K-State Kicks Off 2013 Against FCS Champion North Dakota State

By: KSU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley
By: KSU, posted by Kinch O'Kelley


Coming off an 11-2 season that included a Big 12 Championship and a BCS bowl berth, Kansas State opens the 2013 season with a special Friday-night kickoff against two-time defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game, which serves as the grand opening of the West Stadium Center and the fifth-annual K-State Family Reunion, is slated for a 7:30 p.m., kickoff and will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1 with Craig Bolerjack, Joey Harrington and Ryan Nece on the call. Wyatt Thompson will call the action on the K-State Sports Network with Stan Weber providing color analysis and Matt Walters giving sideline updates. A free live audio broadcast is available at k-statesports.com and on SIRIUS satellite radio channel 113, XM channel 193. Additionally, K-State Gameday, hosted by Brian Smoller and former K-State great Kevin Lockett, will begin at 6:30 p.m., on K-StateHD.TV. Live stats are available, while Twitter updates (@kstatesports and @kstate_gameday), in-game highlights on facebook.com/kstatesports and a live in-game blog will all be a part of the gameday coverage. Friday’s game has been sold out for nearly three months, marking the fifth-straight capacity crowd for the opener.

Entering Bill Snyder’s 22nd season at K-State, the Wildcats return 41 letterwinners and 11 starters from last year’s team. On offense, Kansas State sees six linemen with starting experience return, anchored by Rimington, Lombardi and Outland awards candidate B.J. Finney at center and Outland Trophy candidate Cornelius Lucas at left tackle. Preseason All-Big 12 pick John Hubert, a two-year starter, returns at running back, while experience also returns at tight end in Andre McDonald and Zach Trujillo and at wide receiver with four players with starting experience returning. One position that must be replaced is quarterback as the Wildcats lost the services of Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein. Sophomore Daniel Sams and community-college transfer Jake Waters are battling for the starting spot, and both could see playing time against the Bison. Defensively, preseason awards candidate Ty Zimmerman is back at safety, while cornerback Randall Evans and linebacker Tre Walker also return, but those three make up the entirety of the returning starters on that side of the ball. K-State, which boasts one of the nation’s best specialty units, sees Tyler Lockett (KR) and Tramaine Thompson (PR) return, each of whom ranked in the top 10 nationally in 2012. However, a new punter and kicker must emerge from a group of players with limited experience.

Kansas State will open its 118th season of college football Friday against North Dakota State and its 18th as a member of the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats enter the 2013 season with an all-time record of 486-615-41 (.444), with over a third of those wins coming under the watchful eye of head coach Bill Snyder. The Cats have sported a 186-95-1 (.661) mark since 1990 and have appeared in 16 bowl games.

Head coach Bill Snyder has almost always gotten the most out of his teams from the season-opening kickoff as Snyder-led teams are riding a 20-game winning streak in season openers, and the Wildcats will put that streak on the line on Friday. The Wildcats have not dropped a season opener under Snyder since his inaugural campaign at K-State in 1989, when the Cats lost to Arizona State, 31-0, at Sun Devil Stadium. Friday’s game marks the 17th season debut under Snyder at the stadium that now bears his name.

Two-time defending FCS National Champion and ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, North Dakota State returns 18 starters, including All-American selections Billy Turner at offensive tackle and Marcus Williams at cornerback. The Bison, who have gone 28-2 over the past two seasons, see their starting quarterback, Brock Jensen, return, as well as Sam Ojuri and John Crockett, both of whom accumulated 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2012, and their top five receivers. The defensive side of the ball is just as stacked with six of the top seven tacklers from last year back in addition to the top three players in sacks, tackles for loss and interceptions.

K-State has been one of the most dominant teams nationally in terms of non-conference success, especially under head coach Bill Snyder. Since 1990, K-State has won 65 of their 72 (.903) regular-season non-conference games under Snyder, including winning 56 of 58 (.966) at home during that stretch. K-State, which has had perfect regular season non-conference ledgers 14 times in the last 20 years, has been perfect in the non-conference each of the last three seasons. The Cats three-year streak is the best since winning all regular-season non-conference games from 1993-2002.

One of the longest-tenured active coaches in the nation, Bill Snyder is approaching victory No. 175 of his career. After guiding K-State from 1989 to 2005, and again over the last four seasons, the 2013 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year has accumulated the fourth-most victories at FBS schools among all active coaches. Snyder, who ranks 50th all-time in victories at four-year institutions, can become the 46th coach ever to reach the 175-win plateau but just the 11th ever to do so at only one school.

