Lopsided loss to Oklahoma brings K-State play-calling into question

Bill Snyder (left) says despite what some might think, his coaches haven't forgotten how to coach.

Nati Harnik/AP

MANHATTAN, Kan. — There was plenty of blame and even more questions after the worst home loss in Kansas State history, one that left just about everyone wondering about the state of the program.

There was one thing coach Bill Snyder didn’t have to wonder about.

"Our coaches haven’t forgotten how to coach," Snyder said this week, in the aftermath of a 55-0 loss to then-No. 19 Oklahoma. "They’ve been around too long, virtually all of them. Our coordinators on both sides of the ball are well experienced in the jobs they do, so contrary to popular belief, they haven’t forgotten how to do it."

Kansas State (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) provided scares in the first two games of its front-loaded conference schedule before being blown out by the Sooners last Saturday.

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The common theme in each of those games? Questionable play calls.

The Wildcats built sizable leads against then-No. 20 Oklahoma State and No. 2 TCU by rushing for over 100 yards in the first half of each game. But on both occasions, Kansas State elected to go with a heavy dose of passing in the second half. The Cowboys and Horned Frogs came from behind to win.

There was never such an advantage against the Sooners. Kansas State fell behind 21-0 early in the second quarter after opening the game with six straight drop-back pass attempts, which ultimately led to two completions for 1 yard and an interception.

"There was that criticism about throwing the ball at the outset of the ballgame instead of running it, but you look at the first plays of the ballgame and if we don’t overthrow the ball, we have seven points on the board," Snyder said. "That happened to us six times over the course of that ballgame."

Still, the plan seemed odd given the fact that Oklahoma had allowed 313 yards on the ground to Texas the week before. The Wildcats finished with just 65 yards rushing on 31 attempts, most of which came in the second half while trailing big.

Speaking of the Longhorns (2-4, 1-2), they’ll welcome the Wildcats on Saturday.

"I want us to be a balanced football team, meaning we can be equally adept at the run and the pass," Snyder said. "We’re working toward that as we speak. But I can’t just say that and expect it to happen. We have to work on the things that allow us to throw and run the ball better."

Effectively, too. Kansas State quarterbacks have completed just 45.6 percent of passes, which in large part can be attributed to throwing deep to challenge single coverage.

On the ground, the Wildcats rank 82nd nationally at 161 yards per game.

Replicating the offense that Jake Waters, Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton managed a season ago has proved to be more challenging than initially expected this season, and it’s certainly been a big part of Kansas State’s rough start to conference play.

Yet, even Snyder admits part of the trouble falls on the coaching staff and its ability to adjust based on what the opposition is trying to take away. He hopes that aspect of their game improves on Saturday in a seemingly must-win game.

"You can’t take the passing or running game and say it’s a collective success or failure," Snyder said. "There are certain elements of it, some schemes you may have success with. If we’re doing our jobs, then we come back to those. If we aren’t having success with it, then we have to stay away from it."