MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The idea of Kansas State as college footballs least predictable team gained traction on Saturday.It took nearly three quarters for the Wildcats breeziest opponent of 2012 to blow away, and once Missouri State did, touchdowns came in fun fashion. Collin Klein throws, a 95-yard jaunt by John Hubert and an 89-yard punt return by Tramaine Thompson were part of the 51-9 triumph.Separation in expected victories came in various degrees elsewhere. Kansas looked like a pullaway winner in Charlie Weis debut, but yo-yoed until putting down South Dakota State 31-17.It rained at Missouri, but not on the Tigers parade in the first game of the rest of their Southeastern Conference lives. Mizzou toyed with Southeastern Louisiana 62-10, and you knew that was coming.Even KUs inconsistency with a new coach and quarterback wasnt surprising.But you never know with K-State.A year ago this week, the Wildcats pulled off a season-opening escape of Eastern Kentucky. The groans reverberated throughout the fandom. Two weeks later, the Wildcats gutted out a victory at the University of Miami next weeks opponent kick-starting the amazing 10-victory season.We media types picked that K-State team to finish eighth in the Big 12. Missed it by a mere six spots. Misfires about individuals are even more pronounced.In Bill Snyders first three seasons back as head coach, a total of two Kansas State players were selected to the preseason all-conference team. Neither of them wound up first-team all-Big 12. But nine others did.You cant project what you dont know, and thats how it often is with Kansas State. Snyder and his staff dont sign many prized prospects whose college careers are magnified the moment they step on campus.What was the book on cornerback Nigel Malone before arriving from City College of San Francisco last year? Hes turned himself into one of the leagues top defensive backs, and avoiding his side of the field on Saturday was clearly part of Missouri States game plan. That didnt stop Malone from collecting a fourth-quarter interception.Hubert had few scholarship opportunities out of high school. He became the Wildcats top rusher as a running back last season and went for 152 yards on Saturday.Every year Kansas State seems to produce more than its share of under-the-radar players, unfamiliar names that become standouts. They arrive from high school and junior colleges, and their prospect value adds up to rank the Wildcats recruiting classes in the leagues bottom half.The greatest discovery of em all, Jordy Nelson, came to Kansas State as a walk-on defensive back toward the end of Snyders first tenure.With 14 returning starters this season, breakthrough candidates may be more difficult to identify, but reserve quarterback Daniel Sams was a blur on his touchdown run of 46 yards. Perhaps linebacker Justin Tuggle or former walk-on defensive back Randall Evans will step up.Rest assured, it will happen, and its also likely that the Wildcats will surpass their sixth-place projection. Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU all got the nod over the Wildcats, who brought back Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown, easily two of the Big 12s best players at their positions.Klein got off to a slow start Saturday. He misfired badly on K-States second possession, seemed to go through his progressions slowly at times, and couldnt get the Wildcats into the end zone until the third quarter.Part of that was Kansas States vanilla attack. With the Hurricanes visiting next weekend, its best not to flip through the entire playbook, and it worked last year as K-State won in South Florida.The challenges grow more difficult for everybody next weekend. Miami won at Boston College on Saturday and although its not the Hurricanes of old theyll bring a profile and revenge motive to Manhattan.Kansas schedule gets incrementally better with a visit by Rice before the Big 12 opener against TCU.All eyes will be on Columbia with Georgias arrival. The Bulldogs didnt impress against Buffalo, and Missouris SEC opener will match any big-moment feel in Memorial Stadium history.Saturday felt like exhibition season, but thats over. The competitive games begin, and at Kansas State, time for the new standouts to emerge.
Posted on Sat, Sep. 01, 2012 11:10 PMShare Email Print Order Reprints
Cant predict those K-State Wildcats
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