K-State senior quarterback Jake Waters believes his offensive line is starting to “come along.”
In Saturday’s 58-28 blowout of UTEP, eleven offensive linemen were featured for the Wildcats. Some are as experienced as center B.J. Finney, who has started over 40 games in his K-State career. Others, like redshirt freshman left tackle Ajahne Brager, are seeing real game action for the first time since high school.
For the most part, rotating so many players has been benefitted the Wildcats. K-State is 60th in country in both passing and rushing yards, averaging more than 420 yards of total offense per game. Players are staying fresh in the fourth quarter and producing in critical moments. “Youngsters,” as head coach Bill Snyder likes to put it, are gaining experience and chemistry with their teammates — something this team isn’t taking lightly.
“I think it is a big factor, just like me getting on the same page with receivers,” Waters said Tuesday at K-State’s weekly press conference. “They are getting better and you can tell during every rep in practice and every play in the game that they are starting to come along better.”
Up next for K-State is Texas Tech, which has struggled defensively by allowing 454 yards of total offense per game. With the early experience and success, K-State’s offensive line hopes to improve as the conference season unfolds.
“I think we have been consistent the first four games in certain aspects of the game,” junior left guard Boston Stiverson said. “I think we are doing a better job running the ball and passing the ball with balanced offense. We want to be the most successful team in the Big 12. We are going to keep focusing on that and move forward from there.”
K-State is already 1-0 in the conference after beating Iowa State 32-28 on the road back on Sept. 6. K-State’s offense racked up 471 yards of total offense, including 232 yards on the ground. However, It was a massive result for the offensive line for reasons other than the final score or yardage gained.
“The Iowa State game was a confidence booster to start the year out,” Stiverson said. “It gave us a little momentum. We did some good things on the ground against UTEP and that will give us some momentum going back into Big 12 play. We just need to keep running the ball efficiently and keep opening holes for our running backs and quarterback.”
The main focus moving forward is consistency, especially in the running game. K-State moved the ball and scored on five-consecutive drives against UTEP, but only after struggling to gain yards on the ground at the start of the game. In the third quarter against Iowa State, the Wildcats rushed for just 44 yards. Against Auburn, they rushed for a season-low 40 yards.
“I think we still have a ways to go,” Snyder said. “We’ve just been inconsistent. The offense is probably going to go the way the offensive line (goes), that’s probably true of everybody. It’s not just a five-man game, we all understand that. But if you don’t have those five, you probably don’t do much in the way of a running game.”
The offensive line has yet to peak, and that may very well be okay. After the Red Raiders visit on Saturday, K-State will begin preparations for a marquee road contest in Norman against Oklahoma before really getting into the thick of things in Big 12 play against Texas and Oklahoma State.
For now, the offensive line is set on improving in all phases of offense, including chemistry and consistency. If recent weeks are any indication, they’ll do just that —and the payoff will be big for K-State on the field and on the scoreboard.
“I am just seeing their improvement, showing they can be consistent,” sophomore running back Charles Jones said. “They have been more consistent, and it has made our job a lot easier. Jake (Waters), (DeMarcus Robinson), and I really appreciate that.”