By Mark Janssen
Kansas State's football record says it all.
Seven wins indicate there were some ups; five losses advertise there were some downs.
"Inconsistencies," said coach Bill Snyder in defining the 2010 season. "At some point of the season, we were probably a little bit better than we should have been, and then there were times when we were not as good as we should have been."
To pinpoint the reason for the drop off, one first looks at the schedule itself. In the first six games, only Nebraska and Central Florida will be in postseason play. In the second half of the schedule, three of the six - Baylor, Oklahoma State and Missouri - will be involved in a bowl game.
If "inconsistency" is the single word to describe the season, "lack of depth" is the phrase Snyder uses to define why there were highs and lows.
"We started getting beat up. Then when you don't have that many players, you get tired and then get more banged up," said Snyder, who indicated that the present scholarship count was at 67, or 18 below the NCAA maximum of 85. "We just didn't have enough people at the end of the season to endure the grind we had to go through. We tapered off at the end and were not as productive as early in the year."
In the first Bill Snyder run, special teams play played a pivotal role to K-State's success, which included an 11-year run of bowl games. Now two seasons into his return, it seems to be the third of the game that is on the most solid ground.
• William Powell was second in the nation in kickoff returns (34.57), and the K-State team was second nationally (25.82).
• The punt team with Ryan Doerr was eighth in the country in net punting (39.78).
•The Wildcats were fifth in the Big 12 in punt returns (8.5).
• K-State was sixth in kickoff coverage.
• Josh Cherry was 7-of-8 in field goals and the team was 49-of-50 on extra points.
All are areas that Snyder calls "... imperative to a team's success. While there were inconsistencies, our special teams were productive."
Also impressive during the 12-game fall season were these areas:
• K-State was second in the league and 21st in the nation in third-down conversions (.451), and second in the Big 12 in fourth-down conversions (.625).
• The Wildcats were second in the league and seventh nationally in Red Zone scoring (.910).
• KSU ranked No. 1 in fewest penalties and yardage (a total of 60 for 39.1 yards per game).
"These are areas where you have to do well if you hope to win, and we did pretty well," said Snyder. "But we had other areas where we struggled, and those were areas that were costly in a number of instances."
Offensively, Snyder said, "We weren't as consistent in our balance that we would have liked to be. We were productive with our running game most of the time, but not 100 percent of the time."
The balance Snyder mentions includes K-State running the ball 518 times for 2,472 yards, or an average of 206 yards per game, and passing the ball 268 times for 2,073 yards, or 173 yards per game.
Team-wise, K-State's run game ranked second in the league and 20th nationally, and its team total of 37 rushing scores was six more than any other Big 12 team. Overall, K-State had one game of rushing for more than 300 yards, plus five others of 200-plus ground yards. The inconsistencies come from the fact that K-State had four other games when it rushed for between 83 and 111 yards.
Individually, Daniel Thomas was a better player than a year ago in every aspect. Compared to his junior season, Thomas' numbers went from 247 carries to 276, his yardage from 1,265 to 1,495, his yards per carry from 5.1 to 5.4, and his touchdowns from 11 to 16. His number of touchdowns led the Big 12 Conference, while the number of carries and the yardage ranked second.
"He was a better player (as a senior)," Snyder said. "How much better? I haven't thought about that, but he did make an improvement, and did it in a year when teams were much more aware of him than last year."
Snyder also pointed to the overall offensive line as an area of betterment from a year ago, plus acknowledged how "a couple" receivers stepped up when Brodrick Smith and Tramaine Thompson were lost for the season due to injury.
Aubrey Quarles led the team in receptions with 46 for 676 yards, while Adrian Hilburn caught 20 passes for 195 yards. Quarles had 29 catches in his final six games, and Hilburn had 16 of his 20 catches in the last half of the season.
Defensively, Snyder said, "We were even more inconsistent."
"People think we never played well, but the defense held Oklahoma State to 17 points, and we held Texas to 14 points," said Snyder. "Those were two pretty good efforts."
But in the next breath, he adds, "There were too many other games where we gave up too many yards against the run and had some discipline issues on not being where you're supposed to be. There were just too many inconsistencies with our performance."
K-State had four games where it allowed less than 345 yards, but in the other eight games the opponent totaled at least 412 yards, which included Baylor rolling up 683 yards, Nebraska 587 yards and Oklahoma State 511 yards.
While the rush game ranked last in the league giving up 229 yards per game, Snyder gave praise to the improved play of the secondary, which helped the pass defense to rank fourth in the league.
Unusual is the fact that K-State's overall defense ranked 11th in the league allowing 441 yards per game, but its scoring defense of 28.5 points per game ranked seventh in the league.
"Inconsistencies," explained Snyder.
Stay tuned as Monday morning's edition of Sports Extra will have full coverage of K-State's bowl destination, which will be announced Sunday evening.