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September 6, 2013Bill Snyder remembers his reaction to the play all too well. It was in the first few minutes of the second half during last week's opener against North Dakota State and K-State had just called a timeout to put sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams in the game for the first time in place of starter Jake Waters. The plan was for the explosive runner to convert a manageable third-down in the red zone to help keep the Wildcats' potential scoring drive alive. But Sams had bigger and better plans in mind.
Instead of just picking up enough yards to move the chains, Sams burst around the left end and scampered into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown that gave K-State its largest lead of the night. Then, Snyder recalled reacting in peculiar fashion.
"Well, I threw my headset on the ground and cut my hand," he said.
Snyder was mad. But why? After all, his Wildcats were in full control at that point.
"Because we hadn't put him in before," the 73-year-old coach quipped while chuckling.
Laughter from reporters ensued, but everyone gathered inside the Vanier Football Complex still knew the end result was no joke. The Wildcats fell to the Bison, 24-21, snapping a 20-game win streak in season openers under Snyder, and Sams' touchdown was the last time K-State scored in the contest. Suddenly, after losing to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, questions about seeing Sams to spell the stellar passing ability of Waters, who had impressive debut, more quickly arose.
Snyder admitted following the head-scratching loss that K-State should have utilized Sams more than twice for the entire game (Sams' other snap of the game was a quarterback keeper that resulted in no gain). He then followed up on Tuesday by saying his backup signal caller will see the field more when the Wildcats face the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at 5:30 p.m. Saturday night.
"He deserves it. He had a great practice (Monday) night," Snyder said of Sams. "You also have to look at the fact that Jake proves that he is a very capable quarterback and played well during the course of the ballgame. But you have a good athlete like Daniel and you have to find places for him, which we will. The answer is yes. We have something in place."
As for how Sams will be implemented into Saturday's game, Snyder gave no definite answer. Nor would he ever. But the option is there to put the 6-foot-2, 207-pound signal-caller in for as much as a series or as simple as a single play.
"It could be both," Snyder explained. "I've always believed you have to get invested in the continuity of the game, and not that it will always happen that way, but you'd like to be able to put somebody at any position."
The message from Snyder is simple: K-State needs to find someone to help spark the offense because, frankly, what was showcased on Friday, particularly in the ground game, just won't cut it. So he is looking to Sams to provide just that.
"As an offense, I feel like we got to find our killer mentality," Sams said. "We can't just leave points in the red zone so that's just something we got to step up. But as far as the offense, I feel like with personnel and all of that, we're fine. We just have to find that killer instinct."
With Sams perhaps being the most dynamic athlete on K-State's roster, there's no doubt his presence on the field can bolster the offense if the line shapes up and add some much needed swagger with his dual-threat capabilities. It's also possible that his skillset, particularly his speed, is exactly what the Wildcats' offense was missing for most of last Friday's game. But unfortunately for Sams, in looking at the depth chart, he is committed to being a quarterback in which he's already lost the starting job and his snaps will be limited because Waters is an exceptional signal caller with an extraordinary track record and solid start to the season.
In his collegiate debut, Waters, a junior college transfer, proved to be everything as advertised. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked poised playing in his first major college football game and was able to make adequate decisions when flushed out of the pocket, which happened several times throughout the opener. Really, besides one play, which resulted in an interception, Waters was as good as one could be.
"Jake played well and he wasn't without a few errors -- most of them were mental errors -- but he showed that he could throw whatever range you want to throw," Snyder said in his critique of the new quarterback. "He threw some intermediate throws, some short throws, and had the opportunity to throw the ball deep and he did it well. Both of the longer throws were really well-thrown footballs for the most part."
However, there's no denying that Sams can change the game in one play and after Arkansas racked up almost 300 yards against Louisiana last week, it's the ideal time for Sams, a Louisiana native, to get more reps and showcase his abilities.
"I would say that I'm ready," Sams said. "But at the same time, I just really wait for my opportunity. Whenever Coach calls on me, I'll just be ready to step forward and do what I have to do."
Don't let Snyder's words earlier get misconstrued, though. K-State does not have a quarterback controversy. Sams might be taking snaps with the starting unit in practice every so often, but let it be known that Waters always starts and ends the day with the No. 1 spot. Those are the facts of life. It's just time for Snyder to take a true weapon out of his back pocket for more than two snaps a game.
And if Snyder unleashes Sams, he probably won't throw his headset out of anger when success comes anymore.
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