Weekly BUBE: Kansas StateOctober 22, 2010 by: Chucky
Another edition of the Bears University Blog Exchange (BUBE). This week is with our new BFFs over at BringOnTheCats.com. (However, they did make the standard reference to the tragic death of a student-athlete. It’s too bad people make light of a murder of a mother’s son when it is in the context of sports.)
1) Prior to Bill Snyder’s arrival at Kansas State, they had lost 25 straight with 1 tie and had a career winning percentage of 37%. (These are numbers Baylor hasn’t even come close to flirting with) What made that era of football so bad, and how was Bill Snyder able to accomplish such a turnaround in the 90s?
In a historical context, K-State didn’t put the emphasis on football that other schools did. After World War II, Nebraska and Oklahoma put resources into football that K-State didn’t — probably because it didn’t have them — and outpaced the rest of the Big 8. Before long, K-State was so far behind it couldn’t catch up. It didn’t help that it shared a small state with another Big 8 school, unlike Nebraska.
Bill Snyder turned K-State around for a lot of reasons, but there are two that stand above the rest. One, he knew what he was doing. Snyder is an offensive genius, and was able to tailor offenses that suited his personnel. In addition to that, he hired tremendous assistant coaches. Reading through the names that passed through Snyder’s staff is a who’s-who of successful coaches: Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Brent Venables, Bret Bielema, Phil Bennett, Jim Leavitt, Mark Mangino, etc. Two, he understood patience and sticking with what works. His philosophy has always been “get a little better each day.” You can’t change the losing culture of a program in a single year, as Baylor has found with Art Briles and Robert Griffin. But if you work at it a little at a time, and your players see that you know what you’re doing because the results are improving, eventually you find yourself in a completely new position.
Congratulations, I guess, on not being as bad as K-State historically. It looks like the Bears are just a shade under .500 all-time with four SWC chamionships, one co-championship, and 16 bowl appearances prior to their 15-year run of disaster. I’m not sure which I’d rather have; historically average play with no real highlights and a prolonged recent drought, or historical disaster with recent success that includes several division titles, one conference title and, for a period of 5-10 years, national prominence. Maybe it’s just because I’m only 27, but I’d probably lean toward the latter.
2) Given the running similarities of Martinez at Nebraska and RGIII, are there concerns that RGIII and Jay Finley could duplicate what Nebraska did? Especially since RGIII is a much better passer than Martinez and Baylor has a stronger / more balanced offensive attack?
Any time K-State matches up against a good running quarterback, our fans have cause for concern. It’s become clear that our defense has issues with the zone-read, and spread teams in general, in the last few years. Most of that is due to a lack of speed at linebacker. No doubt that Baylor will exploit that, and has the ability to exploit that. While I fear Griffin running wild for big gains, he’s not the running threat Martinez is. Martinez is averaging 9.4 yards per carry even after the debacle against Texas last week, which is a full four yards per carry more than Griffin averages.
3) In 2011, the 10 remaining Big12 teams will play a round-robin schedule. Are there concerns from the North teams that it will become much tougher for them to compete with the more dominant (for now anyway) South opponents for an entire season?
Yes, we’ve discussed that a few times. But K-State needs to focus on getting its program back to where it wants to be, which is at a circa 1995-2003 level of play. If the Wildcats can get back to that level, it won’t really matter that they play OU and Texas every year, because they will have the team to win those games. The gap between the divisions has narrowed somewhat this season, with the fall of Texas Tech, Texas A&M’s continued mediocrity (to put it charitably), and UT’s struggles. We’ll see if that’s a one-year anomaly or becomes a trend.
4) At the half-way point of the season, K-State is running the ball 67% of the time (only threw 16 times against KU). Are you concerned that your offensive attack is too one-dimensional? Can Coffman’s arm carry the team if needed?
No, because it’s generally working, or at least well enough to carry K-State to a 5-1 record. When you have a running back like Daniel Thomas, I have no problem with running the ball two-thirds of the time. I’d much rather we play to our strengths and run the ball a lot than put Carson Coffman back there and have him sling it around 30 times per game.
Which brings me to the second part of your question, and the answer is that without an effective running game, Coffman will not be able to beat Baylor, or many teams for that matter. Teams who can take away the K-State running game without completely selling out against it will also take away the play-action pass, which is where Coffman can be dangerous. K-State has a few receivers who can make the Bears pay if they go to sleep on the passing game, but only in select situations. If Thomas runs for 100+ yards and Coffman only has to throw 15-20 times, K-State stands a pretty good chance to win. But if Thomas is bottled up and Coffman has to air it out, it will probably be a long day for the Wildcats.
5) Your kicker has only made 7 field goals this season, you’re only averaging 7.4 yards per punt return, and only 41+ yards per punt. (However, you are averaging 27+ yards per kick return – 3rd in the nation) Do your special teams concern you?
You forgot to mention that our kicker is perfect on the year and that we’re scoring touchdowns on nearly 75 percent of our red-zone trips for the season, and are fourth in the Big 12 in conference-only games (9-11). K-State’s philosophy is not to get a ton of possessions each game, but rather to control the ball, protect the defense, and capitalize on opportunities when they’re presented. If that means we only kick (and make) a little more than one FG per game, I can live with that.
As for the other special teams categories, it’s uncharacteristic for a Bill Snyder coached team to struggle there, so yes, it is a concern. I’d like to see us be able to flip the field on punt returns, but if we can’t have that, I’ll settle for just catching them cleanly and not fumbling (I have high standards). While our punter isn’t especially impressive this year, he’s only a couple yards behind average in the Big 12. I don’t think the difference there is such that it’s going to cost us a lot of games. But our strength, kickoff returns, is an area where we will probably turn around a game at some point this season. William Powell, the backup running back, has been very good, and just a step or two away from breaking a couple for touchdowns. He consistently gets the offense started around the 30 or 40 yard line and is always a threat to take one to the house.
Bonus) In your heart of hearts, does the Kansas State fan base agree that Scott Drew really should have won the Big 12 Coach of the Year award last year, especially given where Baylor was picked to finish at the start of the season (10th) and the fact that they played in the tougher South division?
No. The preseason predictions are really a non-starter for me, because any group of people who would rank a team with LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Ekpe Udoh 10th in the league either weren’t paying much attention or had some issue with the program they were ranking. If Scott Drew had the talent of a Texas Tech or something and coached them up to the season they had, then there might be something there, but he had at least two NBA players on his roster.
The bottom line is that Frank Martin directed a better team in a tougher division last year than did Scott Drew. What’s that, you say? Tougher division? Contrary to your assertion that the South was the tougher division last year, the facts do not bear you out. K-State and KU were the best two teams in the league last year, and Missouri was hot on the heels of Texas A&M and Baylor on the next tier. The cross-divisional record was 18-18, with the North holding a 4-3 advantage in the conference tournament. Additionally, the conference tournament featured an all-North matchup. But the most damning piece of evidence is Baylor’s 0-2 record against Martin’s Wildcats last year.
Frank Martin deserved to be the Big 12 Coach of the Year last year.