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Cats look to rediscover ground game

By Joshua Kinder

John Hubert wants to be Kansas State’s leading rusher this season and reach 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his three-year career as a starter.

It’s a safe bet the senior running back needs to do better than the 23 yards he had in the Wildcats’ season-opening loss to North Dakota State on Friday if he wants to reach either of those goals.

Hubert was the only running back to play in the game, totaling those 23 yards on 10 carries, including a long rush of 17. Do the math. That’s nine touches for 6 yards without his big gainer. But the senior wasn’t alone in the ground struggles, as the Wildcats rushed for just 41 yards as a team in the embarrassing loss.

“It was a combination of things,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday. “Number one, we didn’t perform as we were capable of up front and I think all of our young guys are embarrassed.”

Monday’s practice was a good start in turning things around, Snyder said. K-State has to if it wants to avoid its first 0-2 start since 1989, Snyder’s first season in Manhattan.

“I think our offensive line had the best practice that I know anybody has had since we started,” he said. “I think they’ve taken some ownership in their own responsibilities and I appreciate them and Coach (Charlie) Dickey because of it.”

Snyder said some credit also has to go North Dakota State for stopping the Wildcats’ ground attack, one that averaged 194 yards per game rushing last season. K-State’s lowest output a year ago was a 76-yard dud at Baylor, and you remember how that one turned out for the Wildcats. Friday’s 41 yards was the lowest against a nonconference opponent since K-State netted only 33 against Syracuse in the Insight Bowl back in 2001.

“They were good up front, first and foremost,” Snyder said of the Bison. “I think that’s something you can’t overlook. They were a very fine defensive football team. They lined up to take away the run and gave up something on the pass in order to do it, and as I have said many times, anybody can take away anything they want, but it is pretty difficult to take away both.”

North Dakota State ripped a page from Snyder’s playbook to beat the Wildcats. The Bison did everything the Wildcats wanted to do, but couldn’t on Friday. They ran 23 more plays than K-State, held the ball 12 more minutes than the Wildcats and converted on 61 percent of their third downs — compared to just 20 percent for the Wildcats.

“All of those things kind of enter into the picture,” Snyder said. “I think we’re a better rushing football team than we displayed.”

K-State junior center B.J. Finney said the Wildcats were beaten in the trenches because of a breakdown of fundamentals.

“There are a lot of things that need to be corrected and a lot of it is fundamentals,” he said. “It’s about getting back to being a tough and physical line, which we need to be against Louisiana because they have big and physical defensive linemen.”

The mistakes were obvious, he said, during the film review that began Saturday morning and carried into the afternoon.

“When we went through and watched tape, and Coach Dickey was going through thing after thing for each person,” Finney said. “We could find it on our own, but Coach Dickey was pointing it out and telling us ‘this has to be better.’ Overall, we just have to be better.”

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