Creativity drives Kansas State's offense

It’s not a surprise to see Baylor sitting atop the Big 12 in yards per play. The Bears were one of college football’s most creative and versatile offenses while averaging 7.58 yards per play this season.

The same can be said about the team that sits second in the conference. It brings an explosive, balanced offense that is difficult to prepare for and always has a creative wrinkle. That team? Kansas State.

Creative and explosive aren’t the first words that come to mind when thinking of the Wildcats, but those words describe Bill Snyder’s offense this season as KSU averaged 6.3 yards per play and 33.4 points per game.

“He’s always has a different wrinkle,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Snyder’s offense.

The Wildcats’ first touchdown in their 31-10 Sunflower Showdown win over Kansas is a good glimpse at the creativity of the KSU offense. Quarterback Jake Waters found Zach Trujillo for a 35-yard touchdown. The play was blocked like a running play with Waters having the option to run or throw. The run-based design of the play brought Jayhawks safety Isaiah Johnson out of the defensive backfield to try to stop Waters, who appeared to be running on the quarterback draw before he stopped at the line of scrimmage and lofted a throw to Trujillo, who had just slipped behind Johnson. There was nobody within 10 yards of Trujillo as he cruised to the end zone.

Creative and effective.

This season the Wildcats offense has polished its ability to adapt on the fly. With Waters and fellow quarterback Daniel Sams, KSU has used two unique offensive looks to take advantage of their skills. Heading into Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings bowl battle against Michigan, the Wildcats have perfected their offensive approach.

“They present a challenge in that 15 (Waters) can throw it and he’s mobile,” Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “No. 4 (Sams) can run it and he can throw it enough to keep you honest. You’ve got a combination of two pretty good things right there. They’ve got a very good offense.”

Several stats provide a better appreciation of the Wildcats’ explosiveness:

  • KSU averaged 6.95 yards per play on first down, second in the Big 12 behind Baylor.

  • The Wildcats clearly enter games with a solid game plan. In the first quarter, 27.9 percent of the Wildcats’ plays gained 10 yards or more, best in the Big 12.

  • The Wildcats scored points 55.8 percent of the time after gaining a first down to start a drive, second in the Big 12 behind Baylor.

  • KSU averaged 2.5 points per drive, second in the Big 12 behind Baylor.

  • The Wildcats converted 47.7 percent of their third-down attempts to lead the Big 12.

KSU has one of the Big 12’s top offenses because the Wildcats make it extremely difficult to prepare for everything they can do. One play, Waters might hit All-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockett behind the defense. The next play, Sams could be using his running back-like skills to slash through the linebackers on his way to a long run. It’s nearly impossible to thoroughly prepare for all those options.

“It's hard for schools to go back and get a scouting report and scout two quarterbacks,” Lockett said. “You never know who is going to be a quarterback. You never know who you're going to get at quarterback. That kind of hurts them because they try to figure out, 'OK, when this quarterback is in, we need to work on this.' And we might be working on a totally different offensive scheme going against the next team. It keeps teams off balance whenever we play day in and day out.”

And week in and week out, the Kansas State offense dismantles defenses while others get the headlines.