Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder offers a friendly reminder to his quarterbacks and offensive coordinators before the start of games.
If possible, he tells them, try to save at least two timeouts for the final moments of the second and fourth quarters.
That didn’t happen during a 17-16 loss at West Virginia on Saturday. The Wildcats burned their six timeouts early to avoid delay-of-game penalties, leaving them with no way to stop the clock after Matthew McCrane missed a field goal with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining. The Mountaineers took a knee and won.
“It just wasn’t to be,” Snyder said afterward. “We created the problems that caused us to have to utilize the timeouts.”
Those problems were the results of communication issues that often left quarterback Jesse Ertz looking to the sideline for K-State’s play call as the play clock approached zero. By the time he relayed the formation and snap count to the rest of the offense, there was no time to put the play in motion.
K-State used four timeouts to avoid delay-of-game penalties and got flagged for a delay once. It also committed two illegal offensive substitution penalties.
The mistakes were frustrating because of their timing and frequency. The most egregious errors left Snyder throwing his headset in disgust.
On the opening drive of the second quarter, the Wildcats weren’t organized enough to successfully run back-to-back plays. At one point, they took a delay penalty, followed it with a 13-yard pass, took a timeout, followed it with an incomplete pass and then took another timeout.
They also had to burn a timeout on the opening play of the fourth quarter to avoid a penalty despite having the between-periods break to choose a play.
“We had a lot of mental errors,” K-State running back Charles Jones said. “Clock management was not good. We wasted a lot of timeouts. I feel like we were having communication problems, from signaling plays late to (changing) plays late to just having terrible clock management and not getting on the ball soon enough, which is what Coach Snyder preaches.”
K-State has been plagued by similar communication issues before. It took several delay penalties in the season-opener against Stanford and struggled with the play clock last year.
The Wildcats prefer to take their time between plays in an effort to control clock and read defenses. Ertz typically calls one play in the huddle and then looks to the sideline for a possible change.
That strategy has paid dividends at times, but K-State often took too much time against West Virginia.
“It’s a mixture of a lot of things,” Ertz said. “Obviously, there is quite a bit of crowd noise, so anytime you go to change a play or have any kind of communication it takes a lot longer than it normally would, because you have to repeat it and repeat it, because not everyone can hear.
“Those are just things we need to work on, about getting quicker. I need to be better about getting right to people’s ears and then we just need to be more decisive with plays.”
There are sure to be differing opinions on how to best solve the problem, but K-State players and coaches are in agreement on one thing: these problems can’t persist.
“It’s something that we can fix, but we need to fix it ASAP,” Jones said. “We are in Big 12 play. We can’t afford to lose timeouts for no reason.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett