Anticipation is very high in Manhattan this season after going on a regular season run that saw the Kansas State Wildats capture the Big 12 title (along with OU). It was their third conference title in school history, and they earned a BCS appearance against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, which K-State lost another postseason bowl game.
The Wildcats 11-2 record from a year ago saw them nearly go undefeated, but they ran into a determined Baylor team on the road in Waco, Texas that ended K-State’s chances of going to the National Title game in Miami.
Once again a familiar face returns to the sidelines in the Little Apple as Bill Snyder enters his 22nd season with Kansas State. The Cats begin their season Friday night in Manhattan. The flip side of that 11-2 team from one year ago is K-State lost some key players, especially on the defensive side of the ball, losing 9 key players including Meshak Williams, Arthur Brown, and Nigel Malone.
The offensive returns almost the entire unit except QB Collin Klein who finished third in the Heisman voting last season, and wide receiver Chris Harper. The whole offensive line returns, led by C BJ Finney, and then there’s impact players like running back John Hubert, wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. Tight end Andre McDonald is back after not being able to play because of off the field issues. Friday night, Kansas State will kickoff the season facing off against another Missouri Valley opponent like last season when the Cats took on the Missouri State. That evening saw the Wildcats struggle with the Bears until the 2nd half when K-State starting to basically kick down the doors winning the game 51-9. This year is a much better opponent in North Dakota State Bison.
The Bison are coming off a 14-1 season for the second consecutive season under Head Coach Craig Bohl, winning their 2nd straight Division 1 crown against Sam Houston St. North Dakota State is 18 returning starters including quarterback Brock Jensen, who threw just over 2,000 yards and ran for another 500 yards plus.
Kansas State Offense vs. North Dakota St. Defense
When the lights come on at Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 7:30pm Friday Jake Waters will be inside the K-State offensive huddle for the Co-Big 12 Champions.Waters has big shoes to fill after what Collin Klein did in the last 2 seasons.
Northern Iowa transfer Jake Waters comes to K-State with a pretty solid resume, completing just over 73 percent over his throws, and leading Northern Iowa to a Junior College National Title. Waters also had a great performance in the spring as well.
Daniel Sams, who played quite bit a year ago went 6 for 8 for 55 yards, will serve as the back-up. Sams is most known for what he can do on the ground, adding another 235 yards scoring 3 touchdowns.
Waters will have senior running back John Hubert in the backfield and is looking for a 1,000 yard season. Hubert will run behind a solid offensive line that could become one of the best in the Big 12, as well as nationally.
The receiving corps is very solid and deep led by Tyler Lockett. North Dakota State led the Missouri Valley Conference in 7 different categories including Rushing Defense. The Bison are led by linebackers Grant Olsen and Travis Beck. Olsen led the team in tackles with 148; 51 were solo. The secondary is anchored by cornerback Marcus Williams, coming off a 7 interception season. K-State has ability to make plays, not make mistakes and execute will be key on Friday night.
Kansas State Defense vs. North Dakota St. Offense
The Wildcats lost nearly their entire unit to graduation last season. Obviously, there will be a new faces this season as the Cats get their season started on Friday night. Some familiar faces return to help anchor the young guys. Defensive lineman Ryan Mueller will be called upon to step up after being in only on passing situation again opponents last season.
Safety Ty Zimmerman, who has been an impact player since stepping on the field as a freshman, is back for his senior season. K-State also gets a bonus in having linebacker Tre Walker return after a season ending injury against Texas Tech last season.
Walker, the emotional leader for this defense, will be huge, especially for the guys stepping on the field in a K-State uniform for the 1st time including, another Northern Iowa transfer, Devon Nash.
The ‘Cats new starters do have 3 weeks to get use to game speed before their Big 12 opener. First they will have to deal with the Bison offense, which led the MVC in scoring offense, led by QB Brock Jensen. North Dakota St. like K-State, will run the ball first. Keep an eye on wide receiver play maker Ryan Smith.
The Wildcats specialty was getting turnovers and turning them in 6 points last season. The key for the new defense on Friday night is containing the Bison rushing attack and forcing turnovers.
Season Opener North Dakota State vs. Kansas State Wildcats at 7:30pm at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.