K-State Opens Big 12 Play On The Road At Texas

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

Following a 37-7 win over UMass in the final non-conference game of the season, Kansas State will hit the road for the first time in 2013 and open the Big 12 Conference portion of its schedule Saturday night at Texas. The game is slated for a 7 p.m., kickoff at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and will be televised nationally on ABC. Brent Musburger (Play-by-Play), Kirk Herbstreit (Analyst) and Heather Cox (Sideline Reporter) will have the call for ABC, while 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 117 and XM channel 202. WestwoodOne Sports will also be on hand for a national radio broadcast with John Tautges and Tim Brown on the call. Live stats will be available at k-statesports.com, while Twitter updates (@kstatesports and @kstate_gameday) will also be a part of the gameday coverage.

The Wildcats rushed for 329 yards, including 118 by running back John Hubert, and returned an interception for a touchdown for the second straight game to run past UMass, 37-7, last week. Jake Waters added touchdown passes of 43 and 50 yards, while Daniel Sams sparked the offense with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown as both quarterbacks played key roles in the win. Hubert’s 118 yards on the ground marked the first 100-yard performance of the season as the Wildcats averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a team against the Minutemen. On defense, linebackers Blake Slaughter (27) and Jonathan Truman (25) and continue to lead the squad in tackles, while defensive end Ryan Mueller has been the most consistent Wildcat up front this season. The former walk-on has 4.5 tackles for loss on the season with 2.0 sacks to go along with his 17 total tackles. Daily’s two interceptions last week have shot him up the Big 12 rankings into a tie for first heading into conference play. The special teams units have been solid again so far this season with the Wildcats’ kick return and punt return units ranking among the nation’s best. K-State enters league play No. 1 nationally in punt returns averaging 31.7 yards per return. In the kicking game, Jack Cantele is 3-for-3 in field goals, including a career-long 42-yarder last week, while punter Mark Krause is averaging 42.7 yards a kick with four being downed inside the 20-yard line.

K-State will head to Austin Saturday to face a Texas Longhorn squad that is 1-2 on the season and coming off a home loss to Ole Miss on Saturday. The Longhorns are led by quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy, who have connected on 70-of-110 passes for 865 yards and seven scores with just two picks. A total of 50 of those 70 completions have gone to Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Kendall Sanders. On the ground, Johnathan Gray has rushed for 209 yards on 38 carries, while Ash has added 125. Defensively, Jordan Hicks has 32 stops to lead all defenders, while Cedric Reed has 27 and a team-best 3.0 for loss.

Kansas State will make its first conference call of the 2013 season when the Wildcats travel to Texas on Saturday. K-State, ranked third all-time with an 84-54 record in Big 12 play, is 8-8 overall in Big 12 openers since the conference’s formation in 1996 and will be out to win its sixth in the last seven seasons. The Wildcats have won four straight Big 12 openers after defeating Iowa State in 2009 and 2010, No. 15 Baylor in 2011 and No. 5 Oklahoma last year. The Wildcats, 8-6 in Big 12 openers under head coach Bill Snyder, will open Big 12 play away from Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the 14th time.

Kansas State leads the all-time series with Texas, 8-5, and is currently riding a five-game winning streak in the series. Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, K-State is 7-2 against the Longhorns and is 3-1 in games played in Austin. Head coach Bill Snyder is 5-2 against Texas. The Wildcats have enjoyed some recent success in the series with the Longhorns. In 2006, K-State knocked off the No. 4 Longhorns, 45-42, in Manhattan before handing the No. 7 Horns a 41-21 loss in Austin in 2007. K-State defeated UT, 39-14, in 2010, 17-13 in Austin in 2011 and won, 42-24, in last season’s Big 12 title-clinching game.

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 2012 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year has accumulated the fourth-most victories at FBS-only 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 for the first time since the end of an 11-year bowl stretch in 2003.

Fast starts have propelled the Wildcats to winning seasons under Bill Snyder. Since 1992 under Snyder, K-State is a combined 57-5 (.919) in games played during the month of September. Of the five losses, three came on the road, as the Cats are 44-2 in September home games during that stretch.

