Snyder: No. 7 Wildcats must improve on defense

Updated: August 24, 2003, 5:31 PM ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas State's offense proved it can put points on the board. Keeping them off proved tougher than expected for the Wildcats' defense.

Seventh-ranked Kansas State got career highs from Ell Roberson (three touchdown passes) and Darren Sproles (175 yards) and rolled up 540 yards of offense in a season-opening 42-28 win over California on Saturday night.

Roberson threw for 205 yards and ran for 145 yards and one TD, and Sproles also had a touchdown run. James Terry caught one scoring pass from Roberson, had another called back for a holding penalty and finished with 116 yards on four catches.

But the Wildcats, despite recording four sacks, an interception and a key goal-line stand, also gave up 440 yards to the Golden Bears. That's almost 200 yards more than opponents averaged against Kansas State a year ago, when the Wildcats had the nation's second-stingiest defense at 249 yards per game.

Reggie Robertson threw for three touchdowns and backup Aaron Rodgers had another TD pass.

"Our offense isn't going to play like that every game," said cornerback Louis Lavender, one of two new starters on the Wildcats' retooled secondary. "We're going to have to step it up, just like they stepped up tonight."

Coach Bill Snyder agreed, promising that the Wildcats would be "tested" when they return to practice Monday in preparation for their home opener against Troy State.

"I'm just trying to find out if we are getting better," Snyder said. "The answer to that is 'No."

Snyder also promised wholesale changes in the kickoff team, which generally kept the Bears contained around their own 20 but gave up James Bethea's 62-yard return in the third quarter.

Kicker Joe Rheem was able to bring Bethea down but was slightly injured on the play. He is expected to be ready for Saturday's Troy State game, Snyder said.

"I've done a couple of drills about tackling lately," said Rheem, who was 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points. "Coach has been saying we need to practice that."

Not even Sproles, who became Kansas State's career leader in 100-yard games with 11 and extended his school record for consecutive 100-yard games to 10 could draw unqualified praise from Snyder.

"That was his career high? We're going to have to do something about that," Snyder said jokingly, before turning serious again.

"He played well, but he's had games where he played better and didn't have nearly as many yards," Snyder said. "I don't look at the yardage."

Roberson also earned a grade of "decent" from Snyder, although the coach warmed up a bit later.

"I thought he had good command and presence," Snyder said.

Cal coach Jeff Tedford was more effusive in praise of Kansas State's stars.

"They made a lot of big plays, but the credit goes to their two guys," Tedford said. "I'm not sure they don't do that against anyone."

Still, the Bears, who trailed 35-14 after Roberson's 11-yard scoring run and 2-point conversion carry midway through the third quarter, didn't give up.

"We played a great team and did well against them," said wide receiver Vincent Strang, who caught a 34-yard TD pass from Robertson to force an early 7-all tie. "If we can hang in there with K-State, we'll be fine in the Pac-10."

Tight end Brian Casey, who replaced All-Big 12 preseason pick Thomas Hill when Hill was injured in the preseason, had a solid first start for the Wildcats with two catches for 53 yards.

"He's really confident in the huddle," center Nick Leckey said. "That really makes us loose."

Kansas State does not release details of injuries, but Hill was on crutches on the sideline Saturday night.

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index