Two minutes and 20 seconds into Saturday night's game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State cornerback David Garrett stepped in front of a Kent State pass and toted it 45 yards for a touchdown. Yes, in 140 seconds the Wildcats had done what took 58-plus minutes two weeks earlier: Score a touchdown. From there, well, some might say the game got legs. The Wildcats pushed their way to a 37-0 victory, doing their best to quell concerns that arose from a nerve-wracking season opener along the way.
Offensively, the Wildcats (2-0) may not have looked like the juggernaut of early this century, but they moved ball and put up points. K-State gained 335 total yards, including 219 on the ground. The numbers were dramatically better, but did the head coach feel the team had truly improved? "A little bit," Bill Snyder said. "Offensively we played reasonably well for 30 minutes. But they don't let you get away with just 30 minutes."
Quarterback Collin Klein led the way for K-State, rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while also passing for 74 yards and a score. While the numbers were a dramatic improvement from the season opening, victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat effort, the Wildcats tallied just 90 total yards in the second half.
"It was a lot better," Klein said of the offensive effort, "and at the same time, it was not enough. We did a lot of things a lot better, but at the same time, we left a lot out there."
Klein completed 9 of 18 passes in a contest that evolved to focus much more on the quarterbacks running ability than anything else. Both the coach and quarterback said that the Klein-centric attack was not necessarily by design.
"Each game is going to take on its own identity," Klein said. "It's a team game. Each game each night might take a weird turn that you don't expect. It's just being able to adapt and adjust."
Alongside Klein in the backfield, Wildcat running backs John Hubert and Angelo Pease drew the bulk of the carries, but combined to rush just 14 times for 45 yards. Meanwhile a banged-up Bryce Brown did not see any action, though Snyder indicated that the running back was available to play. Through the air, Chris Harper served as Klein's favorite receiver, nabbing four receptions for 38 yards. Harper said that the Wildcats scaled things far back in order to improve during their off week.
"Blocking, all the way around," Harper said, "The receivers, the line, everything. We were just going back to fundamentals and basics, and we showed improvement this game."
The Wildcat offense benefited greatly from a penalty-prone Kent State (0-3) defense. The Golden Flashes were flagged 11 times for 136 yards, including twice for 30 yards on the Wildcats' first offensive scoring drive. The two Kent State penalties were sandwiched between a Klein-based offensive attack that saw the quarterback gain 64 of the Wildcats 95 yards on the drive.
The Wildcats pushed their lead to 21 when Klein connected with Sheldon Smith on a three-yard pass five minutes into the second quarter, and the lead ballooned to 28 after a 4-yard Klein carry just four minutes later.
Defensively, the Wildcats held the Golden Flashes scoreless, marking the first Wildcat shutout since Sept. 9, 2006. K-State allowed just 199 total yards, and harassed quarterback Spencer Keith into completing just 11 of 23 passes with two interceptions, including Garrett's early game-changer. "It happened really fast," Garrett said of the second interception of his career. "I just saw him break, so I broke and I jumped the route. The next thing I know, I am running down the sideline."
"It set us off right," safety Ty Zimmerman said of Garrett's pick. "It got the fans into it right away. It put us in a lead and enabled the offense to get a flex and get a drive going."
In what appears to be a developing trend, linebacker Arthur Brown led the Wildcats with 12 tackles, including a pair for losses. The junior seemed to appear everywhere that the Golden Flashes hoped he would not, but Snyder said that he expects more from Brown. "It's not all about the numbers," Snyder Said. "It's about being where you are supposed to be and playing more aggressively than he did tonight. It's not that he played bad. I do not think anybody on the defense played poorly tonight. We expect a lot out of our young players, and Arthur is certainly at the top of the list."
Brown and his teammates limited the Golden Flashes to a meager 81 passing yards, and allowed Kent State to convert on just 5-of-15 third downs.
Kicker Anthony Cantele knocked home three field goals for the Wildcats, including a 49-yarder that pushed the Wildcat lead to 31 late in the first half.
With newfound momentum, the Wildcats will compete in their first road contest of the season next week, facing a Miami team fresh off an upset victory over Ohio State. The game is set for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff and will air on ESPNU. "Do we have our hands full?" Snyder said when asked about the Hurricanes. "Certainly."