Even in the most important of games, Kansas State football is known for its consistent and predictable style of play. So it should come as no surprise that Saturday's annual Purple-White Spring Game had as much flavor as a glass of water.
After a jubilant pregame ceremony revealed the school's plans for a new Vanier Football Complex, it was business as usual for the Wildcats in a 23-13 victory for the Purple squad at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"I don't think we were the kind of football team I wanted to see today," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "There were some good things and bad things. The White team, I thought, collectively played better than the Purple team."
As has been the case for years, the split-squad game matched the Wildcats' starters against their backups. In most cases, the result is quite lopsided. This time around, the reserves held their own against a Purple team that missed plenty of opportunities to establish dominance.
"We couldn't get any three-and-outs with the Purple defense and they gave up a big play," Snyder said. "The (Purple) offense killed itself with penalties."
Quarterback Jake Waters led the Purple squad for the entirety of the game. Without Tyler Lockett, who was held out of the game as an injury precaution, Waters had to find a number of young receivers to throw to.
"Curry (Sexton) was the receiver out there who had experience," Waters said. "For the other guys, it was their first time in a live game. But they're going to get better and learn from this."
Sexton led all receivers with 88 yards on eight catches. Sophomore Deante Burton added six catches for 48 yards, while tight end Zach Trujillo added four receptions.
Waters completed 26 of 38 passes on the day for 227 yards and an interception.
"I made some decent throws, but not up to where I want to be at all," Waters said. "For the most part, I wasn't pleased."
The Purple squad opened the scoring on a 14-yard run by Glenn Gronkowski late in the first quarter. Both teams stalled through much of the second, and Purple held a 7-3 lead at halftime.
The narrow advantage disappointed Snyder, who elected against flipping the score at halftime, as has been customary during his tenure.
"I wanted to challenge the White team and see if they could beat the purple," Snyder said.
The Purple squad stretched its lead to 17-3 in the third quarter on a Waters 10-yard run. But the White team, led primarily by quarterback Joe Hubener, kept things interesting until the end.
The longest play of the game came with 11:47 to play when Hubener connected with Judah Jones on a 51-yard touchdown pass that brought the White team within 17-10.
"It felt great because there was a lot of work put in," Jones said. "I made the breaks I was told to make and I had success."
White added a field goal with 4:40 to play to make the score 17-13 before Purple ended the game on a short touchdown run as time expired.
The loudest cheers of the game came in the final minute of the third quarter, when eight-year-old leukemia patient Kaiden Schroeder entered the game wearing Ryan Mueller's No. 44 jersey. He rushed for a 30-yard touchdown on the next play before being lifted by teammates in the end zone, purple and white alike.
"It was so special," Mueller said. "I can't thank Coach Snyder enough. Having my teammates respond the way they did was just awesome. It's something he'll remember for the rest of his life.
"It makes you reevaluate what's really important."
Ultimately, the Spring Game is not. But it was a chance for fans to catch a glimpse of what is just months away, and as a result, there were some nerves among K-State's new players.
Charles Jones, who started the game at running back for the Purple team and rushed for 77 yards on 20 carries, admitted he was nervous. But he also said he is motivated by people viewing the running back position as one of K-State's weaknesses.
"Coming in, it makes you think you're the underdog," Jones said. "The pressure is off and you use it as motivation every day."
Daniel Sams made his debut at the receiver position and caught two passes for nine yards.
Waters said the whole team will use the game to fuel improvement over the summer months.
"We didn't come out prepared enough to play and we didn't play well. We can use it as motivation to get better over the summer," Waters said.
The Wildcats open their season as one unit Aug. 30 against Stephen F. Austin.