Kansas State Notebook: 2-1 Wildcats Invade Mountaineer Field Saturday
Following a bounce-back win over UTSA last week, K-State will hit the road for the first time in 2018 when it opens Big 12 Conference play at No. 12 West Virginia at 3:30 p.m. (ET), Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The contest will be shown nationally on ESPN with Clay Matvick (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst) and Paul Carcaterra (sidelines) on the call.
A LOOK AT K-STATE
• K-State moved to 2-1 on the year with a 41-17 win over UTSA, a game it led 41-7 entering the fourth quarter.
• K-State has played both Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton in the first three games, but Thompson settled in last week with a career-high 213 yards and three total touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush). Thompson, who went 13-of-18 through the air, also rushed for 66 yards.
• The running game is solidified by the Wildcats’ leading rusher a year ago, Alex Barnes, who is third in the Big 12 in rushing at 76.0 yards per game. He recorded the fourth 100-yard rushing game of his career in the season opener, but he has become more of a receiving threat this year with five catches for 58 yards.
• Wide receiver Isaiah Zuber tallied the first 100-yard receiving day of his career against UTSA, going for 144 yards and a career-best two touchdowns. He also caught the game-winning touchdown pass late in the game against South Dakota and returned a punt 85 yards for a score against the Coyotes.
• Defensively, K-State held South Dakota to just 77 yards on the ground and 334 total yards, while UTSA came away with 300 total yards, 119 of which came in the fourth quarter.
• Senior defensive back Duke Shelley leads the team with 15 tackles and has six passes defended, the latter tying for second in the Big 12 and 11th nationally.
• Junior defensive end Reggie Walker has eight tackles, which includes 2.0 tackles for loss and a sack. Fellow defensive end Kyle Ball notched his first sack of the year last week.
• Needing to replace a four-year place kicker, Blake Lynch has stepped right in to connect on 6-of-7 field goals, including a 4-of-4 mark in his Wildcat debut against South Dakota. Lynch is tied for eighth nationally in field goals per game, and his only miss was a 52-yarder against the wind in the Mississippi State game.
A LOOK AT WEST VIRGINIA
• West Virginia was off last Saturday as its game at NC State was canceled due to Hurricane Florence.
• The 2-0 Mountaineers won a neutral-site meeting with Tennessee in week one before winning their home opener against Youngstown State on Sept. 8.
• Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Will Grier is 46-of-60 passing for 761 yards and nine touchdowns. Grier and the passing game have led WVU to 586.0 yards per game through two weeks to go along with 46.0 points per game.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
• K-State leads the all-time series, 5-3, including a 4-2 mark since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012. The Wildcats won the first four matchups as conference foes while WVU has won the last two.
• The previous four meetings have been hotly contested as those games have been decided by an average of 3.25 points. The stretch includes a pair of one-point margins as K-State won at home, 24-23, in 2015 before the Mountaineers returned the favor with a 17-16 win in Morgantown in 2016.
• K-State is an even 11-11 all-time in Big 12 openers, including a 6-3 mark since head coach Bill Snyder‘s return in 2009.
• The Wildcats saw a two-game Big 12-opening losing streak come to an end last season with a 33-20 victory over Baylor.
BIG 12 ROAD OPENERS
• Opening Big 12 play on the road is nothing new to the Wildcats as this weekend will be the 18th time in the 23-year history of the conference that K-State will open league play away from home (16 road, 2 neutral).
• It is also the second time in three years that K-State will open Big 12 play at West Virginia, doing so in 2016 in a 17-16 loss.
SNYDER IN SEPTEMBER
• Fast starts have propelled the Wildcats to winning seasons under Bill Snyder. Since 1992 under Snyder, K-State is a combined 69-10 (.873) in September.
• Of the losses, six came on the road, as the Cats are 56-4 (.933) in September home games during that stretch.
• K-State saw a nine-game winning streak in September home games snapped two weeks ago against No. 18 Mississippi State.
• Since Snyder’s return to the sidelines in 2009, K-State is 27-7 (.794) in the month of September.
• Kansas State is in rare company in college football as the Wildcats rank in the top 20 in wins among FBS programs over the last 23 seasons.