Kansas State has had success coming off bowl seasons, most notably under head coach Bill Snyder. The Wildcats had played in 15 bowl games in program history prior to last year, and Kansas State has followed a bowl season with another postseason berth on 12 occasions, each coming under Snyder. The only three times K-State had a losing season following a bowl trip occurred in 1983 (3-8) after the 1982 Independence Bowl, in 2004 after the Fiesta Bowl (4-7) and in 2007 (5-7) after the 2006 Texas Bowl. K-State will be looking to make its fourth-straight bowl appearance for the first time since the end of an 11-year bowl stretch in 2003.

August games have been few and far between for Kansas State as Friday’s contest will be the first in the month since 2008 and the first under head coach Bill Snyder since 2003. That season, K-State played two games in the month of August, a 42-28 win over California on August 23 in Kansas City and a 41-5 triumph over Troy State on August 30. K-State is a perfect 5-0 under Snyder and 7-0 all-time in the month of August.

Few teams in college football have taken care of their home field as well as the Wildcats since the start of the 1990 season. Over the past 21 years, K-State is an amazing 124-27-1 (.819) when playing at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, including a 64-3 (.955) record in non-conference games and a 62-24-1 (.718) mark in league games (combined Big 8/12). The Wildcats have gone 22-4 at home since Snyder’s return in 2009, including a 13-1 mark over the last two seasons and a perfect 7-0 ledger in 2012.

A new tradition was born when head coach Bill Snyder returned for his second tenure roaming the sidelines for the Wildcats as the K-State Family Reunion game was introduced for the 2009 season opener. The contest against UMass was a huge success as it was the largest crowd in school history for a home opener at the time with 50,750 fans pouring into Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Fans also came out in droves the last three seasons, including the 2010 opener against UCLA which stands as the most-attended season opener in school history with 51,059 fans witnessing a 31-22 victory over the Bruins.

Kansas State extended one of the nation’s longest scoring streaks last season as the Wildcats have now tallied points in 203 consecutive games. The 203-game stretch is the eighth-longest in the nation and the second-longest in the Big 12. The Wildcats have not been kept off the scoreboard since Colorado shut out K-State, 12-0, on Nov. 16, 1996. The streak includes 133 conference games, 74 true road games and 18 neutral-site contests.

Scoring first has been a big sign of good things to come for the Wildcats. Since 1990, K-State’s record when scoring first is very impressive as the Wildcats have gone 139-26 (.842) when drawing first blood. Last season, K-State was a perfect 6-0 when scoring the game’s first points.

There is no better indicator of a Wildcat victory than when K-State leads or is tied at the half. Since 1990, the Cats have protected a halftime lead in 159 of its last 164 (.970) games when leading at the half. Last season, Kansas State went 10-0 when leading at the half.

Kansas State has been on the positive side of the ledger in terms of time of possession over the last two seasons, ranking fourth (33:56) and 17th (32:03) nationally in 2011 and 2012, respectively. K-State, which has ranked in the top two of the Big 12 in each of the last two seasons, is 18-4 dating back to 2011 when controlling the clock and possessing the ball more than its opponent. Ironically, North Texas held the ball for 37:04 in a 35-21 K-State win, marking the first time since 2002 that the Wildcats won a game when their opponent possessed the ball more than 37 minutes. At Iowa State, K-State held the ball for 40:54, the most in a game by a Wildcat team since holding the ball for 41:17 in the 1997 Texas A&M game.

K-State was one of the best in the country last season in converting on third downs as the Wildcats ranked second in the Big 12 and seventh nationally by moving the sticks 50-percent (80-of-160) of the time on third down. Kansas State, which improved its conversion percentage by 8-percent from the 2011 season, was able to spread the ball out when it counted most as 11 different players converted on third down in 2012. Leading the way was Collin Klein with 25 rushes, while Tramaine Thompson was Klein’s go-to receiver on third down with 14 conversions.

Not only has Kansas State been able to possess the ball and sustain long drives over the course of the last two seasons, but the offense has managed to make the most of those opportunities once it has reached the red zone. Of K-State’s last 131 trips inside its opponent’s 20-yard line dating back to 2011, the Wildcats have scored on 117 of those trips, with 88 of those being touchdowns. Over the course of the last 22 regular season games, the Wildcats are 106-of-117 in the red zone with 83 touchdowns. Additionally, the Cats are 66-for-73 in red zone chances with 50 touchdowns in their last 14 wins dating back to 2011 with four of those non-scoring trips coming via a kneel down in the final minute of a game.

