K-State rolls in opener
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN – The question made perfect sense, actually.
The Kansas State Wildcats had just manhandled Stephen F. Austin, 55-16, Saturday night in their season opener and defensive end Ryan Mueller was asked about a different game – North Dakota State's 34-14 upset victory over Iowa State earlier in the day.
"Been there, done that," Mueller said. "I know what that's like."
It was just a year ago that the Wildcats were trying to make sense of a loss to the Bison, now three-time defending NCAA Football Championship Subdivision champions. Plus, K-State travels to Ames, Iowa, next week for their Big 12 opener against Iowa State.
"I know North Dakota State is a tough team," Mueller said. "They can definitely compete in the Big 12 Conference, especially when they have an early game against us.
"They're a solid team."
They also provided an offseason's worth of bulletin board material for a K-State team determined not to let history repeat itself against Stephen F. Austin, another FCS opponent.
Not to worry. The No. 20-ranked Wildcats jumped on the Lumberjacks early, racing to a 21-0 lead and scoring on their first four possessions with a dominating performance.
"That was awesome," said senior quarterback Jake Waters, who engineered six scoring drives in all before leaving early in the fourth quarter. "That's what we were talking about all camp: 'We need to start off fast. We can't afford to let this team hang around and be sloppy offensively.'
"To get out there and start fast and get the first score and the next score really showed what we can do when we execute. We can only get better, too."
Waters could not have been much better early, completed 15 of 20 first-half passes and finishing 19 for 28 for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 55 yards and two scores.
The Wildcats racked up a balanced 478 yards total offense – 240 rushing and 238 through the air. DeMarcus Robinson got the start at running back over Charles Jones and finished with 49 yards on 11 carries, but Jones had 55 yards on eight attempts off the bench, scoring twice on direct snaps out of the wildcat formation. Robinson added four catches out of the backfield for 47 yards.
"I thought today was pretty good for a first game," said Jones, a sophomore, who scored on a 15-yard run to make it 21-0 with 11:13 left in the first half and tacked on a 4-yard touchdown in the third period.
Stephen F. Austin made some noise in the second quarter after spotting K-State a three-touchdown lead and trailed 28-10 at halftime, but the Wildcats quickly regained control after intermission with a pair of quick touchdowns.
Waters hit a leaping Kody Cook on a 22-yard touchdown pass in the front right corner of the end zone to make to cap a 59-yard drive, and after Will Davis forced and recovered an SFA fumble, Charles Jones ran three straight times for 22 yards in the wildcat formation, scoring on a 4-yarder to make it 42-10.
"That was a heck of a catch," Waters said of Cook's touchdown. "He went up and made a play and made me look a lot better than the throw was."
SFA came back with a 30-yard Gus Johnson touchdown run to close out the third quarter, the second scoring drive in as many attempts for backup quarterback Joe Minden. But Jack Cantele opened the fourth quarter with a 43-yard field goal and second-string quarterback Joe Hubener's 15-yard scoring pass to Steven West extended the Wildcat lead to 52-16.
A 38-yard Cantele field goal closed out the scoring.
Stephen F. Austin's offense, stagnant for the first quarter and a half, rolled up 182 yards in the second quarter, scoring on Minden's 18-yard touchdown run on third and goal and tacking on a 33-yard Jordan Wiggs field goal.
The Lumberjacks finished with 294 total yards as quarterbacks Minden and starter Zach Conque combined for 225 yards passing.
"The positive was I thought our effort was good," said K-State linebacker Jonathan Truman. "We ran to the ball and tackled pretty well for the first game.
"But obviously we have a lot to improve on and not letting the quarterback out of the gate when he decides to bring the ball down."
K-State was sharp offensively in the first half, scoring on all four possessions before Cantele misfired on a 45-yard field goal as time expired.
Waters capped the opening drive with a 9-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett, who played just one quarter before coach Bill Snyder decided to hold him out the rest of the way.
Waters scored on runs of 5 and 1 yards in the second quarter to go with Jones' score.