BLAIR KERKHOFF

Time to settle on a quarterback at K-State

Updated: 2013-11-21T22:09:47Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

— Give the offense to Daniel Sams and go from there.

With his 199 rushing yards Saturday and Kansas State moving with greater ease when he’s taking snaps, Sams has the look of a player to build around. Live with the sophomore’s mistakes now and trust there’s a big payoff.

But it’s not that simple because K-State’s best chance at finishing strong this season is probably with a combination of Sams and Jake Waters, who has started every game, including Saturday’s 35-25 loss to Baylor.

There’s some merit to the idea that a team with two quarterbacks doesn’t have one, but Kansas State presents the classic case of separate strengths.

Bill Snyder repeated a thought he’s made often this season about the players’ abilities: “Both can run and throw, and they’ve invested themselves in it.”

But Sams is uncommonly good as the team’s top rusher; and on Saturday, with last year’s hero Collin Klein watching from a suite, Sams did his best Klein imitation and added speed to the equation.

Like Klein, Sams excelled at reading the blocks and allowing them to happen before making a move. Three times Saturday it helped Sams reach the end zone.

College football these days favors the multidimensional quarterbacks. Some of the game’s top guns like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd all keep defenses guessing.

Waters isn’t a sprinter but makes good option reads and ripped off a season-high 24-yard gain. And he’s the better passer, although throwing numbers weren’t pretty Saturday — a combined 10 of 22 for 118 yards.

The Wildcats were hurt by the injuries to starting wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, and with an open week before the schedule resumes, Snyder said he believed both would be back for the Oct. 26 West Virginia game.

Without them, K-State became one-dimensional and nearly made it work because of Sams. By controlling the clock and holding the ball for more than 39 minutes, the Wildcats kept Baylor’s 70-point-per game offense off the field.

The problem for Kansas State was, Baylor didn’t need much time to score. Three Bears’ touchdown possessions, starting with a 93-yard strike from Bryce Petty to Tevin Reece, took fewer than 75 seconds each.

For the first time this season, Baylor, which resisted three-and-outs and punting situations all season, found itself in a dogfight, and Bears coach Art Briles expected no less.

“Everything had been fairly simple,” Briles said. “Everything had been in our favor. We knew it would change.”

Mostly because of the guy on the other side of the field.

“(Snyder) makes other coaches like myself think, ‘I’ve got a lot of work to do’” Briles said.

Kansas State appeared to have worked itself into a good spot when, setting up at its 20 with 4:28 remaining. The Wildcats had moved the ball all day. One final drive to go ahead, or send the game to overtime, almost seemed destined.

Here’s where the two-quarterback thing may make sense. On the second snap, Sams rolled out and chucked a bad throw that Baylor corner Ahmad Dixon picked off just before running into the Kansas State bench.

That’s two straight weeks in which a Sams interception on the final drive ended K-State’s comeback hopes. Waters may have been the better choice in those spots.

Kansas State has lost its first three Big 12 games even in a down year for the Big 12. The Wildcats, the defending league champions, need plenty of help to be part of the championship race. But because of the remaining schedule, K-State can still make a bowl game despite a 2-4 overall record.

By giving the majority of snaps to Sams, the Wildcats probably would get there and set themselves up for more in the future.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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