By Tyler Dreiling
It took 12 seconds for Kansas State to take the lead for good against South Dakota. From that point on, how the Wildcats’ season opener is viewed depends on perspective.
K-State routed the Coyotes 34-0 Saturday night in a game that featured a hearty helping of good, bad and ugly.
“We need to make better things happen than what we showed tonight,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said.
The game started as well as it possibly could have. Morgan Burns returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, sending the sold out crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium into frenzy.
But just minutes later, on the Wildcats’ second offensive play, starting quarterback Jesse Ertz limped to the sideline with an apparent knee injury. A few minutes later, he was taken to the locker room on a cart. He did not return to the game.
Snyder did not offer any information on the winner of K-State’s summer-long quarterback sweepstakes.
“I feel dramatically bad for him,” Snyder said. “I have no idea right now. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Into his place stepped Joe Hubener, who was efficient throwing the ball, but not finishing drives with touchdowns. K-State led 7-0 after one quarter.
“I thought Joe was a little nervous,” Snyder said. “It took a little while to get the cobwebs off. That was true for everyone. He threw some nice balls and had some others that were dropped.”
Hubener had one promising drive halted by a fumble at the goal line, while another ended in a short Matt McCrane field goal.
Midway through the second quarter, he found his stride, connecting on some longer passes and finally getting the Wildcat offense in the endzone.
Fullback Winston Dimel capped a 5-play, 45-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 9:18 left in the first half. It was the first career score for the former Manhattan High Indian, who added another in the fourth quarter.
“It was a dream come true for me,” Dimel said. “Having lived here for 19 years, it was really special for me tonight.”
Four minutes later, Hubener connected with Deante Burton, another Manhattan product, from 24 yards out to give K-State a 24-0 lead at the halftime break.
“I felt like I did all right,” Hubener said. “There were definitely some things I wasn’t happy about. But for the most part, I handled business.
“We got the win, and that’s what matters.”
Hubener finished the game 9 of 18 passing for 147 yards, one touchdown and a fumble.
The Wildcat rushing attack was paced by freshman Justin Silmon, who set up K-State’s first offensive touchdown with three runs totalling 38 yards. He finished the game with 51 yards on just six carries.
As a team, the Wildcats finished with 332 total yards.
Defensively, it was a much cleaner performance for K-State. The Coyotes were outmanned from the beginning and never reached the Wildcat red zone.
“It was great to get a shutout,” Snyder said. “Those are hard to come by in this day and age. As iffy as we played defensively, we still managed to do that, and that’s a plus.”
Elijah Lee led K-State with six tackles, while Marquel Bryant added five, along with a crushing sack of USD quarterback Ryan Saeger.
“We can always improve,” Lee said. “We want to be more physical with the offensive linemen.”
The Wildcat defense was not spared from concerning injuries either, however. Safety Dante Barnett went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and did not return.
The shutout was the first in a K-State season opener since 1999, but it did not come without a host of pending questions as the Wildcats turn their attention to Texas-San Antonio next week.
“We have the capability of being a better football team,” Snyder said. “It’s that simple. There are countless things for us to correct.”
Led by Dante Barnett and Danzel McDaniel, the secondary is expected to be the strongest part of K-State’s defense going into the 2015 season.
The Powercat Gameday Crew is back and ready for the 2015-16 K-State Football season. John Kurtz, Matt Walters, Corey “Dean” Reeves and former Wildcat Travis Tannahill take a look at the additions, subtractions, strengths, weaknesses, and more of Bill Snyder’s team for the upcoming season in an 8-part preseason video series.
The crew analyzes what’s left of the defensive line in this first video. Suffering key losses with the departures of Ryan Meuller, Valentino Coleman, and Terrell Clinkscales, who are the top players coming into the 2015 season?
K-State has announced that Daniel Sams has been granted a conditional release from his scholarship to transfer to an FCS program near his hometown of Slidell, La.
“Daniel requested to be able to continue his playing career at an FCS institution so that he could be closer to some of his aging family members,” K-State athletics director John Currie said in a press release. “We appreciate his contributions and wish him the best.”
Sams will be able to compete right away and be on scholarship at an FCS school, and he’ll have two years of eligibility remaining. Sams can’t transfer to Stephen F. Austin, a K-State opponent in 2014.
“I am thankful to Coach Snyder for the opportunity I have had here at K-State and also the fans for being so supportive,” Sams said in the relase. “I have become a better teammate, football player and more importantly a better person during my time at K-State, and I want to wish my teammates and coaches nothing but the best next season.”
Sams led all Big 12 quarterbacks with 807 rushing yards last season while splitting time with fellow Wildcat quarterback Jake Waters. He finished third in the Big 12 in total quarterback rating with a mark of 83.4. Sams picked up honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from the Big 12 coaches.