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K-State offense developing split personality

9/9/2013

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN -- It's much too early to call it an identity crisis.

Two non-conference games simply are not a large enough sample.

But for the time being at least, Kansas State's offense is developing a split personality.

Thanks to the disparate talents of quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams, both of whom played key roles in Saturday night's 48-27 victory over Louisiana, K-State coach Bill Snyder finds himself searching for the right balance to keep the Wildcats on track going forward.

"There was a plan in place, but like everything else, you have to have a plan and all of a sudden the plan goes awry and you veer off of it," said Snyder, who named Waters the starter but vowed last week to give the dynamic Sams more opportunities after the Wildcats' season-opening loss to North Dakota State. "(Saturday) was reasonably close to what we wanted to do, but we did not do it as consistently as we initially thought we would."

Waters, the junior college All-American with a big and accurate arm, completed 20 of 25 first-half passes for 250 yards as the Wildcats built a 20-3 halftime lead. But Sams, a more elusive runner, came on to carry twice for 18 yards during the first touchdown drive, then covered the last 20 to end the second one, running it in from 13 yards.

"We put him in at that time because we needed him in the ballgame," Snyder said of Sams, who rushed eight times for 63 yards. "I can't tell you that it was planned for such and such a drive or such and such a time - that was not the case - but he needed to be there."

And when Waters' pinpoint control betrayed him in the second half - he was 2 of 6 for 28 yards with an interception after the break - Sams came on to direct a decisive touchdown march in the fourth period that effectively sealed the victory.

"I think it can work," Waters said of the two-quarterback approach. "You just have to use us right and (the coaches) are and they did tonight.

"With Daniel coming with that change of pace, it really gave us that spark that we needed."

Snyder has repeatedly said he prefers the continuity that a single quarterback provides. But after Sams ran 17 yards for a touchdown on the first of his two plays in the North Dakota State game, Snyder acknowledged the need to utilize his gifts.

"He's a very athletic young guy and he makes people miss," Snyder said of Sams' running ability. "And I think he's gained the confidence of the people up front and they know that if they just hang on the block, stay on it and finish the block, he'll find (an opening)."

For his part, Sams said he's simply looking to take advantage of the chances he gets.

"I just think about making the most of my opportunities," he said. "I feel that if I'm successful, then I'll see my playing time increase and whenever coach Snyder needs me, he'll use me."

On the first play of the fourth-quarter scoring drive he even got to show off his passing touch, faking a dive into the line and lobbing the ball to tight end Zach Trujillo for 27 yards. But until he does it consistently, Sams will continue to be labeled the running quarterback and Waters as the passer.

"It gets old sometimes, just because I know personally that I can throw the ball," Sams said. "But at the end of the day, everybody wants a winning quarterback, so whatever we do to win, it doesn't bother me what anybody says, outside of the team."

Waters concurred.

"It's all about winning and the team," he said. "If you have that mindset, (splitting time) is easy to handle.

"When I'm out there, I am the guy and it's my team, and when (Sams) is out there, it's his team and he's the guy. We both want what is best for the team and that is where we're heading."

Just exactly what that will look like as the Wildcats transition into Big 12 play remains to be seen. They play host to Massachusetts at 6 p.m. Saturday to wrap up the non-conference slate.

"It's still a work in progress, but at the same time, me and Jake, we're behind each other no matter who's under center," Sams said. "That feels good."