K-State Faces Key Road Test at West Virginia

Head Coach Bill Snyder

Oct. 15, 2012

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Following a hard-fought 27-21 win at No. 25 Iowa State last weekend, Kansas State will face its third straight ranked opponent on the road when the Wildcats travel to No. 15 West Virginia on Saturday. The matchup between the 6-0 Wildcats and the 5-1 Mountaineers will be featured as FOX’s College Football Game of the Week with a 6 p.m. (CT) kickoff from Milan Puskar Stadium. Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst) and Julie Alexandria will have the call on FOX. Wyatt Thompson will call the action for the K-State Sports Network with Stan Weber providing color analysis and Matt Walters on the sidelines.

The Wildcats, who are 6-0 and ranked as high as No. 3 in this week’s national polls, are averaging 248.5 yards per game on the ground on offense, have not yielded more than 21 points in a game all season on defense and are also holding steady as the nation’s least-penalized unit at 22.2 yards per game. Last time out, K-State fought through some adversity and came out of Ames, Iowa, with a 27-21 win for its second straight road victory over a ranked opponent and third straight dating back to last year. Quarterback Collin Klein ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 187 more on 16-of-24 aim as the senior signal caller continues to provide consistent performances week in and week out. In fact, Klein now leads the nation with seven three-plus rushing touchdown games for his career, while his 30 rushing scores in goal-to-go situations since 2011 are also the most in the NCAA. Klein continues to lead the team to victory as he is 17-4 in his career as the starting quarterback, including an 11-3 mark in Big 12 play. Helping Klein lead the charge offensively is Hubert, who has rushed for 100 or more yards four times this season. Hubert, who is third in the Big 12 and 31st nationally with 101.0 yards per game, ran for 79 yards against Iowa State last weekend. Klein checked in at No. 4 in the league’s rushing charts this week with his 85.0 yards per game. The Wildcat defense has been salty against the run, yielding just 102 yards per game on the ground, while senior linebacker Arthur Brown continues to put up All-America numbers. Through six games, Brown ranks among the Big 12 leaders with 47 tackles, while the defense has forced 14 turnovers in six games to give the squad a Big 12-best plus-10 turnover margin.

K-State will face one of the nation’s most prolific offenses this weekend when the Wildcats visit West Virginia on Saturday. The Mountaineers, ranked 15th in this week’s coaches’ poll, are coming off their first loss of the season, a 49-14 setback at Texas Tech last Saturday. The Mountaineers are loaded with playmakers across the board and are led by All-America candidate Geno Smith at quarterback and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Smith has thrown for 2,271 yards and 25 touchdowns on 75.3 percent aim (195-of-259) and has yet to throw an interception. Austin has caught 67 balls for 761 yards and eight scores and is also one of the league’s top return men, while Bailey has 14 touchdowns on 55 receptions. Running back Andrew Buie has also provided a spark on offense, rushing for 504 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, Isaiah Bruce leads the team with 57 tackles, while Terence Garvin has collected a team-best 4.0 sacks.

K-State will look for its fourth straight road Big 12 win against a ranked opponent this weekend when the Cats face No. 15 West Virginia. The Wildcats won at No. 23 Texas last season on November 19 before defeating No. 5 Oklahoma in Norman earlier this year and No. 25 Iowa State last week. The last time K-State has won four straight Big 12 road games altogether was over a stretch of the 1997, 1998 and 1999 seasons when the Cats won 10 in a row, while the Wildcats will look to win four straight road contests against ranked opponents for the first time in school history. Under head coach Bill Snyder, K-State is 30-13 in conference road games when the Wildcats are ranked.

Following the Wildcats’ win over Iowa State, K-State will look to start the season 7-0 and Big 12 play 4-0 for the second straight season and for just the third time since 1999. Last year, K-State opened up 7-0 on the year and 4-0 in Big 12 play, while the 1999 squad opened up 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the league and went on to finish 11-1. Under Bill Snyder, K-State has opened 7-0 a total of three times, including last season’s 7-0 start. In addition, K-State joins defending national champion Alabama as the only FBS schools to start 6-0 in each of the last two seasons.

K-State has had a terrific start to the 2012 season, currently sitting at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Big 12 play, but the meat of the conference schedule remains as all six of the Cats’ remaining opponents are either currently ranked or have been ranked at some point this season. Also, K-State’s No. 3 national ranking this week is its highest since being ranked No. 2 in 2000, while the Cats have joined only Alabama as FBS schools who started both 2011 and 2012 with 6-0 records.