• Since 1995, K-State has picked up 193 victories, which ranks 19th in the nation.
• The only current Big 12 teams to rank higher are Oklahoma (3rd; 222), Texas (13th; 205) and TCU (t14th; 198).
ONE OF THE BIG 12’S BEST
• K-State is one of only three teams in the Big 12 to reach 100 league wins since the league’s inception in 1996.
• The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at .651 (41-22), trailing only Oklahoma (.813; 52-12) and Oklahoma State (.698; 44-19).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 22-10 (.688) at home in Big 12 play and 19-12 (.613) on the road.
• K-State, picked sixth by the league’s media in the Big 12 preseason poll, has finished in the top four of the conference in five of the last seven years.
THE HALL OF FAMER
• The architect of the “greatest turnaround in the history of college football,” Bill Snyder is in his 27th season at K-State.
• Snyder is just the fourth person in the history of college football to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as an active coach when he was enshrined in 2015.
• Snyder, who has 212 wins, is one of just six coaches to reach the 200-win mark and coach at only one school.
• Holding 173 more victories than any other coach in K-State history, Snyder ranks first in the FBS in wins among coaches at their current schools and second in total wins among active coaches (FBS schools only).
• Snyder has 123 conference wins to stand as one of four coaches with 100 Big 8/12 victories (Tom Osborne  , Bob Stoops  , Barry Switzer  ).
TWICE AS NICE
• Bill Snyder is one of two FBS coaches all time to have two different tenures at one school and record at least 70 wins each time after winning 136 games from 1989-2005 and 76 games since 2009.
• Snyder joins Vanderbilt’s Dan McGugin, who had 95 wins from 1904-17 and 102 wins from 1919-34.
• There are only 11 teams in the FBS that have had the same head coach since 2009. Of those, only Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Mike Gundy and Snyder have won at least six games every year over the nine-year span.
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
• Although consistency has been seen at the top in head coach Bill Snyder, this year marks the first time in quite a while that there were significant changes on the coaching staff.
• The Wildcats have two new coordinators as wide receivers coach Andre Coleman takes over the reins on offensive, while linebackers coach Blake Seiler will man the defensive coordinator position.
• It marks the first time in the middle of a Snyder tenure that the Wildcats replaced both coordinators in the same season since 1997 (1996 OC – Dana Dimel; 1997 OC – Ron Hudson; 1996 DC – Bob Cope; 1997 DC – Mike Stoops).
• Additionally, the Wildcats hired three new assistant coaches in Brian Norwood (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Secondary), Zach Hanson (Tight Ends) and Eric Hickson (Running Backs).
BOWL STREAK CONTINUES
• In an era of college football where nearly 80 teams play in bowl games each year, K-State is one of just 16 FBS schools nationally to ride of streak of at least eight-consecutive bowl berths.
• The eight-year bowl streak is tied for 13th nationally with only Oklahoma (4th; 19) and Oklahoma State (10th; 12) ranking higher in the Big 12.
DRAWING FIRST BLOOD
• Since 1990, K-State is 166-34 (.830) when scoring first.
• K-State is 20-5 in that department over the last four seasons, including a 5-3 mark in 2017.
• Under Bill Snyder, K-State is 153-27 (.850) when scoring first.
LEADING AT THE HALF
• Under Bill Snyder, the Wildcats are 180-11 (.942) when leading at halftime, including a 61-4 (.938) mark in Snyder’s second tenure, which began in 2009.
• The Wildcats finished the 2017 campaign with a 7-1 record when leading at the half.
• The lone blemish last season was against No. 9 Oklahoma when the Wildcats led, 21-10, at halftime before the Sooners scored a touchdown with seven seconds left in the game to win, 42-35.
• Four of Kansas State’s last six wins dating back to last season have been double-digit comeback victories with three of those being overcome in the fourth quarter alone.
• The 2017 Wildcats had three wins after trailing by at least 10 points, the most comeback wins in a season when overcoming a double-digit deficit.
• At Texas Tech, K-State trailed, 35-24, with less than 10 minutes left but scored the final 18 points for a 42-35 win.
• In the regular-season finale against Iowa State, K-State trailed, 19-7, with less than seven minutes remaining but won, 20-19.
