Kansas State coach Ron Prince couldn't frown much upon reviewing film of the Wildcats' 45-6 win against North Texas in the season opener. But Prince did identify several areas as "opportunities to improve upon" during his news conference on Monday as his team prepares to face Football Championship Subdivision member Montana State in a televised matchup on Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Prince seeks improvement in tackling, pass rush and run defense on both sides of the ball for the Wildcats, who out-gained the Mean Green 471-205 and surrendered their third-fewest points in 26 games under Prince.
But Prince expressed his greatest discontent over turnovers, as K-State committed two and was unable to force any in a contest that otherwise demonstrated vast growth from the Wildcats' 5-7 record a year ago.
"It'll be very challenging for us when we get into conference play to be competitive and to be able to win and accomplish our goals with a minus-2 turnover ratio in games," Prince said.
K-State will meet Montana State for a 6:05 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, which will be televised by Fox College Sports (FCS). The Bobcats come off a 59-3 win against Adams State last weekend, as they racked-up 422 total yards, including 278 on the ground, and held Adams State to just five first downs and 112 total yards.
But will Montana State capture the Wildcats' attention? Prince indicated a glance at the Bobcats' box score should do that. Or players need just pop-in game film of their 19-10 win at Colorado in the 2006 opener, or a 38-7 loss at Texas A&M in the opener last season.
"(Montana State) won 59-3 in their first game," Prince said. "But also, this is the same group of kids by and large that beat Colorado two years ago at Colorado and also went to Texas A&M and Texas A&M was able to find big plays against them but for a large part of the game it could be said that they outplayed Texas A&M."
K-State soundly handled North Texas. Still, the Wildcats are still in the process of playing to their potential.
On the tackling issue, Prince said, "Tackling and defeating tackles, we left a lot of opportunities on the table there."
As for the pass rush, Prince said, "We were pressured in the pocket and couldn't provide a consistent enough pass rush to pressure their quarterback. "We really need to improve there considering the amount of passing we'll see in conference play."
K-State out-gained North Texas 165-105 on the ground, but Prince said, "We surrendered too many long runs and obviously didn't create enough of our own."
Now for the good news.
"These are all things we have the ability to do something about but we have to demonstrate we can do that," Prince said. "It's not a negative. (We) just found lots of opportunities. We had some really strong performances."
Prince announced place-kicker Brooks Rossman, safety Courtney Herndon and right tackle Nick Stringer were named the team's players of the week for their respective units.
"(Stringer) really played his best game up to this point in his career and we're really pleased with him," Prince said. "The right side of the offensive line did a really nice job."
Prince also addressed a few personnel issues as well that involves defensive tackles Gabriel Crews and Xzavier Stewart, and left tackles Edward Prince and Alesana Alesana.
"We probably will not have Gabe active for this game," Prince said. "We will not have Xzavier Stewart for this game. We will likely not have Edward Prince for this game. Alesana will be active for this game."
Alesana started all 12 games a year ago but didn't play against North Texas due to an unspecified injury. Junior college transfer Edward Prince started in his place.
A couple of the more noticeable changes on the Wildcats' two-deep depth chart for this week involve the offensive line, where redshirt junior Eric Benoit is listed as backup left guard and sophomore Kenneth Mayfield is listed as backup right guard.
A pair of junior college transfers -- Wade Weibert and Zach Hanson -- occupied those spots a week ago but didn't play against North Texas.
Meanwhile, another junior college transfer â€" wide receiver Attrail Snipes â€" hasn't been listed on the two-deep either week and didn't play in the opener, either.
Prince said, "What you see on the depth chart is basically how we plan to go forward."
Prince indicated a possible redshirt season could be in the works for Snipes and other players.
"It's not easy," Prince said. "The three returning players â€" Deon Murphy, Ernie Pierce and Lamark Brown â€" have done a nice job. All four of the new receivers have done a nice job. Adrian Hilburn has a pretty significant role in the kicking game, so we just want to continue to be smart about how we move forward with our players. I wish we would've had the opportunity to redshirt Ernie Pierce a year ago. That would've been huge. If Jordy Nelson doesn't redshirt early in his career, then he doesn't have that kind of senior year. With some of the players, you'd like to be able to do that with them and we're hopeful that will occur with Attrail."
Prince said several offensive linemen had a redshirt season available.
"We're looking at a number of the offensive linemen in that (redshirt) situation," he said. "Trevor Viers never redshirted. Zach Hanson hasn't redshirted. Wade Weibert hasn't redshirted. A number of these players that we've brought here had a third year available to them to redshirt, so we want to be responsible and use it the right way. Once again, you never know what's going to happen with injuries, but so far the competition has been pretty good."
Prince said it is ideal to obtain a steady stable of fifth-year players on the roster.
"Absolutely. When it's possible, you want to have as many fifth-year seniors as you can," he said. "We haven't redshirted many players since we've been here. A year ago, we were able to redshirt some offensive linemen. Kaleb Drinkgern was in the game Saturday. He redshirted last year. Clyde Aufner redshirted last year. Zach Kendall, Payton Kirk, Raphael Guidry, some of these guys had a chance to redshirt and we have some guys coming in this year we'd like to do the same thing with. That's part of the strategy with what we're trying to do this year."