K-State will take the field Saturday at its annual Purple/White Spring Game. It will be the first public glimpse of this year’s squad, which many fans have already marked with a great deal of optimism.
That word has been used loftily around Manhattan since December’s bowl victory — the first since 2002 — and rightly so. The Wildcats return several crucial pieces from last year, including senior quarterback Jake Waters, senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett, and senior center BJ Finney. Fans also have a Sept. 18 home matchup with the Auburn Tigers from the SEC to look forward to.
Like all new seasons, concerns are a major focal point. The headlines so far this spring have included whether or not junior Daniel Sams’ move to wide receiver will pay off for head coach Bill Snyder and company, how many times we will hear Waters to Lockett throughout the season, and if the Wildcats can win a bowl game in back-to-back years for the first time in program history.
None of these are the biggest concern for K-State, though. People seem to forget when having this conversation who coaches this team. Snyder is man of the small things, and those small things will dictate the success of this team in 2014.
One of the reasons K-State struggled last season to duplicate the 2012 campaign — most notably, early on — was because they were playing uncharacteristic football for a Snyder-coached team. K-State tallied a whopping 25 turnovers in 2013. Compare that to just 12 turnovers in 2012, and it looks a lot worse.
Some fans will attribute the 13 interceptions and 12 fumbles lost to the two-quarterback system K-State adopted last season. Many more will note that it was both Waters and Sams’ first year leading the K-State offense. Then, you have the fact that not all 12 fumbles were by the two quarterbacks. All of these points provide valid arguments, but the fact remains that K-State put the ball on the ground too much last season.
If it wasn’t giving the ball to the other team, it was self-inflicted frustrations by way of penalties. The Wildcats more than doubled their mark in penalties from 2012, amassing a total of 66 for 585 yards in 2013. Most weren’t 15-yarders, either. Like the idea of this piece, it was the small penalties that killed the Wildcats — false starts being the main culprit.
The fact of the matter is: K-State’s 2014 schedule won’t allow for these types of mistakes if the team wishes to meet fans’ high expectations (which they do). Within a three-week stretch, the Wildcats will take on Iowa State, Auburn and UTEP. None of those matchups will come easy, and everyone knows the challenges that come with the conference season that follows the meeting with the Miners.
K-State can absolutely turn heads and have a wonderful season in 2014. However, rather than focusing on the headlines, K-State will need to improve upon the small things that stifled the season many thought would play out in 2013.
Tate Steinlage is a sophomore in mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.