SE: The Wait is Almost Over

Tomorrow, the wait will be over. 
The nine long months without K-State football are now behind us – tomorrow is game day.
Topping off a day jam-packed with excitement, K-State will kick off its 2015 season with a matchup against South Dakota at 6:10 p.m., in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. 
Before a sold-out crowd – Bill Snyder Family Stadium’s 21st-consecutive sellout – K-State will take the field and display to its passionate fans all the hard work it put in during the offseason. 
The smell of tailgates will fill the air, the music from the Pride of Wildcat Land will ring among the Flint Hills, and the Wildcats, led by College Football Hall of Fame inductee Bill Snyder, will be ready.  
“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” said K-State senior defensive tackle Travis Britz about running out of his home tunnel on game days. “I’m usually one of the last ones in the pack; that’s my moment to get myself ready. It’s where I get ready for game time; get myself into the zone. Hearing the fans – that’s very motivating. When you hear that roar of the crowd, it just doesn’t compare to anything else.” 
This year’s K-State Family Reunion is a special one. Along with marking the beginning of another football season, K-State will celebrate four Wildcat greats entering the Ring of Honor and cut the ribbon on the new, state-of-the-art Vanier Family Football Complex. 
And to top it all off, there will be a fireworks show after the game. 
“It’s when you run out of that tunnel that it really hits you,” said sophomore defensive tackle Will Geary. “Seeing those fans, slapping people’s hands, getting on the field, that’s where the anticipation really builds up. It’s an indescribable feeling.” 
With so much going on, there are a few things to keep an eye out for. What should you look for tomorrow? Here’s a glance at a few of the biggest headlines surrounding tomorrow’s game: 
On Tuesday afternoon, Snyder broke the news that Jesse Ertz, a redshirt sophomore from Burlington, Iowa, will take the field on Saturday as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback. 
A four-way race for the quarterback position, Ertz beat out junior Joe Hubener, sophomore Jonathan Banks and freshman Alex Delton for the position.   
“Jesse evolved to the top of the race,” explained Snyder, “but I have a great deal of faith in all four of them. They really have done a nice job. I think (what separated Ertz) was a consistency factor across the board. Jesse, from that group of players, performed with greater consistency throughout that time than any of the others did.”
As a redshirt freshman in 2014, Ertz saw action in four games where he rushed for 46 yards on seven attempts, including a career best 26-yard rush against Oklahoma State. 
While he may not have the most experience on the field, he certainly has shown confidence in his play, setting him apart from the others. Teammates said he took a big step during K-State’s fall camp and may surprise Wildcat fans on Saturdays.  
“I really like Jesse’s consistency and confidence,” said junior wide receiver Deante Burton. “He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t take losing lightly, and that is important for a quarterback. I like how he’s going to fight no matter what, and if it’s not perfect, he’s going to stay after practice to fix it. Having a guy like that who always wants to work hard and who always wants to make it perfect is a good attribute for a quarterback.”
Though he hasn’t thrown a pass in Wildcat uniform yet, Snyder said Ertz is a versatile, well-balanced player who has the ability to both throw and run.   
In high school, Ertz broke the Iowa state record for career touchdowns with 98 and ranked fifth in the state’s high school history with 7,319 career passing yards. The 6-foot-3 quarterback was, not surprisingly, named the 2012 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year. 
“He’s worked really hard to earn his spot,” said senior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. “The thing that Jesse has gotten so much better at is his confidence and that’s huge as a quarterback, not only confidence in the offensive line, but confidence in himself – trusting in himself that he knows the offense, that he knows the right checks to put the offense in to be successful against different schemes. Jesse has worked really hard and we’re really proud of him.”
Though the starting position is his, Ertz isn’t taking anything for granted. He knows to keep his position he will need to continue putting in the work and performing on the field. 
But for now, he, like his teammates, is just excited for Saturday.  
“There are a little bit of nerves just because it’s been so long since I’ve played in a real game,” said Ertz, “but more than anything, I’m just excited and looking forward to the opportunity to make plays in front of people and have fun with my teammates. That’s what I’m thinking about.”
South Dakota enters tomorrow’s matchup coming off of a 2-10 season in 2014. However, last season’s record aside, the Coyotes return 18 starters from last year’s lineup – 10 on the defense and eight on the offense – and are led by head coach Joe Glenn.  
“South Dakota didn’t have a good year last year, we all understand that, but if you didn’t know about them, what holds true is that they have 18 starters returning,” said Snyder. “If you have 18 starters, you’re going to be better than you were a year ago. This will be an improved football team, that’s a given. They’re a hard nosed, tough, aggressive football team. They’ll hit you; they’ll fly around. You’re not going to walk through things without getting knocked on your back side, so we have to be a tough, physical football team on Saturday.”
K-State Athletics welcomes four new members to the K-State Football Ring of Honor this weekend with the induction of Michael Bishop (1997-98), Jordy Nelson (2004-07), Clarence Scott (1968-70) and Darren Sproles (2001-04).
“They’re all special, and even though we didn’t coach Clarence, I got to spend some time with him and he is an exceptional individual as well,” said Snyder. “That’s what I like about them. They’re all different, but they’re all hard-core, good guys when you think about the good will that they have projected. 
“I admire each and every one of them,” continued Snyder. “When they were here, they were obviously very talented on the football field, but they were good teammates, good leaders and good guys who handled themselves appropriately. They are really good people and it’s going to be great to have them around. They’re great representatives of this program.” 
These four legends’ names will be permanently placed in Bill Snyder Family Stadium and will be displayed at halftime for all to see.
“To see guys like that come back, guys who have played on the same field that we’re on and did some of the same things we hope to do, it’s amazing,” said Burton. “Seeing their names go up on the Ring of Honor is huge and it really shows a lot of respect we all have for those guys.”
Before tomorrow’s festivities, the four will attend an induction ceremony tonight at 7:30 p.m. Fans have the opportunity to view this ceremony live on K-StateHD.TV.
To check out a detailed list of activities for Wildcat fans tomorrow, please click here.  
For game notes, fan information, Twitter updates and more, please click here to check out Wildcat fans’ one-stop shop for everything game day related.  
Playing at home is the best because whenever you’re home and you’re playing in front of a sell out crowd. They’re always loud and always crazy. You know they have your back – Sophomore Linebacker Elijah Lee

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After going 2-1 in the Hurricane Invitational to start the season, K-State opens its 2015 home campaign this weekend in Bramlage with the Varney’s Invitational today and tomorrow. The Wildcats host Green Bay, Cal and UNLV, with all three schools visiting Manhattan for the first time.
The Wildcats’ first game begins this afternoon at 12 p.m., with a matchup against Green Bay followed by a match against Cal at 7:30 p.m., this evening. K-State will close tournament play tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m., as it takes on UNLV.

For more information on the Varney’s Invitational, please click here

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