Announcer Adam Alexander and color analyst Chris Simms faced an unexpected challenge Saturday night in their description of Kansas State’s 48-27 victory over Louisiana. The challenge involved figuring out explaining Bill Snyder’s revolving use of quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams.
Among TV figures, there isn’t much of a protocol for dealing with revolving quarterbacks. Their credo is a well-known one: If you have two quarterbacks, you have none. It’s something Simms should be familiar with, having controversially wrestled the quarterback job away from Major Applewhite at Texas in 2001.
So when Snyder several times successfully swapped Waters and Sams in the first half, Alexander and Simms were slow to confront the “big picture” question: Was this merely a short-term convenience, an indicator of a position battle or a deliberate strategy the Wildcats could regularly use? The question was pertinent given the yin and yang nature of the players’ performances. Waters completed 22 of 31 passes for 298 yards, but didn’t run much. Sams, meanwhile, only threw twice, but he carried eight times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
At the game’s outset, neither announcer gave any indication they expected Sams to play much larger of a role than he had last week in the 24-21 loss to North Dakota State. Instead, they identified KSU’s ability to return to its running game roots, and also to stop Louisiana’s running game – as the key. It was a defensible guess since the Wildcats did rush about 40 times for about 150 yards. Wrong, but defensible.
Alexander and Simms were not caught entirely flatfooted by Sams’ presence. “It’s important for Bill Snyder to have a dual-threat quarterback,” Alexander said during Sams’ first quarter success. But by early in the second quarter, when Sams ran for a TD to make the score 17-3, neither seemed able to cope with the question of whether Snyder was pursuing some sort of dual-QB strategy, or whether a competition for the job was afoot. Instead, Simms reacted by describing Sams’ abilities abstractly: “Sneaky because he’s a big strider … the TV doesn’t do (his speed) justice,” he said.
The full return to Waters for the third quarter was eventually noted, although only at the period’s end, after the offense had stalled several times. The Fox telecast team did not include a sideline reporter, so in the unlikely event that such a person might have gleaned any information re: Sams, that option was not available. Eventually, of course, Sams did return, leading K-State to a fourth quarter touchdown.
By game’s end, Alexander and Simms had finally prepared themselves to confront the two-quarterback question. Their answer: When you have two quarterbacks, you have two. “Waters is an efficient thrower, and how can you not put Sams on the field for a certain number of plays a night,” Simms concluded.
Saturday’s telecast was occasionally marred by unforced errors, both of the sound and picture variety. When Watson’s first quarter bass bounced off the shoulder pads of receiver Torell Miller and was picked off, setting up Louisiana’s first score, Simms’ inexplicably put the blame on Tremaine Thompson, who was not involved in the play. The error was more obvious because Alexander had seconds earlier correctly assigned the blame to Miller.
Following a KSU first down on its opening possession, Alexander incorrectly noted that the drive was longer than Louisiana’s opener, since the Cajuns “went 3 and out.” Uh, no. Louisiana’s opening drive lasted four plays, covered 21 yards and included a first down.
Perhaps most seriously, Alexander mis-attributed Darryl Surgent’s third quarter kickoff return TD to Louisiana teammate T.J. Worthy, only correcting himself as Surgent crossed the goal line.
There were also visual goofs. At one point the camera lingered over the façade of the new stadium expansion, in the process missing a kickoff. In the second half, headquarters momentarily cut away to a NASCAR race before coming back, fortunately not having missed any action that time.
Simms scored a commentary touchdown when he cautioned Waters, facing a third and long deep in K-State territory in the third quarter and leading 34-10 at the time, not to force a pass. It was an eerily similar situation to the one on which Waters threw an interception last week against North Dakota State, and no sooner did Simms issue his caution than Waters, in cringeworthy fashion, repeated the interception. This one led to a Cajun touchdown that made the score 34-17.
“With a 24-point lead, there was no reason to force it,” Simms said, citing Waters’ inexperience. Then he went too far, remarking that the interception “turns the tide of the game.” Come on, Chris – even after the TD, K-State still led by 17.
For its numerous flaws, the Fox telecast showed up well in the replay booth. The cameras gave viewers an excellent look at Tremaine Thompson’s third quarter touchdown return, and as Louisiana drove early in the fourth quarter Simms was all over the second half parallel between K-State’s inability to hold on third down. At one point Louisiana converted six of seven third down attempts. “It’s similar to last week for the K-State defense; a 14-point lead and then they got worn down,” he said.
Simms also hit on a perfectly valid question when he wondered why Waters didn’t let more time run off the clock before turning the final possession over to field goal kicker James Cantele. “If you’re going to down it, why not wait until there are five seconds left” (so Louisiana couldn’t return the kickoff), he asked. Instead, Waters downed the ball with 11 seconds left. It turned out to be no harm, no foul, when Cantele made the field goal and the Cajuns went nowhere with the ensuing kick.
Announcers occasionally get wrapped up in their own wisdom, leading to tongue-tripping. As the Cajuns, trailing by 17 points, drove early in the fourth quarter, Simms urged them to conserve time, even if it meant kicking a field goal “You need three scores… so (a field goal is) as good as a TD at this point,” he said. For the record, three points is not as good as seven points, nor was there any evidence that Louisiana would only need to make up those 17 points. With 12 minutes remaining, what was to prevent K-State from scoring again? As, in fact, they did.