Kansas State extended one of the nation’s longest scoring streaks last week as the Wildcats have now tallied points in 206 consecutive games. The 206-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 141-26 (.844) when drawing first blood. Last season, K-State was a perfect 6-0 when scoring the game’s first points and is 2-0 so far in 2013.

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 161 of its last 166 (.971) games when leading at the half. Last season, Kansas State went 10-0 when leading at the half and is 2-0 this season.

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 19-4 dating back to 2011 when controlling the clock and possessing the ball more than its opponent. Ironically, the Cats are 2-1 this season and have controlled the clock in just one of those games (Louisiana).

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. After converting on just 2-of-10 third downs against North Dakota State, K-State has converted on 15-of-25 third-down chances in its last two games.

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 139 trips inside its opponent’s 20-yard line dating back to 2011, the Wildcats have scored on 125 of those trips, with 94 of those being touchdowns. Over the course of the last 25 regular season games, the Wildcats are 114-of-125 in the red zone with 89 touchdowns. Additionally, the Cats are 73-for-90 in red zone chances with 55 touchdowns in their last 16 wins dating back to 2011 with four of those non-scoring trips coming via a kneel down in the final minute of a game.

When the Wildcat defense picks off two or more passes, K-State usually comes out with a victory. Over the last 26 contests that the Wildcats have recorded two or more interceptions, Kansas State is 21-5, including a 5-1 record over the last two seasons. 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. Ty Zimmerman, who had five interceptions last year, now has 11 interceptions to tie for sixth in school history and needs four more to tie the school record. Kip Daily picked off two passes in the Cats’ win over UMass.

In the Wildcats’ season opener against North Dakota State, the K-State defense managed to make 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage - which included three sacks - for the first time since the 2012 KU game and the first time in a season opener since the 2010 debut. The Wildcats added four more against Louisiana and seven against UMass as Ryan Mueller (4.5), Travis Britz (3.0) and Blake Slaughter (3.0) have combined for 10.5 of the 21 stops.

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. So far in 2013, the Cats again lead the league in fewest penalty yards per game.

K-State has ranked among the nation’s best on special teams under Bill Snyder, especially as it relates to kickoff returns. In fact, following Tramaine Thompson’s 94-yard dash against Louisiana the Wildcats have returned a kick for a score at least once in each of the last nine seasons, which currently ranks as the longest streak in the nation. Louisiana Tech has done so in each of the last seven years, while Auburn and Central Florida currently have streaks of six straight seasons.

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 49-15 when scoring on special teams and 19-1 when scoring on special teams and on defense, including a 17-0 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 90. 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. In 2013, the Wildcats have recorded three with Thompson’s kick return (Louisiana) and interception returns from Ty Zimmerman (Louisiana) and Kip Daily (UMass).

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 23 years, K-State is an amazing 126-28-1 (.814) when playing at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, including a 66-4 (.941) record in non-conference games and a 62-24-1 (.718) mark in league games (combined Big 8/12). The Wildcats have gone 24-5 at home since Snyder’s return in 2009, including a 15-2 mark over the last two-plus seasons.

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 four seasons, including this year’s season opener with North Dakota State which drew a season-opening record crowd of 53,351. That mark was also good enough for the second-largest mark to ever watch a Wildcat game in Manhattan. With a record 43,000-plus season tickets sold for this season, and three crowds so far of 53,000-plus, K-State is on track to set new school records for number of sellouts and total attendance for a season. Dating back to last season, K-State is riding a streak of eight consecutive sellouts.

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.

Quarterback Jake Waters entered 2013 known for his throwing abilities and he has not disappointed through the first three games. The community-college transfer from Iowa Western has been on point to start the season as he has totaled 673 passing yards, the most by a Wildcat in the first three games of a season since Josh Freeman in 2008 (833), while it is the most under head coach Bill Snyder. The closest was Chad May with 638 yards in 1993 (New Mexico State, Western Kentucky, Minnesota).

Sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams dazzled last season in the running game as he rushed for 235 yards - the most ever by a freshman quarterback in school history - and had three touchdowns. It has been more of the same in 2013 as he is second on the team with 157 rushing yards and paces the Wildcats with three rushing touchdowns. Sams enters Big 12 play off a career-best performance against UMass when he rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries, which included a one-yard sneak on 4th and Goal.

