Purple takes White in KSU spring game
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN - As Kansas State's Purple-White spring football game reached halftime, the scoreboard didn't flinch.
That in itself was a revelation.
Instead of flipping the score at intermission to make the game more competitive, a common occurrence any time the Purple team starters faced the White reserves, coach Bill Snyder decided to let it play out.
"I wanted to challenge the White team," Snyder said.
Yes, the Purple was able to stretch its 7-3 halftime advantage to a final margin of 23-13, but certainly not in its customary fashion as a crowd of 17,395 looked on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
"I don't think we were the kind of football team that I wanted to see today," Snyder said. "The White team, I thought, probably played collectively better than the Purple did."
Which begged the question: do the Wildcats have trouble with its frontline talent or are they maybe just deeper in the past?
"I would say both," senior center and offensive captain B.J. Finney said. "Both teams participated really well, we've been telling you guys all (spring) that we've been trading blows off and on with the defense.
"That showed today with both sides playing really well for the White team. That shows we have some quality depth but it also shows that the Purple team has to play better."
Senior quarterback Jake Waters, now firmly entrenched as the starter with Daniel Sams moving to wide receiver in the spring, was up and down but completed 26 of 38 passes for 227 yards with one interception. The good news was the performance of backups Joe Hubener and Jesse Ertz, who went a combined 20 for 29 for 167 yards with a touchdown and no picks.
After a turnover led to a short third-quarter touchdown drive - Waters ran it in from the 10 - and Jack Cantele's 27-yard field goal early in the fourth made it 17-3, the White got right back in it. Hubener, a sophomore walk-on from Cheney, found redshirt freshman Judah Jones open down the middle for a 51-yard score.
"I honestly did not expect it at all," said Hubener, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 124 yards. "Our 2 offense, I felt like we played well and the 2 defense played well.
"Our 2s performed all around, so as the ballgame started wearing down it was still 10-17 and I was excited because I thought we were right in it. We had a chance to tie it up and potentially end in a tie, I guess."
The White had its shot, getting as close as the Purple 14-yard line with Ertz at the controls before a penalty and a sack forced them to settle for a 46-yard Ian Patterson field goal that cut it to 17-13 with 4:40 left.
The Purple, sparked by a 39-yard Morgan Burns kickoff return, then ran out the clock with defensive end Laton Dowling lining up in the backfield and scoring from the 1-yard line.
The final drive took 11 plays and the Purple used 12 to move 60 yards for its first score, a 14-yard Glenn Gronkowski run with 2:03 left in the opening quarter.
"We got it going a couple of drives and kind of shot ourselves in the foot," Waters said. "When we got it going it felt really well, but we just kind of hurt ourselves on too many drives today.
"There's always room to grow and that kind of showed today."
The Purple was missing all-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockett, who did not dress for the game, which made senior Curry Sexton Waters' favorite target with eight catches for 88 yards. Sophomore Deante Burton caught six passes for 48.
Charles Jones played the whole way at running back for the Purple, rushing for 73 yards on 20 carries while fellow sophomore Jarvis Leverett ran 14 times for 69 yards to lead the White. Even Judah Jones lined up in the backfield for the White and had six rushing attempts.
Though Charles Jones played with the No. 1 unit, Snyder said the running back position remains competitive between him, Leverett and senior DeMarcus Robinson, who did not play in the game.
Snyder also put the Purple players on notice that their uniform color guaranteed them nothing.
"I talked to the players before the ballgame that you know how we deal with today -- today is practice No. 15 and it's not just fun and games," he said. "And it will be assessed exactly as that and everybody has an opportunity to move up and down the depth chart, which works on a daily basis that way.
"And I said at halftime, and I meant it, that I was pleased with the way a number of young guys were playing on the White unit and based on what I had seen without seeing the film, there were some guys on the White team that probably stood a decent chance of moving up."