Daniel Sams has played some good football this season. And so has Jake Waters.
But neither Kansas State quarterback has played a complete game yet, something Wildcat coach Bill Snyder said has to happen down the stretch, especially as K-State continues to chase bowl eligibility.
This past Saturday, the two QBs combined to complete 18 of 21 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns — including 13 for 13 in the second half alone and finishing with no interceptions. It was their most efficient game all season throwing the ball.
Yet both quarterbacks still had costly turnovers — a fumble by Waters on the Wildcats’ first possession of the game and a third-quarter fumble by Sams on his way into the end zone in the third quarter.
“Yes, they did some very fine things,” Snyder said this week. “But once again, I’ll trade in some of those completions to get the ball back. They’ve got to be able to play complete ballgames.”
The margin for error this season has been very slim for the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Big12). Their four losses are by an average of seven points and K-State had fourth-quarter leads in three of the games, only to watch all three slip away with late turnovers.
Waters had two fourth-quarter fumbles at Texas, while Sams had a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions in the four-point loss at Oklahoma State — finishing with three picks overall and one interception. Waters also fumbled against the Cowboys. And then Sams threw his third fourth-quarter pick in consecutive games in the 10-point loss to Baylor.
K-State quarterbacks have a combined eight fumbles in four Big 12 games — losing six of them — to go along with nine interceptions.
“At that position, we’ve had an ample number of turnovers and that’s just not conducive to being successful on offense,” Snyder said. “I think it’s taken us out of scoring opportunities way too many times. We had two fumbles by our quarterbacks this past week, and one of them we’re knocking on the end-zone door. Those are critical situations.”
But the Wildcat QBs have also thrived at times this season. Whether it was Sams rushing for 118 yards at Oklahoma State and 199 yards against Baylor, or Waters leading the Wildcats in the second half against West Virginia by completing all eight pass attempts for 152 yards and two touchdowns, both have had moments to celebrate.
On the season, Sams is fourth in the Big 12 in rushing with 538 yards and seven touchdowns. The sophomore has completed 75 percent of his passes for 354 yards and three more TDs. Waters has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,234 yards — which is fifth in the Big 12 — and tossed seven TDs. Both QBs are in the Big 12’s Top 5 in passing efficiency — Sams second and Waters fifth.
The Wildcats are hoping there’s more to celebrate this week when they host Iowa State on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in a game on Fox Sports 1.
K-State has come a long way since the loss at Texas — the only Big 12 game the Wildcats didn’t have a lead in during the second half.
“I think they’ve settled in and found what works for them,” K-State junior center B.J. Finney said. “They’re both improving and they’re working hard at it. Guys have gotten used to the two-quarterback system. It’s just that everything is meshing together better than it was before.”
The two-QB system isn’t all figured out and there may not be a perfect formula in knowing exactly when and where to use each one.
The key for both Waters and Sams — which has taken some time to grow accustomed to — is to both be ready at all times. For example, this last Saturday Waters entered on third down and completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett, after Sams ran for a loss on first down and John Hubert carried for no gain on second.
The use of a third-down quarterback in passing situations at Texas backfired nearly every time.
“I think like any young person at any position, if you don’t stay in the game, no matter where you are situated, whether it on the sidelines or whether you are on the field, or whether you are sitting up in the stands and somebody calls you down — if you do not stay in the game, then when you get in there it’s a different experience,” Snyder said.
“If you stay in it, play the game, snap after snap, no matter where you are located, then you have a much better chance to have some success when you step on the field. I think that for (Waters) and Daniel both it’s when they are not in that they really play every snap, even from the sidelines. If they do that, then it is almost like taking an on-the-field rep.”