Many coaches have tried and failed.
It shouldn’t be that difficult, right?
But time and time again finding the blueprint for success with a two-quarterback system has seemed as difficult as finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body.
And though Kansas State coach Bill Snyder isn’t likely to declare his use of Daniel Sams and Jake Waters a total success just yet, there’s no doubt the Wildcats have seemed to find something that works.
Snyder, like most coaches, hasn’t had a lot of success using two quarterbacks. He tried it during the during the 2001 season with a young Ell Roberson and junior college transfer Marc Dunn. K-State finished 6-6.
Allen Webb and Allan Evridge shared the job in 2005 and the Wildcats finished 5-6, possessing no real passing attack all season.
Maybe the third time is the charm for Snyder because he seems to have uncovered a formula that makes it all work, at least lately.
Both Waters and Sams rank in the top four of the Big 12 in passing efficiency, keying a K-State offense that ranks fifth in scoring at 34 points a game and second overall in passing efficiency — behind only Baylor.
“It’s coming around,” K-State senior receiver Tramaine Thompson said. “A lot of people were skeptical about it, interested to see how we were going to make it work. And we’re starting to find that groove in knowing how to make it work and give each of them a lot of playing time. They love each other and root for each other when they’re in the game, so that helps bring our offense together that much more.”
Perhaps the difference in the way K-State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) utilizes its two quarterbacks from other failed attempts in college football is that both Waters and Sams are required to pass and run — not just one or the other.
Sams, who is the more dynamic runner of the two, is second in the Big 12 in passing efficiency behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty, completing nearly 75 percent of his passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns. The sophomore also has 675 yards and 10 more TDs rushing.
Waters, who is considered to have the better arm of the two, has rushed for 276 yards and four scores, while posting the Big 12’s fifth-best passing numbers at 1,456 yards and eight touchdowns — with no interceptions in league play.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win,” said Waters, who has completed almost 65 percent of his passes. “If that means throwing it 40 times or doing something with my legs and running it, I’ll do whatever. I can do both, the same with Daniel.”
Both QBs have gone through their share of growing pains this season. Sams battled through a two-game stretch against Oklahoma State and Baylor in which he threw four interceptions — three in the fourth quarter alone. He’s had none since.
Waters struggled early as well, throwing all five of his interceptions in the first three games this season and then fumbling twice at Texas, once at Oklahoma State and then again against West Virginia.
But like Sams, Waters turned a corner — became a more dependable runner, began securing the ball better and quit throwing to the wrong team.
“He’s playing great,” Thompson said of Waters. “He’s playing the way we all knew he could play. He’s not surprising us at all. We’ve seen it over and over and for him to put it out there on Saturday is awesome.”
K-State junior center B.J. Finney said the offensive line was to blame for some of the early QB struggles and that it had nothing to do with the switching of QBs from play to play.
“We were making too many mistakes and we weren’t blocking that well,” he said. “Now that we’re blocking and finishing blocks and moving guys out of the way, you’ve seen what this offense can do no matter which quarterback is back there. That’s the way it should have been from the start.”
The improved offensive line and newfound consistency from the quarterbacks, coupled with John Hubert’s resurgence running the ball has the Wildcats chugging right along into Saturday’s matchup with TCU at home. K-State is averaging more than 400 yards a game overall and the third-most rushing yards in the Big 12 at nearly 200 yards per game.
K-State is averaging 42 points and more than 420 yards of total offense a game during its current three-game winning streak.
“When we have a quarterback who can run — which either one of them can do — and we have a running back you can hand it off to and we can throw the ball, it just makes it hard to scheme us,” said Thompson, who has 20 receptions for 329 yards and four touchdowns. “It makes our offense that much more complicated and you have to work harder to stop some things.
“When we didn’t have our running game going, it was easier to stop the quarterback run game and the pass. But when you can hand if off to that guy and you see the tough runs he makes, like (John) did (Saturday), it’s huge for us.”