In the course of one play last Friday, Daniel Sams may have changed his entire season outlook.
The Kansas State quarterback came onto the field in the third quarter in place of starter Jake Waters to convert a third and short, and ended up in the end zone on a 17-yard scamper past a stout defense that had contained Waters’ running attempts the whole game.
His reward for that effort? A spot on the bench for all but one play the rest of the game.
As Saturday’s tilt with Louisiana looms, the role of Sams against the Ragin’ Cajuns is up for debate. When asked how his practice reps had increased since Friday’s 24-21 loss, he paused briefly and then smiled.
“I wish I could answer that, but you know how coach is,” he said. “I’m going to stay away from that one.”
In head coach Bill Snyder’s comments both after the game and in his Tuesday visit with the media, two things were reiterated: Waters played well in his debut, and Sams will get more opportunities to impact the game.
There are only a handful of ways to successfully have both on the field, so the challenge becomes finding a role for each of them without disrupting the flow of the offense. Snyder said finding that balance is tricky.
“It’s very difficult to do, particularly because you believe in not breaking the continuity of the young guy that’s on the field,” Snyder said. “But by the same token, Daniel is a very athletic young guy, and it’s my feeling that he needed to be on the field. He has the capability to make plays, and he did so. How do you balance? I’m not altogether certain.”
For most of the night last Friday, Waters was effective while completing sharp passes and showing why he won the job over Sams in the first place. But in the running game, he was less than stellar, finishing with 1 yard on 11 attempts after losing yards on several plays.
When asked if he’d change something about the way Waters was running the ball, Snyder said no.
“If we could inject 4.4 speed with him, we’d do that,” he said. “But he’s not slow.”
Protection may dictate the success of each of K-State’s ballcarriers on Saturday. Even running back John Hubert, who proved to be a capable runner the last two seasons, was repeatedly stuffed against the Bison. Regardless of who comes in at quarterback, center B.J. Finney knows his unit must improve.
“Our job doesn’t change no matter who is behind us,” Finney said. “Because Jake can run the ball, too, we just have to give him a hole to run through.”
With nothing from Snyder to indicate Waters won’t start on Saturday, Sams will have to hope for an increased reserve role, though he insists the quarterback competition is not over.
“I come out, I’m with the twos — I get some reps with the ones,” Sams said. “But me and Jake are still staying focused as far as mechanics, assignments — we try not to take days off, because we feel it’s still a competition.”
While Sams tries to make up ground in the competition in practice, all he can do is wait for his number to be called on game day.
“I talked to Coach after the game and just told him, ‘Whenever you want to use me, I feel like I can help the offense be successful’,” Sams said. “And he was really listening to me, so Saturday we’ll see what happens with my playing time.”