Fast starts propelled the Wildcats to winning seasons throughout the Bill Snyder’s era at K-State. The Wildcats’ success in the month of September under Snyder is well-documented and K-State has also been a solid team in October under Snyder. Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference, K-State is 34-24 (.586) in October under the legendary head coach.

Head coach Bill Snyder picked up the 150th victory of his career in last year’s season opener, joining Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech), Steve Spurrier (South Carolina), Mack Brown (Texas) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri) as active coaches with 150 wins at BCS schools. He picked up win No. 160 in the Cats’ 51-9 season-opening win over Missouri State. After guiding K-State from 1989 to 2005, and again over the last three-plus seasons, Snyder is also one of the longest-tenured active coaches in the FBS. The Wildcat head coach ranks fourth among active coaches behind Nevada’s Chris Ault (28th), Beamer (26th) and Troy’s Larry Blakeney (22nd). Even more impressive is that Snyder is the lone BCS coach who has served at the same school for at least 20 years and has never held the same position at another school. Snyder currently ranks fourth among all active FBS coaches with 164 wins since 1990, while he is currently ranked ninth among all active FBS coaches in overall wins.

Kansas State’s defense has done a masterful job of keeping its opponent out of the endzone through the first six weeks of the season. The Wildcats had a string of seven straight quarters of not allowing a touchdown until Miami scored late in K-State’s 52-13 win. In fact, Miami’s touchdown came with 3:51 left in the game on a 17-yard drive and was setup by a 77-yard kickoff return. The last time that a Wildcat defense opened a season with at least seven straight quarters of not allowing a touchdown was back in 2002. The 2002 squad opened the year with eight straight quarters of no touchdowns. Also, in its win over Oklahoma, K-State held the Sooners to just 19 points which were the third-fewest points scored by a Stoops-led team, while the defense held in-state rival KU out of the endzone for the final 43 minutes. So far this season, K-State’s defense has not allowed an offensive score in 14 of 24 quarters, while it has held all six opponents to 21 points or less. In fact, of this week’s top 20 scoring defenses, only K-State, Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame have held each opponent this year to three scores or less.

Following a slow start offensively in the season opener against Missouri State, K-State has picked up the pace considerable over the last 21 quarters of play. Since the fourth quarter of the season opener, K-State has scored 229 points and has outscored its opponents, 229-90, over that period. K-State scored 138 points in the first three games, which were the most since 143 in the first three games of the 2008 season. Also, the 51 points against Missouri State and the 52 points against Miami marked just the second time under head coach Bill Snyder that K-State had eclipsed 50 points in the first two games of a season - the 1998 team scored 66 and 73 points. The Cats have also shown the ability to close strong as they currently have outscored their opponent, 94-28, in the fourth quarter through six games and have yielded no more than one touchdown in the final 15 minutes of each game this season.

Kansas State was on the positive side of the ledger in terms of time of possession in 2011, leading the Big 12 and finishing fourth nationally in that department. The Wildcats held the ball for an average of 33:55 per game. K-State is 12-3 dating back to last season when controlling the clock and possessing the ball more than its opponent, including doing so in four of six games so far this season. Ironically, North Texas held the ball for 37:04 in a 35-21 K-State win, marking the first time since 2002 that the Wildcats won a game when their opponent possessed the ball more than 37 minutes. Eastern Illinois had 37:45 of possession back in 2002 in a game that K-State won, 63-13. The Cats got the time of possession back in their favor in the 24-19 win at Oklahoma by controlling the ball for 34:47. Last week at Iowa State, K-State held the ball for 40:54, the most in a game by a Wildcat team since holding the ball for 41:17 in the 1997 Texas A&M game.

K-State broke open a 16-9 contest with Missouri State by erupting for a school-record 35 fourth-quarter points en route to a big win. While the fourth-quarter point total may have been something new for the Cats, the ability to finish strong is something Bill Snyder teams have done consistently. In K-State’s last 19 games, the Cats have outscored their opponents, 183-110, in the final 15 minutes and also 199-137 closing out the first half of games. In K-State’s last 16 wins, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents, 169-75, in the fourth quarter.

Not only has Kansas State been able to possess the ball and sustain long drives over the course of the last two seasons, but the offense has managed to make the most of those opportunities once it has reached the red zone. Of K-State’s last 93 trips inside its opponent’s 20-yard line, the Wildcats have scored on 83 of those trips, with 64 of those being touchdowns. Over the course of the last 16 regular season games, the Wildcats are 75-of-82 in the red zone with 58 touchdowns. Additionally, the Cats are 39-for-44 in red zone chances with 31 touchdowns in their last nine wins dating back to last season.

