K-State running game aims to balance offense in Morgantown

Head coach Bill Snyder looks forlornly at the 14-7 deficit the Wildcats have on the scoreboard during a TCU timeout preceding their field goal with a minute left in the first half of the No. 7-ranked Wildcats' 41-20 loss to the No. 6-ranked Texas Christian University Horned Frogs November 8, 2014, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Exactly 10 days after their 41-20 loss to No. 5 TCU, K-State head coach Bill Snyder suggested his offense was bothered by more than just the result.

“I think there was some embarrassment there,” he said Tuesday at his weekly press conference.

Embarrassed by the three-touchdown margin? That would be expected, of course. However, Snyder’s remark focused specifically on K-State’s running game — or lack thereof against the Horned Frogs.

TCU held K-State to just 34 yards on 19 carries in the game, its lowest total of the season. Senior running back DeMarcus Robinson led the group of rushers with 21 yards, while backup quarterback Joe Hubener added 12 more yards on two carries. The Wildcats averaged just 1.8 yards per carry, collectively.

“It’s not about one guy, it’s not about one running back or the other running back. It’s 11 guys that have an impact on what you do,” Snyder said.

K-State’s inability to run the ball against TCU showed in the passing game. Senior quarterback Jake Waters threw the ball 37 times. He had thrown the ball 35 times or more only once before this season (40 vs. Auburn). Despite throwing for 291 yards and two touchdowns, Waters and the offense went five for 14 on third downs, never finding the consistency they needed to stay in the game.

While K-State has traditionally been known for a balanced approach to offense, Snyder insists that word is more about productivity than it is evening out carries and passes.

“You can be balanced and be horrible, that’s not what you strive for,” Snyder said. “What you strive for is to be good in the passing game, be good in the running game and have some balance in down and distance and field position situations. If indeed you are, then it means you are having some success on offense. And if so, you’re moving the football, eating some clock time and keeping your defense off the field.”

The No. 12 Wildcats (7-2, 5-1) now travel east to Morgantown, West Virginia for a big-time Thursday night battle against the Mountaineers (6-4, 4-3) with that very idea in mind.

“The plan is to try to incorporate both the run and the pass in a somewhat balanced venue,” Snyder said. “It’s so responsive to what happens on defense. I’ve said it so many times, you can line up and take anything away defensive, so you might create some weaknesses in other areas. That’s why you want the balance, so you can take advantage of those other things. If you’re all run, and they stop the run, you have no options other than to punt the ball. It’s vice versa in the passing game.”

A big factor Snyder and the Wildcats are harping on coming into Thursday’s matchup is the big play from the running game, similar to TCU junior running back Aaron Green’s 65-yard scamper on Nov. 8. They had zero rushes for 10 yards or more against TCU, compared to 39 through eight games.

“That’s really important because that can be a really big momentum changer, and it can hype up our defense to get another stop,” sophomore running back Charles Jones said. “That’s really important, I feel like we’re going to need a good bit of those in the run and pass game.”

With an extra week for preparation, the Wildcats seem confident they can steer their running game back on track and help both the passing attack and defense in the process.

“We need to be balanced,” Jones said. “We need to establish the run to open up the pass, and open up the pass to get the run game going. It’s a collective effort.”

Truman named semifinalist for Burlsworth Award

K-State senior linebacker Jonathan Truman was named a semifinalist for the 2014 Burlsworth Award on Tuesday.

The award honors the country’s most outstanding player who began their career as a walk-on. Truman joins the list of Wildcats who have been named semifinalists for the award in recent years, including senior offensive lineman B.J. Finney (2012) and senior defensive end Ryan Mueller (2013).

“I’m very honored to be a semifinalist in that award,” Truman said Tuesday. “I read up on it once I saw it and it seems like a very good award. I’m happy that they chose me to be in there. It’s pretty cool.”

Finalists for the Burlsworth Award will be announced on Nov. 25. Fans can vote for Truman on the award’s website through midnight on Nov. 20. The winner of this year’s award will be announced on Dec. 8 at a banquet in Springdale, Arkansas.