When you haven’t played in a live game in more than a month and you are running around on a strange field in front of a big crowd, executing the same way you did on a weekly basis during the regular season isn’t easy.
It takes time to shake off the rust from a long layoff and feel comfortable in a postseason setting.
Such was the case last year for Kansas State receivers. They never looked comfortable during the Cotton Bowl. Dropped passes held the Wildcats back all night.
Collin Klein connected on passes with eight different players and threw for 173 yards against Arkansas, with Sheldon Smith leading the way. He caught five balls for 50 yards. Tramaine Thompson was next with three catches for 57 yards. Current No. 1 receiver Chris Harper was quiet, grabbing one pass for 11 yards.
When the game was over, none of the receivers were happy. They took their drops personally, and the ones who returned for this season will try to redeem themselves against Oregon.
Not having Tyler Lockett, the team’s most reliable deep threat then and now, hurt the unit. He is back now, ready to play in the Fiesta Bowl. And Chris Harper said Wednesday that playing with a healthy group of receivers will make a world of difference against Oregon.
“It will mean a lot, just having everybody,” Harper said. “This will be the first time we’ve had all our receivers in the bowl game.”
Lockett is looking forward to helping. He dressed for last year’s game, but knew he was only roaming the sidelines as a decoy. Coaches told him he wasn’t going to play, but he wanted to be able to say he suited up in Cowboys Stadium. So he did.
He will be able to contribute this time along with Harper and Thompson and maybe even Curry Sexton, who has missed K-State’s last two games with an injury.
Whoever plays needs to remember to stay loose, though. Playing with stress can lead to dropped passes.
Next up on the countdown: Daniel Sams is using his time during bowl practices wisely. He knows he has a competition for the starting quarterback spot waiting in the spring.
Last time on the countdown: When it comes to football uniforms, Oregon is a trendsetter.
Editor’s Note: On Jan. 3, the Kansas State football team will face Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. With that in mind, I am counting down to the big game at University of Phoenix Stadium by attempting to write 21 blog posts in 21 days. I use the word “attempting” because I can only think of so many blog ideas. I’m confident that I can go 21 for 21, but your help is appreciated. Feel free to send a blog idea (or two) my way at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @KellisRobinett.