K-State opened the season with 324 yards rushing in its 51-9 win over Missouri State which included 152 by junior running back John Hubert. The 324 rushing yards were the most by a Wildcat team since gaining 373 against North Texas in 2010 and marked the third time since Bill Snyder’s return in 2009 that K-State eclipsed 300 yards on the ground in a game. Through six games, K-State ranks 11th nationally in rushing, averaging 248 yards per game. In fact, over the last 21 quarters of play, the Wildcats have rushed for 1,344 yards and 22 touchdowns while outscoring their opponents, 229-90.

K-State’s biggest improvement on defense over the course of the last two seasons has come against the run. Dating back to last season, K-State has yielded just 121.8 yards per game on the ground, which includes giving up 95 to Missouri State in the 2012 opener, 40 to Miami, 145 to North Texas and 87 to Oklahoma. The Cats are currently ranked 15th nationally in rushing defense at 101.1 yards per game.

K-State has made tremendous strides at the line of scrimmage in the first six weeks of the season. After not collecting a sack and just two tackles for loss in the 2012 season opener, the Wildcats have turned things around and head into this weekend’s game ranked third in the league in sacks with 14. Against Miami, K-State had 5.0 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss and then followed that up with 3.0 more sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss against North Texas. The last time a K-State team had back-to-back games with 10.0 or more tackles for loss was back in 2006 against Illinois State (10.0) and Florida Atlantic (12.0). Against Oklahoma, K-State recorded 2.0 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss, before adding 10.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in the win over Kansas.

Kansas State extended one of the nation’s longest scoring streaks against Iowa State as the Wildcats have now tallied points in 196 consecutive games. The 196-game stretch is the eighth-longest in the nation and the longest in the Big 12. The Wildcats have not been kept off the scoreboard since Colorado shut out K-State, 12-0, on Nov. 16, 1996. The streak includes 127 conference games, 71 true road games and 17 neutral-site contests.

The rise of K-State football over the last two decades has much to do with the emphasis on special teams. Since 1990, Kansas State is 47-15 when scoring on special teams and 17-1 when scoring on special teams and on defense, including a 15-0 mark under Bill Snyder. And, in non-offensive touchdowns, the Cats have ranked among the nation’s best over the past 14 seasons. Since 1999, the Wildcats lead the nation in non-offensive touchdowns at 84. K-State had five non-offensive touchdowns last season and has three already in 2012. Tyler Lockett led the way with a pair of kickoff-return scores last season, while David Garrett (Kent State), Nigel Malone (Texas Tech) and Allen Chapman (Oklahoma State) each returned interceptions for touchdowns. In the 2012 season opener, Tramaine Thompson took a punt and raced 89 yards to the house for a fourth-quarter score before Tyler Lockett’s 96-yard kickoff return against North Texas. Against OU, Jarell Childs scooped up a fumble following a Justin Tuggle sack and fell into the endzone for the Wildcats’ first defensive score this season.

A big part of K-State’s success over the past two seasons has been attributed to the discipline and fundamentals that head coach Bill Snyder and his coaching staff have instilled in the program. During the Cats’ 10-3 season, K-State managed to limit penalties (led the Big 12), possess the ball (ranked fourth nationally), limit turnovers (led the Big 12 in fewest turnovers lost with 15), create turnovers (ranked second in the Big 12 in turnover margin) and make the most of their possessions (30 scoring drives of 60-plus yards and led the nation during the regular season converting touchdowns on first and goal-to-go). In 2012, K-State currently leads the Big 12 and nation in fewest penalties (22.2 ypg) and ranks among the league’s best in time of possession (31:47) and turnover margin (+10).

Although football is the ultimate team sport, there is a lot to be said about the leadership of a starting quarterback coinciding with team victories. Some of the great K-State teams of the past have had great leadership at signal caller, and this year’s squad is no different. Collin Klein has the fifth-most wins as a starting quarterback under head coach Bill Snyder despite just 21 starts under center, while he is third in winning percentage among the top five wins leaders. Even more impressive is the list of quarterbacks he joins in 1998 Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Bishop and multi- all-conference honorees Ell Roberson, Jonathan Beasley and Chad May.

Following his record-setting performance of 27 rushing touchdowns in 2011, Collin Klein is at it again with 10 rushing scores this year. The national leader with seven career three-plus rushing touchdown games had three last week at Iowa State to set the K-State career quarterback record (Ell Roberson, 40, 2000-03), while he is two away from Darren Sproles’ school record of 45 between 2001 and 2004. Furthermore, Klein, who is tops among quarterbacks and second nationally among all active players in rushing touchdowns, leads the nation with 30 rushing touchdowns in goal-to-go situations since the beginning of 2011, while he is one away from entering the Big 12’s career top-10 list.

