He may be new to the Sunflower Showdown rivalry, but Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has done his homework on the Kansas State football program.
Weis listed off in great detail the many strengths of the Wildcats this week, while also lauding head coach Bill Snyder for his team’s discipline and fundamental style.
“If you are not sound fundamentally on defense, he will definitely expose you,” Weis said. “And although (most teams want) to balance numbers, run it as much as they pass it, I think if he had his druthers he would just ram it down your throat on every single play.
“(It’s an) old school type of football and I have a lot of respect for, not only the job he has done at K-State, but him as a coach and as a person.”
Snyder’s response when asked about Weis and KU’s program was less enthusiastic, though respectful and courteous.
“Charlie is a very, very fine coach with a fine staff and good administration,” Snyder said. “I see progress. I see it taking place in a lot of different areas. I understand what the process is and Charlie does, too.”
Weis, and perhaps Snyder, know Kansas has its work cut out for it against No. 7 K-State. The Wildcats lead the nation in fewest penalties through four games this year, while also sporting a turnover margin of plus five.
K-State doesn’t figure to make too many mistakes against the Jayhawks, but Weis does want to make sure his team’s errors don’t make it easy on them.
“You know, I think that this is a team that really plays sound fundamentally on both sides of the football and lives off of your mistakes,” he said. “And if you make mistakes, they pounce on you.
“There’s no blaring weakness, that’s for sure. They don’t turn the ball over much or take too many penalties. They’re just a sound, fundamental team.”
That fundamental play was instrumental in beating Oklahoma on the road two weeks ago, and figures to be a strength for K-State all season, especially when it comes to turning the ball over.
And yet, Kansas has done well with turnovers itself.
The Jayhawk defense, while not exactly shutting down opponents, has managed to recover seven fumbles and intercept six passes. Even with seven turnovers by the KU offense, the Jayhawks are tied for first among Big 12 teams with a plus-six turnover margin.
“They are disciplined to play well with their eyes to make sure they don’t get caught out of position,” Snyder said of the KU defense. “They work diligently to strip the ball.”
Weis hopes his defense can continue to create chances for the offense. Keeping the offense on the field and rolling, Weis says, takes patience.
“Against this defense, it’s the most critical factor in the game,” he said. “Besides taking care of the football, you know, which is the most critical factor, because they live off of turnovers. Look at the Oklahoma game. I mean, can Oklahoma give them any more advantageous situations?”
While Weis may see those turnovers as gifts, Snyder likes the way his team is actively creating opportunities to get the ball, even if it does take a little luck.
“We’ve enhanced our capacity — or good fortune, one of the two — to create turnovers,” Snyder said. “We led the conference in least number of penalties and turnovers last year, or were right at the top, and we are again this year. We are making improvement, but that’s up to this point in time.
“We still have to do it and Saturday is a whole new ballgame.”
Besides turnovers, Snyder has been pleased with his team’s penchant for avoiding penalties. Snyder’s teams have gotten better each year since his return, and are on pace to raise the bar in that department again.
“There might be a game or two where you can turn the ball over and end up winning the ballgame for some other reason,” Snyder said. “But by and large, if you don’t turn the ball over and you don’t get penalized your chances of being successful are elevated a great deal.”