Following two years of 900-plus yard rushing seasons, senior John Hubert joined an exclusive club against Louisiana as he eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing barrier, the ninth player in school history to reach the milestone. Hubert, who is at 2,142 career rushing yards, needs 41 yards to pass Isaac Jackson (1971-73) for eighth place in school history, 69 to pass J.J. Smith (1991-94) for seventh and 124 to pass Mike Lawrence (1994-97) for sixth. Additionally, Hubert carded his eighth career 100-yard game last week against UMass to move into a tie for seventh in school history.

Not only has John Hubert put up big numbers in terms of yards, but the Waco, Texas, product has also scored rushing touchdowns on a consistent basis. Hubert , who has 20 in his career, needs two more to tie J.J. Smith (1991-94) for 10th all-time at K-State and three to tie Michael Bishop (1997-98) and Mack Herron (1968-69) for eighth.

When senior Tramaine Thompson returned the second-half opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana, the wide receiver became just the third player in school history to score touchdowns via a rush, reception, punt return and kickoff return. Thompson, who has six touchdown receptions, returned a punt 89 yards in last year’s season opener against Missouri State. His rushing touchdown occurred by happenstance as he recovered a fumble in the end zone in the first overtime against Texas A&M in 2011. With that being chalked up as a rushing score, Thompson’s kickoff-return score allowed him to join Mack Herron (1968-69) and Yamon Figurs (2004-06) in the exclusive category. For his efforts, Thompson was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week and earned a spot on the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll.

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-plus seasons, including the last 28 games at center. Finney, who anchors an offensive line that boasts 88 combined career starts, is a preseason candidate for the Rimington and Outland trophies as well as the Lombardi Award.

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 has continued to excel in that specialty as he remains first nationally in career kickoff-return average among active players and currently sits atop the Big 12 record book. He ranks over a yard better than every other play nationally, while he is currently 4.4 yards better than the player second on the all-time Big 12 list, former Wildcat Brandon Banks. Lockett, whose four return touchdowns are one shy of the school career 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., carded 113 yards in week one against North Dakota State and came back with 111 more against Louisiana to become the first Wildcat with consecutive 100-yard games since Aubrey Quarles in 2010. In addition, Lockett’s performance to begin the year has put him at 1,165 career receiving yards to become the 27th player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. Lockett is now on a list that includes his father Kevin (1st; 3,032) and his uncle Aaron (4th; 2,400).

Glenn Gronkowski, who redshirted during the Wildcats’ Big 12 Championship run last season, has been solid during his first three games of 2013. The youngest of the famed football family that includes New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski, Glenn scored his first-career touchdown last week against UMass when he hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jake Waters.

Used as a pass-rush specialist each of the last two seasons, junior defensive end Ryan Mueller has made his first three career starts count. The Leawood, Kan., product ranks fifth on the team with 17 tackles, including 4.5 that have gone for 19 yards of loss and two sacks. Mueller, who had three TFLs in week one and a 10-yard sack against Louisiana, ranks fifth in the Big 12 in TFLs. Throughout his career, Mueller has consistently been around the ball as he came into the season with seven passes defended and three fumble recoveries.

Senior All-American safety Ty Zimmerman picked off his 11th career pass against Louisiana and returned it 32 yards for his first-career touchdown. A candidate for four major awards and a Preseason All-Big 12 selection, Zimmerman’s 11 picks are tied for sixth in school history, while he now has 178 interception return yards rank fourth. Zimmerman, who has 39 career starts to rank fifth nationally among active players, also reached another milestone last week as he became the 51st player in school history with 200 tackles.

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 used the year off to improve and has started the 2013 season on fire totaling a team-leading 27 tackles - the fourth-most in the Big 12 - to go along with a pair of sacks. His season total was given a boost last week when he had 10 tackles, his third career double-digit tackle game.

Junior Jonathan Truman made his mark last year on special teams by leading the Wildcats with nine tackles on kickoffs and three on punts. The former walk-on from Kechi, Kan., earned a starting nod at linebacker in 2013 and has performed well as he is second on the team with 25 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.

Punter Mark Krause has been outstanding during his first year as the full-time punter as he holds a 42.7-yard average while dropping four punts inside the 20-yard line. He put together a career-best 47.5-yard average against Louisianan, which included a career long 50-yard punt.

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