No. 15 Wildcats looking for more balance
Published on -9/18/2012, 10:06 AM
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
There were plenty of reasons for Kansas State to focus on its passing attack during the offseason.
First and foremost was to protect quarterback Collin Klein, whose Big 12-high 317 rushing attempts left him battered, bloody and bruised by the end of the season. Then there was the predictability factor, with the Wildcats rushing the ball roughly 67 percent of the time.
Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Though Klein clearly has become a more efficient passer -- he has completed 72.8 percent of his throws through three games, up from 57 last year -- and his rushing attempts per game are down significantly to 15.3 from 24.4 in 2011, the team numbers have not changed significantly.
In fact, of the Wildcats' 187 plays from scrimmage, 68.4 percent have been runs.
So when asked Monday during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference to assess his team's emphasis on the passing game, Bill Snyder quickly turned to the numbers.
"I think we're at the bottom of the conference in pass offense, so I don't know that we're doing more than we have," he said. "We would like to retain balance in our offense in a variety of different ways, but so much of that is dictated by defenses."
Sure enough, the Wildcats rank last in the league in passing offense with 203 yards per game and fourth in rushing at 251.7. But the numbers within the passing numbers are better.
After averaging 6.8 yards per pass and 11.8 per completion last year, they have jumped to 10.3 per attempt and 14.2 per completion through victories against Missouri State, Miami and North Texas.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose No. 6-ranked Sooners play host to No. 15 K-State at 6:50 p.m. Saturday in Norman, Okla., has noticed a difference.
"He's improved in it and their willingness to throw it, both of those things together, you can tell it's been a focus of theirs," Stoops said.
In the Miami game, Klein attempted just 11 passes but completed nine for 210 yards. He was 15 of 20 for 230 yards in last Saturday's 35-21 victory against North Texas, and that after going 0 for 2 in the opening quarter.
But Snyder insisted that Klein's offseason approach was much broader than just the passing game.
"I don't think it's a matter of saying there's been this immense emphasis in one segment of his game," Snyder said. "He's a very complete person and strives diligently to be that every day and strives diligently to become a complete football player, not just as a runner and not just as a passer, but tries to do it all."
Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett was named Big 12 special teams player of the week Monday after returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown Saturday against North Texas.
The play -- the third kickoff return touchdown of his career -- immediately answered a North Texas scoring drive in the first quarter that put the Wildcats behind for the first time this season.
"It helped get us going," Lockett said afterward. "We needed this win."
Considering the Wildcats' offense was on the field for just six plays -- two three-and-outs -- in the first quarter, it also kept them in the game against a determined North Texas team.
"It was important for us, most certainly," Snyder said. "Special teams saved us initially in the ballgame and actually throughout the ballgame in a couple of different ways."
Lockett was one of three sophomores honored by the league office as Texas quarterback David Ash was named offensive player of the week and TCU linebacker Joel Hasley the top defensive player.
Ash was 19 of 23 for a career bests of 326 yards and four touchdowns in the Longhorns' 66-31 rout of Mississippi.
Hasley had 12 tackles, including the first two sacks of his career as the Horned Frogs beat Kansas, 20-6.