K-State opened last season with 324 rushing yards in its 51-9 win over Missouri State which included 152 by running back John Hubert. The 324 rushing yards were the most by a Wildcat team since gaining 373 against North Texas in 2010 and marked the third time since Bill Snyder’s return in 2009 that K-State eclipsed 300 yards on the ground in a game. Thanks to the impressive performance from the beginning of the year, K-State ranked 32nd nationally in rushing, averaging 194 yards per game, while its 42 rushing touchdowns ranked sixth nationally. The Wildcats, who out-rushed their opponents by nearly 1,000 yards and had 29 more rushing scores in 2012, have ranked in the top 12 nationally in rushing touchdowns each of the last three seasons.

K-State’s biggest improvement on defense over the course of the last two years has come against the run. Dating back to 2011, K-State has yielded just 129 yards per game on the ground, which includes giving up less than 100 yards to seven teams last year - Missouri State (95), Miami (40), Oklahoma (87), West Virginia (88), Oklahoma State (87), TCU (96) and Texas (99). The Cats finished 2012 ranked 20th nationally in rush defense at 126.85 yards allowed per game.

When the Wildcat defense picks off two or more passes, K-State usually comes out with a victory. Over the last 25 contests that the Wildcats have recorded two or more interceptions, Kansas State is 20-5, including a 4-1 record last year. The Wildcats tied for second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally with 18 interceptions last season, the second-straight season K-State picked off 18 passes. Four of those interceptions came against Oklahoma State, including three by Allen Chapman to tie for the most nationally in a single game in 2012. Ty Zimmerman, who had five interceptions last year, enters his senior campaign with 10 to tie for seventh in school history and needs five more to tie the school record.

A big part of K-State’s success over the past two seasons has been attributed to the discipline and fundamentals that head coach Bill Snyder and his coaching staff have instilled in the program. During last year’s Big 12 Championship season, K-State led the Big 12 and ranked third in the nation in turnover margin (+19), ranked second in the league and fourth nationally in fewest penalties (49 total) and also ranked second in the conference in time of possession (32:03). The Wildcats made the most of the turnovers forced last season, converting them into a nation-leading 142 points.

K-State showed the ability to force turnovers at a high clip in 2012, which was evidenced by the fact that the Wildcats forced multiple turnovers in 10 of 13 games. In fact, K-State’s +19 (31 turnovers forced, 12 turnovers surrendered) turnover margin in 2012 ranked third nationally, while the Wildcats’ 12 turnovers surrendered tied for the fourth fewest in the nation. To take it a step further, the Wildcats turned their 31 forced turnovers into 149 points, while K-State’s opponents scored just 24 points following a Wildcat turnover - both figures that topped in the nation.

The rise of K-State football over the last three decades has much to do with the emphasis on special teams. Since 1990, Kansas State is 48-15 when scoring on special teams and 18-1 when scoring on special teams and on defense, including a 16-0 mark under Bill Snyder. And, in non-offensive touchdowns, the Cats are the nation’s best over the past 14 seasons. Since 1999, the Wildcats rank first nationally in non-offensive touchdowns with 87. K-State had six non-offensive touchdowns last season. Tyler Lockett led the way with a pair of kickoff-return scores (vs. North Texas and Oklahoma State), while Tramaine Thompson returned a punt for a score against Missouri State, Jarell Childs returned a fumble for a touchdown at Oklahoma, and Arthur Brown (Texas Tech) and Allen Chapman (Oklahoma State) returned an interception for scores.

Following the 2013 spring game, head coach Bill Snyder named five captains for the 2013 season as B.J. Finney, Tyler Lockett, Blake Slaughter, Tre Walker and Ty Zimmerman earned the nod. Finney is a two-time captain and was the youngest offensive player and first non-senior offensive lineman captain since 2002 when he was elected last year. Walker and Zimmerman are also in their second years, while Lockett and Slaughter are serving as captains for the first time in their careers.

Sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams had quite the start to his collegiate career in 2012. In eight games, the Slidell, La., product rushed for 235 yards, the most ever by a freshman quarterback in school history. In addition, he dazzled to the tune of three rushing touchdowns in his first two games, which included a two-touchdown performance against Miami. Sams, who is battling community-college transfer Jake Waters for the starting nod, was asked to throw on a limited basis in 2012, going 6-of-8 for 55 yards, but he shined during the Spring Game by tossing for 391 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-28 accuracy.

