MANHATTAN, Kan. — After one of the worst rushing performances in the Bill Snyder era, Kansas State would be hard-pressed to find a better opponent to get back on track.
Not only are the No. 11 Wildcats preparing to face their bitter in-state rival, they’ll also be facing a Kansas team that just allowed Oklahoma’s Semaje Perine to run for 427 yards, breaking the Football Bowl Subdivision record that was held oh-so-briefly by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.
Of course, Snyder doesn’t necessarily see the beauty in that.
"What the Oklahoma situation could do in many cases is provide overconfidence to a player or a group of players and that would put us in jeopardy, I can assure you," Snyder said. "I would hope our players would not fall into that trap."
Kansas State ran 29 times for just a single yard in a 26-20 victory at West Virginia last week. Of course, the Wildcats also threw for 400 yards, but the performance on the ground by a team that tends to run the football well — remember Collin Klein and the read option? — was startling.
"We were ineffective with it for the most part," Snyder said. "We made a lot of mistakes and had execution problems. We did not get the right things on the field at times. As I said after the ballgame, West Virginia had a lot to do with that. They defended us well."
Kansas State (8-2, 6-1 Big 12) was held to fewer than 100 yards by the Mountaineers for the third time, and the second straight week. The Wildcats had 34 yards rushing against TCU.
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters said his teammates expect a more determined squad from Kansas (3-8, 1-7) that has already corrected its mistakes from Perine’s record-setting day.
"What’s Kansas working on right now? Just stopping the run," Waters said. "Oklahoma had a bunch of success against them and they’re going to be working."
The Wildcats have just two 100-yard rushing performances, both of which came courtesy of Waters. The senior ran for 138 yards against Iowa State and 105 against Texas Tech.
Running back duties have been split between DeMarcus Robinson and Charles Jones, who is third in the Big 12 with 11 touchdowns rushing mostly because he’s the Wildcats’ short-yardage back. But neither has solidified his name at the top of the depth chart.
"We’re so far into the season, I don’t think it’s going to happen," Snyder said of settling on a workhorse running back. "I would like for one to step up, so you have a distinct number one and distinct number two, but that hasn’t happened."
In three seasons at Kansas State, center B.J. Finney hasn’t seen a rushing offense that has produced fewer than 2,300 yards. But with just 1,417 yards and only three games left — counting a bowl game — Finney said it’s never too late to reverse the trend.
"We’ve been working on the run game," Finney said. "We’ve been making conscious efforts and been pushing every day and it just hasn’t paid off yet. Eventually, it will. We’ve got to keep working at it and putting more and more effort into it and get it done."
For Finney, fixing this problem will come as a collective effort.
"I know, up front, we have to be better finishing our blocks and staying on blocks longer to just create more holes," Finney said. "All the way around, there are things that we need to fix."