K-State (2-0) takes its act on the road
(TSX / STATS) -- Even after the Big 12 passed a resolution requiring its members to schedule at least one Power-5 opponent each season in nonconference play, Bill Snyder exercised caution.
The Wildcats are dipping their toes into the SEC, but in Vanderbilt, the Wildcats (2-0) will be facing an opponent generally predicted to finish last in the East Division.
Nonetheless, the game will be the first trip for Kansas State and is important to determine whether the No. 18 Wildcats have the goods to become an outside contender for the Big 12 crown.
The Wildcats are coming off two easy tune-ups, barely breaking a sweat in a 55-7 rout of Charlotte last Saturday. Free safety Kendall Adams became the first Wildcat since 1999 to score on both an interception and fumble return in the same game.
By the second half, Kansas State looked uninspired. Or, at least ready to face a stiffer challenge by taking on Vandy, which also stands 2-0 with wins against mediocre opposition.
Yet the Wildcats know what the SEC stands for.
"They have a lot of experience playing some of the top teams in the country," said sophomore running back Alex Barnes. "We want to be one of the top teams so we want to give them what they're used to."
That opportunity exists. Kansas State has looked flawless offensively through two games.
Quarterback Jesse Ertz has exploited openings in the passing game without having to rely constantly on his arm. The running game, although so-so in the opener, is capable of carrying the load after netting 304 yards against Charlotte.
"It's not a matter of wanting to establish the run as much as it is trying to find out what (opponents are) doing," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "I was pleased with our ability to run the ball against schemes that are stacked against the run, and I thought we were reasonably productive with that."
While Barnes starts and was the main threat against Charlotte, gaining 99 yards on 16 rushes, the Wildcats' depth in the backfield includes Ertz, who added 76 yards on keepers.
A freshman, Mike McCoy, is essentially a fourth-stringer, yet had the most impressive carry when he leveled a Charlotte defender who got in his path on a 15-yard touchdown burst.
Vanderbilt held each of its first two opponents scoreless in the first half. Quarterback Kyle Shurmer completed 15 of 18 passes last week for 202 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama A&M.
The 42-0 victory marked the Commodores' first shutout since 2012 against Kentucky.
--FS Kendall Adams scored for the first time since high school by returning an interception 30 yards and a fumble 46 yards in the win over Charlotte. It marked the first time since 1999 that a Kansas State defender scored on two such returns in the same game. Beginning with that 1999 season, the Wildcats have 109 non-offensive touchdowns, tops in the country over that stretch.
--WR Isaiah Zuber represents some of the depth at receiver the Kansas State coaches raved about during the preseason. The sophomore was not listed on the depth chart for the Charlotte game, but led the Wildcats in receptions (seven) and yards (73). Both were career bests. So far, Cal transfer Carlos Strickland has not had the kind of impact some expected, contributing to Zuber's emergence.
--K Matthew McCrane is quietly moving up the Jayhawks' all-time chart. He booted two field goals against Charlotte to boost his career total to 40, which moved him into second place all-time at Kansas State behind Martin Gramatica (54). McCrane ranks first in Kansas State history with a .889 field goal percentage (40 of 45), which also ranks high nationally among active FBS kickers.
Updated September 12, 2017