MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — There was no secret to what Kansas State was going to do last season. Behind a battering ram in quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats were going to be punishing up front. They were going to grind out long, sustained drives that wore down defenses, and use the pass just enough to keep the coaching staffs on the opposite sideline guessing all game.
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — There was no secret to what Kansas State was going to do last season.
Behind a battering ram in quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats were going to be punishing up front. They were going to grind out long, sustained drives that wore down defenses, and use the pass just enough to keep the coaching staffs on the opposite sideline guessing all game.
Through two weeks of this season, Kansas State is dealing with an identity crisis.
Are the Wildcats suddenly an air-it-out offense that takes advantage of a speedy, talented group of wide receivers? Or are they better off sticking with a ground-and-pound running game?
"That's a good question," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said, "because it keeps defenses off guard because they don't know what's coming. We have different ways to throw stuff at teams."
Different quarterbacks to do the throwing, too.
Junior college transfer Jake Waters won a nip-and-tuck competition with sophomore Daniel Sams to take the starting snaps through the first two games, a disheartening loss to North Dakota State and a bounce-back win Saturday night over Louisiana-Lafayette. He's the guy with the big right arm who set all kinds of records at Iowa Western Community College last season.
He's shown the same ability to let the ball fly all over the field at Kansas State. Waters threw for 280 yards against the Bison and had 278 yards passing against the Ragin' Cajuns.
Then there's Sams, who's been brought out of the bullpen to change up the pace. He may be the most athletic player on the team, capable of running the read-option that coach Bill Snyder is fond of with even more dangerous precision than Klein did last season.
Sams ran for a 17-yard touchdown on one of the two plays he was in against North Dakota State, and then had a team-high 63 yards rushing on just eight carries against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"It's all about winning, and it's all about the team. If you have that mindset, it's easy to handle," Waters said of the quarterback rotation. "When I'm out there, I'm the guy and it's my team, and when he's out there, he's the guy. We both want what's best for the team."
Snyder has said that he'd prefer to have one quarterback handle the majority of the snaps — he'd prefer the offense has a single identity — with the reason being that it's best to have a quarterback get into the flow of the game. But he may not have that luxury this season.
Waters threw for 250 yards in the first half against the Ragin' Cajuns, but couldn't seem to find an open wide receiver in the second half. Louisiana-Lafayette started to back off the line of scrimmage, blanketing his targets and clogging up his passing lanes.
That's when Sams came off the bench and provide a much-needed spark.
The Wildcats were leading 41-27 early in the fourth quarter when he entered the game. Sams showed that he's not purely a running quarterback by hitting his tight end for a 27-yard gain, and then slipped and swiveled through the Ragin' Cajuns defense for three big gains.
That set up running back John Hubert for the game-clinching touchdown run.
"We put him in at that point because we needed him in the ballgame," Snyder said of Sams, who provided a much-needed spark. "I can't tell you if it was planned for such and such a drive at such and such a point in the ballgame, but he needed to be in there."
When asked after the game whether Kansas State can succeed running a two-quarterback system, just about everyone said, "Yes." Waters and Sams do different things, the line of reasoning went, and that presents interesting possibilities for the offense and significant challenges for defenses.
"At the end of the day, everybody wants a winning quarterback," Sams said. "Whatever we do to win, it doesn't bother me what anybody says outside of the team."
Ultimately, it will come down to Snyder and his coaching staff to determine how to best use the quarterbacks this season. Waters has been able to pick apart defenses with his arm, Sams has picked them apart with his feet, and finding a balance between the two will be crucial.
The Wildcats get one more test run Saturday night against Massachusetts before the start of Big 12 play, when it stands to reason that a polished plan should be in place.
"When you learn how to utilize both quarterbacks, it keeps defenses off guard, because they don't know what's coming. Sometimes they only prepare for one quarterback. Who knows what they prepare for?" Lockett said. "As long as we can utilize that, we can use that to our advantage."