It was only a couple weeks ago when Bill Snyder said he couldn’t recall having much success with a two-quarterback system.
But after four games this season — including two losses — with Jake Waters and Daniel Sams sharing the duties under center, it could be argued this two-headed system isn’t working much either.
K-State appeared lost in its 31-21 loss at Texas on Saturday night, and in turn became quite predictable offensively. The Wildcats passed with Waters in the game and ran the ball with Sams. At times, Waters even turned into a third-down quarterback, called upon to throw the ball on third-and-long situations if Sams couldn’t convert on the first two downs.
“We were just trying to find a way to get some spark into our offense,” said Tyler Lockett, who had a school-record 237 yards on 13 receptions Saturday. “Everybody tries different things, and this time, it just didn’t work out in our favor.”
It was supposed to be a game in which Sams could thrive. After all, Texas hadn’t stopped much of anything on the ground this season, getting ripped apart at BYU and then at home against Ole Miss. The Longhorns ranked 121st nationally against the run entering Saturday’s game. But Texas (2-2) was stout against K-State (2-2), holding the Wildcats to just 115 rushing yards and 3 yards per carry.
“When Daniel got in there he ran the ball pretty good,” Waters said. “But when you give up that many yards, what do you think (Texas) focused on all week? They were ready to stop the run and they wanted us to beat them with the pass, it seemed like, so we had to roll with that.”
Sams rushed eight times for 48 yards and attempted no passes in the game — he didn’t even play in the second half. Waters, who threw five interceptions in the first three games, instead fumbled twice Saturday, finishing with 275 passing yards on 19-of-30 attempts.
“Both of them deserve to play, both of them are good players, made a lot of mistakes at the position (Saturday),’’ Snyder said. “We’ve got to do a better job. We didn’t coach this game very well. We’ve got to do a better job because we’re going to utilize them. Both of them are going to play. We’ve got to do a better job of utilizing them to the fullest capacity.’‘
But what does that look like? A two-quarterback system doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, as Snyder has said on multiple occasions this season that he wants to better utilize Sams. The first time came following the Wildcats’ season-opening loss to North Dakota State when the sophomore appeared only twice — rushing for a 17-yard touchdown on his first carry.
Sams then carried the ball eight times for 63 yards and a TD against Louisiana, while completing 1 of 2 passes for 27 yards. He followed that up with 77 rushing yards and two completions for 12 yards in the Wildcats’ win over UMass.
But Sams spent the entire second half on the sidelines Saturday, mostly because it is too difficult to climb back into a game running the ball and chewing clock.
It was a decision that apparently didn’t sit too well with receiver Tramaine Thompson.
“To leave all that talent on the sideline is upsetting,” Thompson said of Sams, who has only attempted four passes all season. “His throwing is overlooked, because we haven’t really shown he can throw. He can throw. You got to see what he could do in the spring game. That’s the most you’ve got to see him throw up until this point, but he can throw.’‘
But so far, only Waters has been allowed to really throw the ball. The junior has completed a stellar 67 percent of his passes for 948 yards and four touchdowns, passing for at least 275 yards three times this season. Snyder turned to Waters in the second half Saturday to get the Wildcats back in the game. It almost worked, as K-State had two chances inside the Texas 11-yard line in the closing minutes, but came away empty-handed both times due to a pair of fumbles by Waters.
“I can’t have that mistake at the end,” Waters said. “I’m putting it on my shoulders right now. I can’t do that being the quarterback and the leader — I can’t make those mistakes if we want to win.
“We drove down there and for me to make that mistake cost us the game. It’s hard to swallow, but I have to get better from it, and I think I will.”
Waters and the Wildcats have two weeks to do that before K-State has to travel to Stillwater, Okla., on Oct. 5 for another tough road text against Oklahoma State.
“We’ve obviously got to get better if we want to win on the road,” Waters said.