It’s not just that the number sticks out, which it does, but also about what it represents.
Kansas State’s running game hit rock bottom with 1 rushing yard in the 26-20 win Nov. 20 at West Virginia, the latest in a series of declining returns in the ground game.
It’s left the Wildcats hoping, at the very least, that pride will kick in. Because that might be the only solution.
“We’ve got to get that right,” K-State offensive tackle Cody Whitehair said. “We took that to heart … you see the number, the 1 yard, and it’s embarrassing.”
Embarrassing, sure, but indicative of a bigger problem that has dogged the Wildcats all year.
K-State, 8-2, averages 141.7 yards per game on the ground — seventh in the Big 12 — and is on pace to finish with 1,699 yards in the regular season. It would be the lowest total, by almost 500 yards, since Bill Snyder returned to coach the Wildcats in 2009.
“A lot of mistakes, a lot of execution problems,” Snyder said. “West Virginia had a lot to do with that. You take away one thing, you give up the other. You take away the run or the pass, you usually give something up.”
K-State hasn’t rushed for more than 200 yards since gaining 245 in a win over Texas Tech on Oct. 4, and has seen that total decline in the five games since — 160 against Oklahoma, 143 against Texas, 134 against Oklahoma State and 34 in a loss to TCU.
“We’ve struggled these past few weeks, starting against Oklahoma,” Whitehair said. “Then the next couple of games, it continued to fall off. We’ve become better pass blockers in that time, though, because if something doesn’t work, you’ve got to go to something else.”
The Wildcats get what seems like a reprieve today when Kansas, 3-8, visits Bill Snyder Family Stadium after giving up an FBS-record 427 rushing yards to Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine in last Saturday’s 44-7 loss in Norman.
“I think that’s more of a tribute to (Perine), than anything else,” Whitehair said. “He runs the ball hard. Kansas isn’t bad in the front seven; they’ll be tough against us.”
Snyder implored his players not to fall into the trap of thinking that the Jayhawks won’t be able to stop the run again.
“What that could do, in many cases, is provide overconfidence,” Snyder said. “And that could put us in dire jeopardy, something I’m hoping doesn’t happen. I hope we don’t fall into that trap.”
The Wildcats seem an unlikely candidate to fall victim to any type of hubris when it comes to their running game. Only quarterback Jake Waters has broken the 100-yard rushing mark for K-State this season, with 138 yards against Iowa State and 105 yards against Texas Tech.
Charles Jones leads K-State with 434 rushing yards, but his season-high of 76 yards came against UTEP on Sept. 27.
“There’s not a call or a scheme that’s going to make us untouchable or deliver touchdowns every time we run the ball,” Waters said.
“It’s about executing and getting us in the right spot on the right play, which is my job, and I need to do better at that. Against West Virginia, there were a couple of options I didn’t execute. I pitched one out in front of DeMarcus (Robinson), and I went the wrong way on another one.
“That doesn’t help us at all.”
The key might be getting Waters moving again, although having your top passer opening himself up to big hits in the open field isn’t ideal.
Not that Waters is concerned with that.
“Everybody has to be smart when they’re playing, but everybody also needs to do whatever it takes to win,” said Waters, who threw for a career-high 400 yards against West Virginia. “I’ll do what we need to do to get a victory. If I need to run the ball 20 times, I’ll go do that.”
Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State
WHEN: 3 today
WHERE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
TV: Fox Sports 1