The Week Ahead: Kansas State tries to recover from opening loss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

During the Big 12 teleconference on Monday, Bill Snyder was asked about the message he delivered to Kansas State’s football players when they began preparing for their upcoming game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

His response: “I don’t think we strayed too far away from where we normally are. It’s about getting better every day. We have a lot of improvement to make. That is pretty obvious.”

There is always room for improvement following a loss. That fact is magnified following a loss to a FCS opponent. The biggest areas for improvement come on defense and in the running game. The Wildcats mustered 41 rushing yards against North Dakota State, with John Hubert and the offensive line getting outplayed in all areas. They also couldn’t put pressure on the quarterback or get off the field on third downs.

Snyder said all of those areas will be addressed in the coming days of practice. K-State will need to be ready to take on Louisiana-Lafayette, a team that won nine games last season and defeated the Wildcats in 2009.

In the meantime, Snyder is hoping his players adopt a better mental approach.

“We need to be a more inspired football team than what we are,” Snyder said. “It all boils down to caring. We will see how that plays out.

Here is a look at everything else you need to know about the week ahead:
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Sunday Rewind: Oklahoma 58, K-State 17

Overall Assessment: Every realistic Kansas State football fan knew the Wildcats’ undefeated run was going to come to an end at some point. Maybe the way Oklahoma ended that run, by exposing several of K-State’s weaknesses in a 58-17 blowout Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, was surprising. But the simple fact that the Wildcats are trying to move on from their first loss today is not.

The question now is: How will they handle it?

The Sooners posed significant matchup problems for the Wildcats. In order to beat Oklahoma, as Texas Tech shockingly did in Norman last week, you have to pressure Landry Jones and throw the ball for big yardage. K-State could do neither, and had to step out of its comfort zone. That led to zero success in the second half. Oklahoma played the game at its terms, and made winning look easy.

Difficult opponents remain on K-State’s schedule, but none play exactly the same style. If the Wildcats can put Saturday’s loss behind them, they can still finish the season strong and make it to a prestigious bowl game. In the past two seasons, they have rebounded well from brutal losses. A humiliating 66-14 loss at Texas Tech was followed with a 62-14 win over Texas A&M and a 48-13 loss to Nebraska was followed by a 59-7 win over Kansas.

But this is the first time this team has seen its own blood. Bill Snyder and players say Saturday’s loss was unacceptable, and that they will turn things around quickly.

“I would say that we have a tough minded group of young guys that understand and deal with success and with failure,” Snyder said. “I would hope that the failure would not come from not caring and not trying to correct your mistakes, like when we have not failed. Our guys seem to care, tend to care. They will begin to make an effort and try and get all of their mistakes corrected.”

We’ll have to wait a week to find out how much they correct. Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
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This week’s player to watch: Jacory Harris

Jacory Harris is one of the most entertaining players in all of college football.

When he is on, there are few better than the senior quarterback. He has a strong arm, fast feet and can drive defenses crazy with both. During his college career, he has thrown for 6,463 yards and 52 touchdowns.

When he is off, he can be the opposing team’s best friend. He rarely gives up on plays, and is never afraid to take chances. Put it this way: He’s a gambler, and his bets don’t always pay off. With 10 games remaining in his senior season, he has tossed 41 interceptions and rushed for negative 80 yards.

For those traits, some have labeled him a “video game quarterback.” Every play he makes is big. Some for the right reasons. Some for the wrong reasons.
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When bad haircuts help a football team

As the Kansas State football team got deeper and deeper into fall training camp, coaches decided to reward players with a handful of shorter practices and a pool party.

That gave the Wildcats extra time to unwind and relax. It also gave them time away from the football field in which to bond as a group.

“Coach let us get our legs back and off the field a little bit,” said senior safety Tysyn Hartman. “We had the chance to come closer together as a team.”

Still, none of that could compare to what helped K-State players become better friends while living together in dorms: Haircuts.

Bad ones. Horrific looks you only allow when you know your head will be covered up with a helmet most of the time.

“Everybody new to camp got one,” senior cornerback David Garrett said. “Some of us made players look kind of presentable. A few people on offense just gave buzz cuts. The defense gave a bunch of forest cuts around the head. They were pretty bad.”
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Position Preview: Kick Returners

David Garrett will likely return kicks for Kansas State on Saturday. He is listed as the Wildcats’ main return man on kickoffs next to wide receiver Chris Harper on the team’s depth chart, and he couldn’t be happier about the new responsibility.

“My whole life I’ve been carrying the ball,” said Garrett, a senior defensive back. “When I got here was the first time ever I just played defense.”

It will be interesting to see what Garrett brings to K-State’s return game. He is fast, and given his size (5-foot-8) he should be elusive with the ball in his hands.

He will try to keep it simple.

