) at his news conferences this week. So I will let him answer.

“You can’t face guard,” Snyder said. “What we like for guys to do is, No. 1 to stay on top of the receiver. We are having some difficulty with that. So when we end up behind a receiver it becomes significant because identifying the ball is significant. The thing that tells you when you have got your back to the ball where the ball is is the receiver’s hands. So if he puts his hands up obviously the ball is coming to that spot. We just say put your hands in his hands. That way the ball is going to get to you before the ball gets to him.”

Kody Cook is the new backup quarterback. If something happened to him, they would probably go with Zach Davidson. Jonathan Banks would factor in whenever he is fit to play.

Here I thought you were going to ask about Zach Davidson this week.

It’s difficult to predict the future at quarterback. We saw Jesse Ertz run one play. We saw Alex Delton run about five plays. We haven’t seen Jonathan Banks at all. But I think Delton has the biggest upside in that group, because of his speed. So let’s say 15.

Sources say K-State ordered 12 extra bottles of stick ‘em for the Oklahoma game. Deante Burton, Kyle Klein and Cody Small are expected to use it all.

I don’t plan to do that at any point. Sorry. If you’re itching to watch them live, K-State broadcasts them on its athletics website.

Mike Riley and Bruce Weber are both nice coaches who replaced angry coaches, so in that sense I agree.

It seems like Nebraska targeted Riley to try and take the Cornhuskers to the next level with a new approach. So far it’s not working out. But that could change. K-State brought in Weber to retain a talented roster and win immediately with it, which the Wildcats did in his first season. The program has been in a decline since. I’m not sure anyone looked at Weber as the man who could elevate everything about the basketball team. He was more of a keep-a-good-thing-going guy, in my mind.

K-State basketball, by a significant margin.

Best-case scenario, the football team wins eight games in the regular season and adds on a ninth in the bowl.

Worst-case scenario, the basketball team wins something like 12 games. Bruce Weber’s team won’t challenge for a Big 12 championship, but they won’t lose to Coppin State and Maryland-Eastern Shore. I won’t be shocked if they finish .500. Lots of bad basketball teams find a way to win 16 games.

As long as this young roster shows promise, that better days are ahead, Weber will be back.

If my projection is wrong and the basketball team only wins something like seven games and goes 0-18 in the Big 12, as you suggest, then Weber would most certainly be on the hot seat. But I don’t envision that at this point.

Editor’s note: Since your specific question was about Big 12 games (sorry for missing that, guess it’s time to get new glasses) I would still take the basketball team. The football team would have to close strong to make it close. Bruce Weber’s teams are tough at home, and with an 18-game conference basketball schedule, the Wildcats will surely get to six or seven Big 12 wins.)

He’s a free agent at the end of the season. So maybe? Brad Hill and the baseball team could use him more than Bill Snyder.

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.