MANHATTAN — Imagine for a moment that you are a Charlotte football player.
Your team is trailing Kansas State by three scores in the first half of a game at Snyder Family Stadium and things are about to get worse. K-State defensive back Kendall Adams has just scooped up an errant lateral and he is on his way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon.
You're watching from the sideline, and you're frustrated. What do you do?
Here's an outside-the-box option that actually happened during K-State's 55-7 demolition of Charlotte on Saturday: You point your water bottle at Adams and squirt liquid at his helmet.
If this game could be summed up in a single play, that's the one.
It was a mismatch from the start. The No. 19 Wildcats (picked by many to contend for a Big 12 championship) hammered the upstart 49ers (still building a foundation in their fifth season of existence) in every way possible.
The Wildcats looked sharp running the ball, getting 99 yards and a touchdown from Alex Barnes and 76 yards and a touchdown from Jesse Ertz before the backups took over. They threw the ball effectively, as Ertz completed 16 of 21 passes for 178 yards. They dominated on defense.
And Adams had a day to remember.
The junior free safety pulled off the two biggest plays of the afternoon, scoring touchdowns via interception and fumble returns. The first came in the first quarter when he effortlessly jumped in front of a Charlotte receiver for an interception and sprinted 30 yards untouched for a score. Later, he wisely picked up a loose ball on a sideways pass, which was ruled to be a lateral, and took it 46 yards for a touchdown.
He wasn't distracted by Charlotte's sideline shenanigans, caught on video, and the Wildcats led 31-7 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The game was essentially over.
K-State (2-0) cruised to its second straight lopsided victory of the season. Charlotte (0-2) took a long flight home.
It wasn't all good news for the Wildcats. Right tackle Dalton Risner exited the game on the opening drive with an apparent leg injury and was unable to return. Top receiver Byron Pringle also watched from the sideline for unknown reasons. Other notable inactive players included backup quarterback Alex Delton, backup running back Justin Silmon and starting cornerback Duke Shelley.
Those absences had no impact Saturday, but they could as the competition improves starting next week against Vanderbilt.
One unmistakable positive we have seen in each of K-State's wins: big games from defensive backs. Last week, it was junior cornerback D.J. Reed making an interception, scoring a touchdown and piling up return yards. This week, it was Adams' turn.
His success was fitting. Adams, a 6-foot-1, 221-pounder from Fort Worth, has slowly become a staple of K-State's defense. He has started 20 straight games for the Wildcats and made several big plays. He seemed on the verge of a breakout. It came Saturday.
The Wildcats will be difficult to beat if they continue to get that kind of play from their secondary, no matter what surprises the opposing sideline throws at them.