When the K-State football team returned to Manhattan after a 17-15 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, head coach Bill Snyder knew his offensive unit had plenty of work to do.
“Offensively, five out of the first six possessions that we had were three-and-outs,” Snyder said. “We had a fourth and one on the two-yard line with an opportunity to at least get a first and goal inside the one-yard line, and we had a penalty that set us back. Those things are both manageable and correctable.”
While the Wildcat offense has proven capable of moving the ball down the field, consistency and scoring have been noticeable concerns for the unit since the start of the 2009 campaign. Through two contests, K-State is averaging 18 points per game — a considerably lower total than the 34.9 it averaged last season — and 392 yards of total offense. That’s only 10.1 yards fewer than the 2008 squad, but the Carson Coffman-led Wildcats are managing just 181.5 yards through the air after throwing for 269.6 last year with Josh Freeman taking snaps.
Coffman, a redshirt-junior who served as Freeman’s primary backup for the last two seasons, said this year’s offense has shown promise at times, but it is still trying to make solid production a regular occurrence.
“I think [the biggest issue] is just continuity,” Coffman said. “We’ve got what it takes to be a good offense, but we just can’t put it all together in a long string of plays.”
Coffman has appeared shaky at times, often throwing into covers or missing open receivers. He said nerves have been an issue thus far, but he’s been working to shake off the early-season jitters.
Junior running back Daniel Thomas has been arguably the biggest strength of the offensive unit this season. Although he said he has been nursing a sprained acromioclavicular joint in his shoulder, Thomas has accumulated 240 yards and one touchdown on the ground. He has also seen limited action as a kick and punt returner.
“I like just having the ball in my hands any way that I can,” Thomas said.
Although Thomas, who already has 50 carries, enjoys being one of the team’s main contributors, Coffman believes an improved passing attack would take some of the attention off Thomas and give him the opportunity to catch opponents off-guard.
“[Thomas] is probably our best player on right now on offense,” Coffman said. “If we can get the ball in a lot of different guys’ hands, I think that would make the defense loosen up against the run game and pass game.”
The product of Northwest Mississippi Community College provided K-State with a spark last week against the Ragin’ Cajuns, throwing for a touchdown and running for another en route to a 180 all-purpose yard performance. But while he accounted for 12 of the Wildcats’ 15 points, Thomas said he feels he made some mistakes and will correct them this weekend at UCLA.
“I think I did pretty good, but I could have done a lot better,” he said. “I missed a lot of reads following my blocks. I’m just going to finish these last few days of practice and put it on the field on Saturday.”
The Bruins are led by 10th-year head coach Rick Neuheisel, who is familiar with Snyder and K-State after serving as the head coach at Colorado from 1995-1998. The last time K-State was shut out was against Neuheisel’s Buffaloes on Nov. 16, 1996, when the Wildcats lost 12-0. Redshirt-senior offensive lineman Nick Stringer said the offensive line, as well as the rest of the unit, will work together to make sure Neuheisel doesn’t accomplish that feat again.
“This is a team and a family,” Stringer said. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to give [the offense] enough time no matter what. We’ve just got to keep blocking for them because, eventually, things are going to pan out and we’re going to be fine.”