Bill Snyder remembers 1999 as the year Kansas State nearly achieved perfection on offense.
To this day, he points out statistics that group produced — 2,090 passing yards and 2,032 rushing yards — as the gold standard for what an offense should be. Why? It is a fair question, considering that team averaged 347.7 yards, while others have approached 500.
The answer is simple. That unit had near perfect symmetry, passing and running with equal success.
(This story is part of The Kansas City Star's Football 2015 special section that publishes Sunday, Aug. 30. Pick one up and check out more here.)
“We are always trying to create balance,” Snyder said. “It has always been my priority and my belief to value balance. It is significant for us. We are most successful when we have balance in our offense. We can be equally as effective with the run and the pass and we can use them interchangeably. I remember going through one season we had less than (60) yards difference in total run offense and total pass offense. That is the type of offense we would like to have.
“You don’t always get there and you don’t always reach it, but you are devoted to having that kind of balance. It is so important to us.”
With that in mind, it’s a sure bet the Wildcats will lean on their running game this season after what happened a year ago. Behind former quarterback Jake Waters and talented receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton, K-State came as close as it will come to using an Air Raid attack. The Wildcats attempted 415 passes for a school-record 3,736 yards, more than double their rushing production of 1,745.
In one game, at West Virginia, they threw for 400 yards and rushed for 1. Balance? More like tipping the scale.
“We will not be like our offense from last year,” K-State co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. “This year could turn out to be a more run-oriented team.”
Dimel hopes the Wildcats can turn back the clock to 2012, when dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein led the offense to 2,696 passing yards and 2,522 rushing yards. That was balance.
Still, this team has potential to run much more than it throws. Maybe it won’t be able to run for twice the yardage it throws, but there should be a drastic difference.
Sophomore quarterback Jesse Ertz, the favorite to succeed Waters, can make plays with his arm and his legs. So can the team’s other quarterbacks: Jonathan Banks, Alex Delton and Joe Hubener. They all prefer to throw, but they also enjoy captaining run-based offenses.
Pair them with junior running back Charles Jones, who led the team in rushing a year ago, all-conference fullback Glenn Gronkowski and four starters returning on the offensive line, and it seems wise for the Wildcats to run first and pass second. Especially given their unproven receivers.
“The sky is the limit for our running game,” Jones said. “I have a lot of confidence in my offensive line and they have a lot of confidence in me. We have a lot of talented running backs coming back, too. We should do a lot better than last year.”
Still, balance is the goal.
“If we try to bank on the run too much, it is going to be a tough year,” senior left tackle Cody Whitehair said. “We have to have both dynamics of our offense firing on all cylinders every game if we want to win in the Big 12. The Big 12 is such a great conference with such great competition. I don’t think you can rely on any one thing.
“There were a lot of games last year where we had to rely on the pass, and, as an offensive lineman, that is frustrating. If we can get both dynamics of our offense going I think we will be good.”
His coach agrees.
“Balance is important,” Snyder said. “It is what we are always aiming at.”