Kansas State is suddenly on a roll. And quarterback Daniel Sams is a big reason why.
Sams trails only Baylor’s Bryce Petty in Big 12 QBR, and has rapidly improved his passing accuracy in recent weeks. In fact in his last two games, Sams has completed 12 of 13 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Sams has been the Big 12’s best running quarterback all season, too. Last month, he nearly led K-State to an upset of Baylor with 199 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Sams is fifth in the league among all players with 595 rushing yards.
As the Wildcats prepare to travel to Texas Tech, Sams spoke with me about his relationship with co-starting QB Jake Waters, what he learned from playing behind Collin Klein and what it will take for the Wildcats to run the table:
Jake Trotter: You guys are finally beginning to roll with two straight wins. What has allowed it to all click?
Daniel Sams: We finally got a chemistry together. Everybody is being included in the offense. The offensive line is doing what they have to do up front. It feels good to have Tramaine [Thompson] and [Tyler] Lockett back, two solid receivers, who can do anything when the ball is in the air. It feels really good to be clicking.
Trotter: Are Lockett and Thompson underrated?
Sams: I feel like those guys, they’re overlooked sometimes simply because we’re known for our run game and QB run game. I feel like they’re really underrated. I feel like they can go up against any secondary in the nation, and one-on-one I would like my chances.
Trotter: You guys were in all four of your losses. Is it a little annoying you guys didn’t start playing this way earlier? You might be 7-1 or something.
Sams: It bothers us sometimes. We still look on bright side of it. We know what we’re capable of now. We know what to expect. Everyone is into playing their roles. It’s better late than never. We’ve still got four games to finish out strong.
Trotter: People say you can’t play two quarterbacks and be successful. How have you and Jake made it work?
Sams: It’s really the coaching staff. I feel like they’re using us well. We play an equal amount. We both bring something different. I can’t really complain about switching it around. Me and Jake, we’re each other’s biggest fan and each other’s biggest critic. It’s like having another coach. At the end of the day, we both want to win.
Trotter: What is your relationship with Jake like?
Sams: It’s not really friendship, it’s a brotherhood. We want to help each other out. It was a competition at first, but we both realized we wanted to win, how much the success of the football team meant to us, that drew us closer together. It’s really a partnership anymore. We encourage each other. When I’m coming off the field, I tell him, ‘It’s your turn.’ We call it, tag-teaming the defense.
Trotter: When did the competition become a partnership?
Sams: After the Texas game, we sat down together and were like, as long as we’re both playing, who cares in what order and for how long? Really that’s when the competition got thrown out the window. We just wanted to be successful.
Trotter: What’s it like playing for Bill Snyder?
Sams: It’s amazing. You’re not just playing for legendary coach, you’re learning valuable lessons in life. I know since I’ve been here, I’ve changed. When I first got here, I was a player all out for myself. All I cared about was how my performance was looking to everyone else. Being around what Coach Snyder coaches and teaches, he molds you into the man. I’m not just saying that, either. I really feel that way. Ex-players come back and they say the same thing.
Trotter: What did you learn from Collin Klein?
Sams: We don’t have enough time for me to tell you everything. He not only taught me to be a great QB and the offense and the system, he taught me many lessons about life. He’s been a major part of my life. More than just a teammate. My father always told me, get connected to somebody you can learn from. Colin was really the best person. I can’t recall him ever do anything wrong on or off the field.
Trotter: What specifically did he teach you?
Sams: How to self-assess. Are you doing everything to be the best player you can be? Everything to be the best teammate? That’s something he always told me. I still think about that to this day.
Trotter: What do you say to people who say, Daniel Sams, he can’t throw the ball, he’s just a running quarterback?
Sams: I really don’t say anything. I try to speak with my performance I admit, it used to bother me. Now that I’m doing both, running and passing, it really doesn’t bother me.
Trotter: You seemed to exasperate Coach Snyder for awhile there with the turnovers, but you’ve since eliminated them. What’s been the difference?
Sams: Coach Snyder. When you look at history of K-State football, that’s something we’ve never done, beating ourselves as far penalties and turnovers. I got tired of being in the hot seat with coach after game with the turnovers I had. I had to break that habit as fast as I could.
Trotter: It’s not good to be in Coach Snyder’s hot seat?
Sams: No, it never is.
Trotter: Can this team run the table?
Sams: I feel like we can run the table. The offense and defense and even the special teams are clicking on all cylinders. We now know what to expect form each other. As long as we do that and prepare well, we feel like we can win every game.
Trotter: Last question. Your favorite local place to eat in Manhattan?
Sams: The So Long Saloon. The burgers there second-to-none. I catch myself going there a lot.