The Kansas State Wildcats (3-4) are in the process of attempting to salvage their season, but the likelihood of continuing the momentum created two weeks ago is not particularly high. Here to discuss K-State’s game against the Oklahoma Sooners is JT VanGilder of Bring on the Cats — SB Nation’s Kansas State site.
Oklahoma hasn’t faced Skyler Thompson in the past, so what should OU fans know about him as a QB heading to this matchup?
Skylar Thompson is a much more rounded QB than what OU fans saw out of Alex Delton last season. He can throw well, and has decent speed to exploit the QB run game as well as pick up big chunks on scrambles. He’s not going to burn you with his speed, but it’s just enough to keep defenses honest. He has a tendency to start slow, but has almost always looked better after halftime and has a knack for late comebacks. He’ll remind OU fans of Jake Waters, but taller and without the NFL wide receiver to throw to.
At running back, Alex Barnes also had a big game against OU and has been pretty solid since then. What makes him such a productive back?
Alex runs hard. He’s not the fastest guy on the field — though he can beat most Big 12 linebackers — but he’s got the power to run through a lot of guys (even against Mississippi State, he was knocking over linebackers to get extra yardage). He’s really a one or zero-cut back, and looks his best when he can hit his first hole and gain momentum downfield. The last few games the line, and the game plan, has done a much better job of getting him that first hole. Don’t expect many cutbacks or plays extended to the sideline from under center.
Barnes has also shown to be a threat in the passing game, and even made a very impressive one-handed grab against OSU two weeks ago. The game plan will likely be to get the ball in his hands as much as possible, just as two weeks ago, whether on the ground or in the air.
The passing game hasn’t been particularly prolific this season, but there are some weapons at receiver. Who should Oklahoma fans be aware of at that position?
Isaiah Zuber is the top guy at wideout. He’s good enough to play anywhere in the league, but would probably be better suited as a #2 guy or a slot receiver at this stage of his career. But he’s the best deep weapon that Thompson has right now, and has generally been effective. Dalton Schoen and TE Blaise Gammon can both be sneaky effective, when they avoid critical drops. Also, the running backs have gotten more involved in the pass game the last few weeks, especially on screens.
Defensively, Kansas State returned some talent on defense, but the unit has often struggled this season. Do you think a lot of this can be attributed to the offensive inefficiency, or have there been some serious defensive deficiencies this season?
The issue early on for the defense was youth, injuries, and lack of any sort of ability of the offense to stay on the field. And the loss of Will Geary on the defensive front (due to graduation) caused more issues than most expected.
But we’ve seen a marked improvement in the last couple games, mostly due to some changes in the defensive game plan and better use of the talent available. At linebacker especially, the Wildcat defense has shuffled through several players but the tandem of Da’Quan Patton and Justin Hughes has been above-average (in a good way), and when Elijah Sullivan is healthy he can be a force. On the outside, the K-State corners were allowed, for maybe the first time in a decade, to play match-ups instead of just playing one side of the field the whole game. After that simple change, Duke Shelley turned in his best performance of the season, and one of the best of his career, and was able to cause havoc by always covering the top receiver and forcing Taylor Cornelius to throw at him constantly. It was a thing of beauty.
How much longer do you think Bill Snyder will be coaching, and do you think his son ends up being the successor?
That’s the million dollar question. Snyder will want to coach as long as he is able, but I think the new contract he got in the offseason is set-up in a way to give him a sunset date...five years from now. Many Wildcat fans have not been especially happy with the Hall of Famer’s coaching this season, and reports from inside Vanier indicate that he’s tried to micro-manage this season after basically being a CEO since his return.
It’s no secret that Bill wants Sean, but I think Gene Taylor is a smarter man than that. If I was a betting man, I would put my money down on the non-Sean option.
How do you see this one playing out? Do you think K-State beats the spread?
If the Cats play like they did in the second half against the Pokes (or even the Longhorns), it could be a long afternoon for the Sooners. The last line I saw was 21.5 points, and even against OU that seems a bit high. The Wildcats are well known for their ability to beat the spread, and with the line that high, I’m confident the Wildcats will cover.
Who is the greatest K-State alum outside of athletics?
That’s a tough question. I’m going to go with current K-State president Gen. Richard Myers. He went to K-State in the early 1960’s where he was in the Air Force ROTC, and went on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, serving in that role from 2001-2005. To be the top military official in the United States is quite an accomplishment.
What do you think is Bill Snyder’s go-to order at Taco Bell?
It seems like after the cancer thing, Snyder has cut back on the late night Taco Bell runs. But knowing Snyder, and his need for efficiency in every facet, I’d say he’s either a regular beef taco guy, or he gets the Crunchwrap Supreme (because what’s more efficient than downing a bunch of calories without making a mess?).
Which Big 12 defector do K-State fans hate more — Missouri or Nebraska?
Most Wildcat fans have always hated Nebraska more. And most are very happy with the train-wreck that is Nebraska football right now (Seriously Minnesota, what the crap? You ruined their chance at a perfect season!). There are still plenty that won’t forgive Missouri, but we a least had common foe, and that made things cordial most of the time. But I’d bet if you asked 10 Wildcat fans, nine would say they hate Nebraska more. Editor’s note: My assumption was that the interactions between KSU and Mizzou fans in the Kansas City area — along with the fact that Mizzou fans are terrible — would swing this in favor of the Tigers. It was a definite miscalculation.
What’s your final score prediction?
I don’t expect the Wildcats to be able to pull this out, and I also don’t expect a re-hash of 2015. If, and that’s a big if, the Cats can put together four quarters of good football, this could be an interesting game.