Stephen F. Austin and North Dakota State are both members of the Football Championship Subdivision.
The comparisons between the two football teams may end there.
Anytime a program like Kansas State loses its opener to a FCS opponent, fans will understandably be on alert the following year. Might history repeat itself? Doubtful.
This is not the same type of FCS team that won at Snyder Family Stadium a year ago. North Dakota State had everything going for it. It had a veteran quarterback, skilled defensive playmakers and an underrated coach, Craig Bohl, that is now at Wyoming. It had also won back-to-back FCS championships (winning a third last season) and had a history of knocking off power-conference teams. Stephen F. Austin has never defeated a Big 12 opponent in seven attempts, losing to Texas Tech 61-13 a year ago.
K-State is a heavy favorite, and if it plays well Saturday it shouldn’t have any problems. The Lumberjacks were gifted on offense a year ago, averaging 38.5 points and 571.6 yards. But they were dreadful on defense, allowing 49.3 points and 527.8 yards. They finished 3-9 and replaced J.C. Harper with new coach Clint Conque. The Lumberjacks are in rebuilding mode, replacing their entire coaching staff and breaking in two new quarterbacks.
It will be difficult for Stephen F. Austin to push K-State in its first game out with so much change.
Then again, those alterations may present the biggest challenge for K-State as it prepares for the season-opener.
“That is what makes them hard to plan for,” sophomore linebacker Will Davis said. “Their entire coaching staff is new. We are going in blind. I guess we are just going to have to prepare for everything.”
Unlike power-conference teams that change coaches, obtaining useful video on Stephen F. Austin and Conque isn’t easy. Watching the Lumberjacks’ games from last year can give you a feel for opposing talent, but not on schemes. And Conque came from Central Arkansas, where he went 105-59 in 14 seasons.
You can’t find his team’s old highlights on YouTube.
“You have to look at what they did at their last school and their spring game to see what they have been doing,” K-State quarterback Jake Waters said. “You just have to go out there and play with what you see and what you know. That is our focus right now.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder said he handed out scouting reports on Stephen F. Austin a day early to help his team prepare for its first opponent.
He wants the Wildcats ready for anything, and to take nothing for granted.
“Even though there was a coaching change you look at their personnel,” Snyder said. “This was an offensive football team that led the nation in their division in total offense. They were very productive and very strong in the passing game ... They have four receivers back that had more than 700 yards last season. They have pieces coming back ... Everything that comes out of their practice reviews indicates they are a vastly improved defensive football team.”