MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is a chameleon when it comes to his offenses, seemingly able to dissect his players in such a way that he can always rebuild them to play to their strengths.
Have a star running back in Darren Sproles? Give him the ball 40 times a game. A prolific passer in Jake Waters and a sure-handed wide receiver in Tyler Lockett? Air it out.
This year, the Wildcats have again been grounded.
In a good way.
In their season opener, the Wildcats ran for nearly 100 yards against an eighth-ranked Stanford team that was determined to stop their rushing attack. Charles Jones still averaged more than 5 yards per carry, and Justin Silman and Dalvin Warmack provided different looks when they were in the game.
That production was still modest compared with last week against Florida Atlantic.
Kansas State ran 54 times for 336 yards and seven touchdowns in the 63-7 shellacking . Four of the scores went to fullback Winston Dimel, the son of co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, while their trio of quarterbacks — Jesse Ertz, Alex Delton and Joe Hubener — accounted for the other scores.
“Every day there is one of us that takes a little lead over the other three and then boom, somebody else pops up in the lead,” Warmack said. “It is always a competition, which is good for all of us. It is making us all better.”
Indeed, pounding away on the ground is nothing new at Kansas State. Sproles was a workhorse, and even quarterback Collin Klein was adept at beating up opposing defenses during his near-Heisman Trophy-winning season.
But rarely has Snyder had so many different options lining up in the backfield.
Jones is a barrel-chested senior who has run for more than 1,300 yards in his career and gives the Wildcats a bit of experience. Silman is a sophomore who surprised many by playing meaningful downs a year ago, running for more than 350 yards. And Warmack may be the most talented of the bunch, another sophomore who got a chance on Saturday to showcase his explosive ability.
He carried only eight times and gained 90 yards, the highlight a 43-yard scamper.
“Just being able to get out there and get some more experience under my belt felt good,” Warmack said, before ruing the way he got tracked down on his long run against the Owls. “The whole offensive line did a great job blocking and then I just made one cut and tried to take off — but got a little gassed, so I’m a little disappointed I did not get in the end zone.”
Warmack dutifully gave credit to his line, and it was largely deserved. The Wildcats are breaking in a bunch of new guys along the offensive front and they have so far played reasonably well.
“Running backs are only a part of advancing the ball in the running game,” Snyder said. “Offensive linemen have a lot to do with that, receivers play a major role in the big play facet of the running game, as well as the tight ends and fullbacks.”
Snyder would have preferred the wide receivers stay out of things last weekend. They were flagged for seven penalties, including a couple crucial holding calls that wiped out big gains.
For all the good the Wildcats accomplished on offense, the flags are ultimately what stood out.
“You could probably guess,” Ertz said, when asked about Snyder’s mood in the locker room. “We don’t typically commit a lot of penalties like that. … People are just playing hard and it’s something you don’t want to happen, but obviously when a guy is trying to make an effort play it’s hard to be mad at him.”
Kansas State has another tune-up for Big 12 play Saturday night against Missouri State. The program from the Football Championship Subdivision has only allowed 103 yards rushing in a 2-0 start.
It should be another barometer of the Wildcats’ growing ground game.
Online: AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org