With his stellar 2011 campaign, Collin Klein can lay claim to a feat that had only been accomplished by former Heisman Trophy winners. The Wildcat signal caller is one of just four players from all BCS AQ schools in the BCS era to record 20 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing scores the same season. The other three were Cam Newton (Auburn, 2010), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007) and Eric Crouch (Nebraska, 2000). Additionally, Klein has a nation-leading 13 games since 2011 with at least one passing and one rushing touchdown in a game.

Kansas State has shown a penchant for opening up the passing game more in 2012 compared to last year and that has resulted in more big plays for the Wildcats. Klein has already tossed 21 passes for 20 or more yards in just six games (3.5 per game) after just 26 over the 13-game schedule last season (2.0 per game).  In addition, the Wildcats did not complete a pass play for 35 yards or greater until week six last year, while they already have six this year, including a season-long 58-yarder against Miami in week two.

Thanks to a 66.9-percent completion percentage and 159.59 passing efficiency this season, teams must be on the lookout for Collin Klein in the passing game as well. Klein entered K-State’s career top-10 list for completions at 252 last week at Iowa State, but the Wildcat signal caller is tops among the group with his 60.3 clip of completions. Additionally, Klein ranks third in school history in passing efficiency at 136.48.

After missing out on a 1,000-yard season by 30 yards last season, John Hubert has taken it upon himself to make sure he doesn’t miss out in 2012. The junior running back has totaled 606 yards in six games this year, an average of 101.0 per game to rank is third in the Big 12. The Waco, Texas, product already has four 100-yard games - which leads the Big 12 - while his 101 yards two weeks ago against Kansas gave him seven in his career to tie for eighth in K-State history. His top rushing game this season was a 152-yard performance in the season opener against Missouri State. That contest featured a 95-yard scamper, which was the second-longest in school history, the longest in Bill Snyder Family Stadium history and the longest in the Big 12 this season.

Running back John Hubert, who had just three touchdowns as the Wildcats’ starting running back a year ago, has been on a feverish pitch this season as he has eight in six games to rank third in the Big 12 and tied for 19th nationally. His total was given a boost against Kansas when he tallied four rushing touchdowns, which was tied for the third most in school history and the third most nationally this season.

Tyler Lockett may have taken teams by surprise last season with his kickoff-return abilities, but the speedy sophomore continues to excel as he ranks eighth nationally with a 30.7 average this year. Even more impressive is that he currently holds the Big 12 career average return record at 33.6 yards, a mark that is top nationally among active players. If he keeps on his current pace, he will end the season holding the Big 12 record, a mark currently held by former Wildcat Brandon Banks (28.5 yards). Lockett’s average was given a huge boost against North Texas when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, his third career return for a score. He is now in sole possession of second place in K-State history in return touchdowns, while he also ranks third nationally among active players.

Despite playing just three years at K-State, wide receiver Chris Harper became the 25th career 1,000-yard receiver in school history this season and has moved up the school chart. Harper, who has 1,135 yards as a Wildcat, ranks 23rd in school history but would be eying the top 15 if his 122 receiving yards at Oregon during his freshman year of 2008 were taken into account.

After leading the Wildcats with 101 tackles last season, senior linebacker Arthur Brown has not let up in his second season in Manhattan as he leads K-State and ranks ninth in the conference with 46 tackles, which includes a career-best 13 against North Texas. Nicknamed “The Judge” by his teammates, Brown is a candidate for the 2012 Bednarik, Butkus, Walter Camp, Lombardi and Nagurski awards.

For a second-straight season, Adam Davis and Meshak Williams have shown a tendency for putting pressure on the quarterback this season, which is evidenced by the fact they are tied for fifth in the Big 12 in tackles for loss. Davis, who has three sacks to tie for fifth in the league, has forced three fumble to lead the conference and tie for ninth nationally.

When the K-State defensive line is able to put pressure on the quarterback, defensive backs Ty Zimmerman and Nigel Malone have usually been the benefactor as they have three and two interceptions this year, respectively. All three of Zimmerman’s interceptions have come in Big 12 play, which leads the conference and ranks second overall. He has one interception in each of the last three games, the first Wildcat with three-straight since Jon McGraw in 2001 (Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech). Malone, who has nine interceptions in his career, is one away from entering the school’s top-10 list.