Quarterback Jake Waters, who enrolled at K-State last spring, is hoping to have a smooth transition from the community-college ranks to Division I. The 2012 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year after leading Iowa Western to a 12-0 record and a National Championship, Waters is looking to become the first player to come straight from the community-college ranks and start the season at quarterback for the Wildcats since Michael Bishop in 1997. Last year at Iowa Western, Waters set the NJCAA national record for completions percentage at 73.3 (244-of-333) while throwing for 3,501 yards, 39 touchdowns and just three interceptions. And although he may be labeled as only a passer, Waters rushed seven times for 31 yards and a touchdown in the 2013 Spring Game.

Following two years of 900-plus yard rushing seasons, senior John Hubert enters his third year as the starting running back looking to garner his first 1,000-yard campaign, while he can also become the school’s ninth career 2,000-yard rusher. Hubert, who is currently 11th in school history in career rushing yards, needs 55 yards to crack the 2,000-yard barrier. The Waco, Texas, product considerably improved his touchdown numbers from 2011 to 2012, finishing with 15 scores last season to tie for 10th in school history. Hubert, who is a preseason candidate for the Maxwell, Doak Walker and Walter Camp awards, has 18 career touchdowns entering his senior campaign and needs just four to enter the school’s career top 10.

Tyler Lockett may have taken teams by surprise as a freshman in kickoff returns by tallying a 35.2-yard average with two touchdowns, but the speedster continued to excel in that specialty in 2012 by putting together a 32.8-yard average with two more scores. A Preseason All-Big 12 selection as a kick returner, Lockett ranks first in career kickoff-return average among active players and currently sits atop the Big 12 record book, bettering second-place Brandon Banks - also a product of K-State - by an astonishing 5.3 yards per return. Lockett, whose four return touchdowns are one shy of the school record held by Banks, has two of the four 100-yard returns in school history as he had one at Texas Tech in 2011 before taking one the distance last season against Oklahoma State.

Aside from his kick-return abilities, Tyler Lockett has also turned into one of the best threats at wide receiver in the Big 12. The Tulsa, Okla., product recorded 44 catches for 687 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, which included a stellar game at West Virginia when he hauled in nine receptions for 194 yards and two scores. His 194 yards were the fifth most in a single game in school history. Lockett, who has 933 career receiving yards, can become the 27th player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau, a list that includes his father Kevin, who is first in school history with 3,032 yards, and his uncle Aaron, who is fourth with 2,400 yards.

In addition to Tyler Lockett on kickoff returns, senior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson is just as good on punts, giving K-State two of the best return men in the country. Last season, Thompson averaged a nation-leading 19.8 yards per punt return, which included an 89-yard score in the season opener against Missouri State and enters 2013 second among active players with a 16.7-yard punt return average.

Junior center B.J. Finney is the true testament that hard work pays off. A former walk-on from Andale, Kan., Finney impressed during his redshirt season of 2010 and has started every game over the last two seasons, including the last 25 games at center. Finney, who anchors an offensive line that boasts 73 combined career starts, is a preseason candidate for the Rimington and Outland trophies as well as the Lombardi Award.

Senior All-American safety Ty Zimmerman returns for his fourth year as a starter to lead a less experienced defense in 2013. A candidate for four major awards and a Preseason All-Big 12 selection, Zimmerman’s 36 career starts rank as the fifth-most nationally among active players, while he is the top returning tackler on the team with 182 career stops. However, the Junction City, Kan., product improved his interception production last season as he came away with five despite missing two games due to injury. Zimmerman, who has 10 career picks, enters his senior campaign tied for seventh in school history in interceptions and eighth in interception-return yards at 146.

Linebacker Blake Slaughter, who was a four-game starter in 2010, is back this season after electing to redshirt the 2012 campaign while playing behind All-American Arthur Brown. Slaughter, who has 49 career tackles, saw limited action in 2011 and decided to redshirt to improve depth for the 2013 season. His unselfishness was rewarded as his teammates elected him a team captain for the upcoming season.

Defensive tackle Travis Britz gained valuable experience as a true freshman last season as played in 11 games and came away with six tackles, including two for a loss, one pass breakup and a forced fumble. As a sophomore in 2012, Britz will be one of the leaders along the defensive line as, along with 26-game veteran Ryan Mueller at defensive, the unit will boast limited experience to start the season.

Glenn Gronkowski, who redshirted during the Wildcats’ Big 12 Championship run last season, is poised to start at fullback in 2013. The youngest of the famed football family that includes New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski, Glenn Gronkowski was named the Co-Offensive Player of the Year in Section VI Class AA North during his senior year playing for Williamsville North.

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