“Just run,” he said. “Don’t try to dance. Just hit a hole if it’s there.”

But he, along with everyone else who will return kicks and punts this season for the Wildcats, will have a tough act to follow.

A year ago, William Powell returned 21 kickoffs for 726 yards and a touchdown. When Aubrey Quarles filled in for him, he returned 18 kicks for 459 yards and a touchdown. The year before that, Brandon Banks was a threat to score on seemingly every kick.

Can Garrett duplicate those impressive accomplishments? He’s going to try his best.

“If I’m back there I don’t want to be back there and not be great,” Garrett said. “They’ve had all these great returners. If I’m back there and am given the opportunity to do something, that’s what I’m going to do.”
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Tysyn Hartman ready for ‘total command’

Ask Tysyn Hartman about his right knee, and how injuring it in the final game of his sophomore season against Nebraska has impacted his play since, and there is a good chance he will answer with a cliché.

“It is what it is,” he said.

One can forgive Hartman, now a senior safety at K-State, for the response. Over the past year and a half, he has been asked about his knee on countless occassions. He has played through pain and when he struggled, the question was always, “Did the knee hold you back?” When he excelled, the question was always, “Are you feeling healthy again?”

For the record: He is feeling healthy now.

But his knee obviously hurt him during the first seven games of last season. He just wasn’t himself. He played so poorly that it seemed as if he suddenly forgot how to tackle and cover.

He doesn’t like making excuses for himself, though, so he acts as if he was healthy throughout his junior year. Maybe that attitude is why he was able to close it out so strong. Despite his early play, Hartman came through with a pretty good season. Especially from a statistical point of view.

He made 86 tackles (second most on the team and a career high) intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble. Not bad, right?

K-State coach Bill Snyder thought enough of it to bring Hartman with him to Big 12 Media Days in Dallas last week, and proclaim him the leader of the Wildcats’ secondary. Maybe even the defense as a whole.

“We’d like for him to have as much total command as he can of the secondary,” Snyder said, “because he has good working knowledge of what goes on back there.”
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K-State’s best unsung summer players

By now, it’s pretty obvious that players such as Tysyn Hartman, Arthur Brown and Collin Klein are excelling at Kansas State’s voluntary summer workouts. All three have been voted captains by their teammates, and all three were invited to Dallas for Big 12 Media Days by coach Bill Snyder.

But what about the players further down the depth chart? What about some newcomers? Who came into the offseason flying under the radar (excuse the cliche) but now has a chance to turn a few heads during games?

I asked those questions earlier this week, and came away with a handful of answers.

On the offensive line … “A lot of guys are working hard up front,” said Klein, a junior quarterback. “Clyde Aufner, B.J. Finney, Colten Freeze, I could go on and on.”

Aufner started eight games a year ago at tackle and as a senior should be one of the leaders on K-State’s line. Finney received great reviews from teammates at the end of spring practices. I will be surprised if he doesn’t start at center as a redshirt freshman. Freeze played in all 13 games last season in a reserve role, but could make a run at starting right guard this year.
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Postgame: K-State 39, Texas 14

At one point during its 39-14 victory over Texas, Daniel Thomas said one of the Longhorns’ defensive backs began complaining of boredom.

That pretty much sums up what happened Saturday night. The Wildcats ran the ball so effectively and often that Texas cornerbacks and safeties had little to do. The plan caught the Longhorns by surprise and K-State easily picked up its sixth win of the season and became bowl eligible.

Here’s a deeper look:

THE GOOD
1. Collin Klein added a whole new element to K-State’s rushing attack. The sophomore quarterback made the first start of his college career and rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He made good reads throughout the night, and his speed was a nice complement to Thomas’s bruising running style. Read More »

Postgame: OSU 24, K-State 14

OSUFootballThomas

A week ago, 42 points seemed like all the Kansas State football team would need to defeat Baylor. Yesterday, holding Oklahoma State to 24 points seemed like all the defense it would need to hand the Cowboys a loss.

As it turned out, neither scenario led to a Wildcats win.

One week, the offense is good and the defense is bad. The next week, the offense sputters and the defense delivers. Clearly, K-State needs both to win games. Here’s a deeper look:
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Postgame: Baylor 47, K-State 42

Kansas State’s offense was good. Its defense was bad. That’s all you really need to know about the Wildcats’ 47-42 loss at Baylor yesterday.

But here is a deeper look at everything that transpired in Waco, anyway.

THE GOOD
1. Aubrey Quarles is turning into a real weapon at wide receiver. The senior caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown Saturday, and was consistently wide open. His route running improves every game, and he has the best hands on the team.

2. William Powell is no Brandon Banks, but he is awful close. The backup running back terrorized Baylor with huge kick return after huge kick return, and regularly gave K-State stellar field position. He took four returns up field for 172 yards, and broke free for a 100-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
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