Like the recipe for the perfect dinner casserole, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has seemed to find the right ingredients for success this season.
A little rushing offense here, the top-ranked turnover margin there, just two sacks allowed, very few penalties and a sprinkle of lockdown scoring defense has meant a 5-0 record for the sixth-ranked Wildcats this season.
Many have tried to uncover the secret ingredient to the perfect start, but the recipe is actually quite simple — don’t beat yourself.
The Wildcats will put that strategy back to work Saturday when they travel to Ames, Iowa, to face Iowa State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) in what will mark the halfway point of the season.
“I have a whole novel full of why they’re the smartest team in the Big 12,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said this week about his opponent Saturday. “It is a struggle to find a better coached and better prepared team than Bill Snyder and Kansas State. The number one way to win a game is not to lose it — that’s Bill Snyder. They do it better than most people.”
Some call the Wildcats’ way boring or winning ugly. The bottom line is that it’s winning and whatever K-State is doing, it’s doing it right — by not making mistakes.
K-State’s first half of the season has been near perfect when it comes to doing the little things right. The Wildcats lead the Big 12 in sacks allowed (2), turnover margin (plus-10) and penalties (9), and are second in scoring defense (15.6 points per game) and rushing offense (262.8 yards per game).
The Wildcats, who are traveling to Ames for the first time since the 2007 season, have been particularly good at holding onto the football this season. Quarterback Collin Klein has just two interceptions in 94 attempts and K-State has just one lost fumble in 209 rushing attempts.
“Coach Snyder does a tremendous job coaching his offensive football team in the decision-making and the fundamentals of the game,” Rhoads said. “His quarterbacks understand how to protect the football, where not to throw, when not to throw it. Their ball carriers protect the ball. They do the things fundamentally, hold it high and tight, wrap it with two arms like they should and really treat it like the valuable commodity it is.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder said protecting the ball comes to having discipline. It’s about striking the perfect balance, though, too — trying not being overly concerned with it, but yet focused on doing things the right way.
“As far as not turning the ball over, I think our players have the appropriate mindset about it,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you can fret about it too much… you can become a little paranoid about it and I don’t think our players are. There’s just the right amount of attention put on it, but like I said, we practice diligently toward that.”
The Wildcats were second in the league in turnover margin a year ago, but they did it a very different way. Either way, creating turnovers and capitalizing on them has proven to be successful. K-State took the ball away three times in its win at Oklahoma and then snagged five turnovers against Kansas last Saturday.
K-State’s 13 takeaways have led to 59 points this season. Seven different Wildcats have forced fumbles — three by defensive end Adam Davis — while three others have interceptions — two apiece for Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman.
“Last year, we were very limited in the number of turnovers, but we didn’t create as many turnovers,” Snyder said. “This year, we’ve created more turnovers… We got five this last week and that’s very substantial in a ballgame. It’s hard to win a ballgame when you give up five. That’s kind of like TCU that gave up five to Iowa State. And of their five, three of them were directly related to touchdowns — that’s 21 points.”
For what it’s worth, Iowa State was last in the Big 12 a year ago in turnover margin and ranks seventh this season at minus-1.