Jon Morse, a contributing editor over at "Bring on the Cats," SBNation's Kansas State site, took some time to answer some questions on the K-State program. Morse has a wealth of knowledge on Kansas State and college football in general, so it was an absolute pleasure having this exchange.
Kansas State running back John Hubert is one of the Wildcats' top weapons on offense.
I did a Q&A over there, and you can tell by the questions that they did their homework.
Obviously the loss to North Dakota State was tough for the Kansas State program. What was the feeling among supporters?
The answer to that might depend on just how die-hard the fan in question is. To the casual supporter, I'm sure it was just outright shock and disbelief. For those of us who are more serious about it, anger was more prevalent.
Understand, there were serious mistakes made in that game by the coaching staff, and there was a definite lack of focus by the players as well. As a guy connected to a program which until a couple of years ago was an FCS program, you understand that while those teams may not have the depth or the five-star talent, they can still put together a good product, and can't be taken for granted.
In the end, though, the defense killed K-State in the opener... and the fanbase promptly took to the internet to argue about the starting quarterback instead. Go figure.
My understanding is that Bill Snyder is a bit of a legend in Manhattan. What does he mean to the Kansas State program, and does he have the full-fledged support of the Kansas State crowd?
It's interesting, here in 2013, that the feelings about Snyder have altered not because of anything he's done, but because of things that have happened elsewhere.
Bill Snyder is everything to the program, and his importance to the university itself can't possibly be overstated. Before Snyder, the school was in decline. I don't just mean on the football field, I mean everywhere, but especially the athletic program, which was on the verge of being thrown out of the Big 8. Since his arrival, of course the football program has gone from being the worst in the nation to being one of the programs that gets talked about right behind the true blue-bloods; I made the observation just the other day that K-State's peer institutions, athletically, are the likes of Virginia Tech, Oregon, Wisconsin, and to an extent Georgia. That's where we are now.
More importantly, though, Snyder has been the face of an overall renaissance for the university. The academic rating of the school has been climbing steadily for 20 years. Donations to the general fund have skyrocketed. And now we've got the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility breaking ground on campus, which will bring literally billions of dollars of research money into Manhattan... and in a way, Snyder's partially responsible even for that.
That said, while he's always got our support, that doesn't mean we back him 100% on every play. His scheduling practices are the source of a lot of criticism even among our own fanbase, and while nobody is better at recruiting the right talent and preparing them, the in-game decision-making has come under fire on occasion. In some respects, the "purple wizard" meme causes a lot of heartburn, because (a) he's not perfect and (b) it sort of short-changes the kids on the field, minimizing their talent and contributions in lieu of showering the praise on the coach.
How goes life after Klein? Is the dual-quarterback attack working so far, or are Wildcats fans looking for more from their signal caller(s)?
The attack itself is working fabulously. Both quarterbacks have performed very well, and any real letdowns have mostly been the result of curious play-calling or the wrong decision as to which of them should be used in a given situation. That said, as I noted it's been a matter of very serious debate.
On the one hand, you've got a segment of the fanbase who thinks Jake Waters has mostly done everything you could expect, and that the offense is fine with him under center, and Daniel Sams isn't half the passer Waters is, and why would you call for him to be replaced when that's far from this team's biggest problem? On the other, you've got folks who are used to the Klein offense and note that Waters can't run like Sams or Klein (and that keeps John Hubert from being effective, too), and they've really come to love Sams over the last couple of years both for his electric ability and his infectious personality, and all they want is to see him start regardless of whether it's actually the best thing for the team.
And then you have guys like me, who are now convinced that this is one of those rare and mystical circumstances where a two-headed quarterback monster might actually work. Their abilities are fully complimentary. They do two different things. The trick, of course, is applying them in the proper situations without typecasting them so terribly that the offense becomes as predictable as the menu at the local Chinese restaurant.
What can UMass expect from Kansas State's defense? The Minutemen have a pretty large but inexperienced line. Will the Wildcats be blitz happy?
They're going to blitz, yeah. The current defense is lacking in speed, though, and any moderate success in picking up the blitz is potentially going to be good news for UMass. On the defensive line, Ryan Mueller is the main threat. He's made a lot of plays in the first couple of games and has seemingly shed a bit of a penchant for ill-conceived errors. Last week, we also got to see Mike Moore -- nominally a linebacker -- getting snaps on the line when speed was called for.
The linebacking corps is currently suffering from a serious case of the slows, and this is where the critical flaw in the defense currently sits. Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker are nothing but heart, and they give every drop of blood from it, but sometimes they just get beat. Getting into the Wildcat backfield should be priority one for the Minutemen offense. The secondary, led by safety Ty Zimmerman and corner Randall Evans, is pretty solid; corner Dorrian Roberts, a true newcomer to that unit, has been the most pleasant surprise on that side of the ball. I wouldn't expect to make a great deal of headway on deep balls Saturday. Best bet through the air is, again, to attack the linebackers.
This one sounds like a soft ball, but sometimes the question brings out some good answers: Who is Kansas State's best player? Is that player the Wildcats' top NFL prospect?
That's a tough one. Taking into account production and performance, the answer for me is WR/KR Tyler Lockett, and yes he's probably a reasonably good pro prospect though he's got another year to go after this one. Right there with him would be his partner in crime Tramaine Thompson, who was good last year but really announced himself last weekend by taking the second-half kickoff to the house and then immediately following with a punt return to the one-yard line. When the offense is being run properly, they're the engine (along with Curry Sexton, a very Welker-like possession receiver -- "all he does is catch first downs").
Higher on the NFL chart is OL Cornelius Lucas, who looks to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick... but needs to steady his performance this year. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, subpar against North Dakota State. The rest of the offensive line will get some measure of interest, as well.
How do Kansas State fans see UMass? There are a lot of miles between Manhattan and Amherst, but the teams have played before. Is this just a glorified FCS game to the Wildcats?
You're sort of asking the wrong guy this particular question, because for a few years I actually blogged about lower-division football so my perception of UMass is markedly different from the average K-State observer. That said, I'd be lying if I said there aren't a bunch of folks who actually believe UMass still IS an FCS team. (Heck, I heard people last week who thought Louisiana-Lafayette was "still in FCS", and they NEVER WERE in I-AA/FCS. Ever.)
It's hard being outside the Big Five, and I wear my fingers out correcting people about this sort of thing. C'est la vie.
Lastly, as usual, what is your prediction?
Less optimistic (for K-State, anyway) than your prediction was, that's for sure. Barring the presentation of evidence to the contrary, I'm not confident enough in K-State's defense to believe they're going to pitch a shutout, even if they're carrying one into the third quarter. They've had big problems in the second half; probably a conditioning issue. Additionally, we've pretty much got a horribly black-humored meme going regarding our special teams play, and at some point Saturday I can almost guarantee that UMass is either going to score on special teams or get a big return which sets up an easy score. So my guess here would be something in the area of K-State 42, UMass 17.