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October 24, 2013
Game Up Close: Finding balance
Bill Snyder seeks a balanced offense. He always has and always will. Unfortunately, though, Kansas State has been far from what the 74-year-old coach in his 22nd season with the program desires in 2013.
Heading into the season, all signs pointed to offensive success and some even suggested a higher degree of explosiveness. K-State was returning its entire offensive line, a proven commodity at running back, a couple fast, sure-handed wide receivers and an elite running quarterback while also bringing in the top junior college signal caller in the country. The pieces were all there and, at times, each has flourished. It just hasn't clicked on all cylinders like most projected it would.
Looking at the statistics through six games and the numbers shockingly indicate the Wildcats are, in fact, a balanced offense. They average 216.2 yards per game through the air and 184.2 more in the ground game to score 30.2 points. However, anyone that paid attention to K-State in the first half of the season knows balance has been a consistent issue and the offense has struggled with putting up points and turning the ball over. After eight 30-point outbursts in 2012, including five in league play, the Wildcats have only eclipsed that mark twice this year and none against conference foes Texas (21), Oklahoma State (29) and Baylor (25).
So following its final bye week of the season, is K-State, 2-4 overall and 0-3 in Big 12 Conference play, any closer to finding the right offensive balance heading into Saturday's 2:45 p.m. game with West Virginia, 3-4 and 1-3, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium?
"No, we're not collectively," Snyder said. "In some areas, I think we have the balance. In other areas, we do not.
"It's truly defined or purely defined by how somebody lines up and plays on defense. I've said so many times, if they line up and take certain things away then if you have some balance -- or in other words the capacity to do a number of different things -- then you can move on to whatever seems to fit the moment so to speak. I think we've been able to do that to a certain degree. Not totally successful, we've lost four games. That enters into it as well."
The first part of Snyder's answer is rather bothersome to the casual optimist. Honestly, it's probably a tough pill to swallow. But because the veteran coach said there will be no personnel changes, especially regarding the two-quarterback system of sophomore Daniel Sams and junior Jake Waters, for the second half of the season, K-State will have to live with the past and make it work to win at least four games down the stretch and become bowl eligible.
"Offensively, they are searching for an identity at this point in time, like a lot of teams, including ourselves," Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen said this week. "You lose a quarterback of the caliber of what they had last year (Collin Klein), and it will take some time before you find some sort of rhythm.
"They have been searching with the two kids they have been playing. It looks to me like they have been settling in on Daniel Sams a little bit. They are two different type guys; they do different type schemes with the two of them. We will have to prepare for both."
For K-State, regardless who is under center, finding balance is about exploring it. No longer can the Wildcats just settle for a 275-yard passing performance or a 327-yard rushing show. The cat needs to be let out of the bag in the form of simply allowing both quarterbacks, Sams in particular, to showcase their complete skill set. Whether it is something as easy handing the ball off, throwing screen passes and getting the tight ends involved or as complicated as gadget plays, it needs to happen because settling on one area with either Waters or Sams is not going to cut it. Sticking to what works is one thing, but being predictable is another and the Wildcats can't afford to be just that if they want to win these games. Balance is a must and getting receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back helps.
"They could add to it, yes, in certain areas and a certain segment of the game," Snyder quipped. "Surely they could."
Luckily, K-State faces a West Virginia defense with a similar identity crisis. The Mountaineers enter the contest allowing 257.1 passing yards and 196 rushing yards per game and have struggled mightily on the road. This is the perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to get what has been a disappointment turned around.
"Statistically they don't rank real high in our conference and I can't tell you that I know exactly why that's the case," Snyder said. "Sometimes you put a little too much in trying to find the right answers. I don't know if that's necessarily the case but it's a possibility it could be. I see them starting to kind of settle into some things which probably makes them a little bit more confident and secure about the things that they're capable of doing.
"I think that's just part of what they're going through is trying to find what they do best. Maybe that's what we're going through as well."
K-State has shown it can throw the ball effectively and run it with the best of them. It's just time that it finds balance with both.
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