• K-State trailed UCLA, 17-7, at halftime of the Cactus Bowl before outscoring the Bruins, 28-0, in the second half.
• K-State’s victories against Texas Tech and Iowa State marked the first time in school history it had two wins in a season when trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter.
• The 11-point comeback at Texas Tech was the largest road deficit overcome for a win in school history.
• Fueled by an 85-yard punt return from Isaiah Zuber and a 10-yard pass from Skylar Thompson to Zuber, the Wildcats erased a 24-12, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat South Dakota in this year’s season opener.
CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs
• K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 19 seasons as it has 112 since 1999, eight more than the next closest team and one of only two to top 100.
• Entering 2018, the Wildcats were averaging 5.8 non-offensive touchdowns per year since 1999, while the yearly average for the other 105 teams to play FBS football since 1999 is 3.3.
• Kansas State has at least five non-offensive touchdowns in six of the last seven years, which includes three last year by 2018 returners. Two of them came from Kendall Adams, who had both a pick-six and a fumble-return touchdown against Charlotte, while Duke Shelley returned an interception for a score at Texas Tech.
• The first non-offensive touchdown for the Wildcats this year was an 85-yard punt return score by Isaiah Zuber in the season opener against South Dakota.
• Since 1990, the Wildcats are 62-17 when scoring on special teams and 20-1 when scoring on special teams and defense, including an 18-0 mark under Bill Snyder.
NON-OFFENSIVE TD RECORDS
• Under head coach Bill Snyder, K-State is 76-21 (.784) when scoring a non-offensive touchdown, while the Cats are 57-14 (.803) since 1999 in that department.
• Since Snyder returned to the sideline in 2009, K-State is 32-7 (.821) in this same category.
• Despite rallying for a 27-24 win against South Dakota, the Wildcats were flagged 13 times for 129 yards, most of which came on key plays.
• The 13 penalties were the most for a Bill Snyder team since the 2005 Nebraska game (14) and the 129 yards were the most since having 136 vs. Kent State in 2011.
• The Cats have rebounded with just six total penalties in the last two games against Mississippi State (2) and UTSA (4).
• K-State has leaned on its rushing game the past two years, including the 2017 season when the Wildcats tied for third in school history in rushing yards per carry (4.98) and finished seventh with 2,584 total rushing yards.
• The Wildcats were especially tough to stop the final three games of the year – all wins – as K-State averaged 223.3 rushing yards per game.
• The stretch was capped by a 344-yard rushing output in the Cactus Bowl victory over UCLA, the most rushing yards ever by K-State in a bowl game.
• Dating back to the 2016, K-State has hit the 200-yard mark on the ground in 16 of its last 25 games, including running for 256 against South Dakota.
PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL
• K-State has been one of the nation’s best in limiting turnovers the last two years as the Wildcats are the only team to rank in the top 10 nationally in fewest turnovers lost in both 2016 and 2017.
• The Wildcats tied for fifth in 2016 with 12 turnovers lost, while they tied for eighth a year ago with 13.
• K-State’s 25 total turnovers in 2016 and 2017 is its fewest in a two-year stretch since at least 1955-56.
• Ironically, the Cats were minus-4 in the turnover battle in the opener but still won, marking the first time since 2011 to win a game with four-plus more turnovers than its opponent (10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky).
• K-State is minus-5 on the year through three games, its most negative differential in a season since being minus-6 through nine games of 2015.
• In the era of quick-strike offenses in college football, K-State was a team that liked to possess the ball as 39 of the Wildcats’ 64 scoring drives in 2016 were seven plays or longer.
• That figure included 19 scoring drives of 10 or more plays, and 19 scoring drives that lasted at least five minutes.
• The Wildcats became more of a quick-strike offense in 2017 as 21 of their 45 touchdown drives were four plays or less (46.7-percent), while 36 drives (80.0-percent) were four minutes or shorter.
• So far this season, K-State has nine scoring drives that were seven or more plays – five of which were 10-plus.
SKYLAR UNDER CENTER
• Sophomore Skylar Thompson has started each of the first three games this year after battling Alex Delton throughout fall camp.
• With Thompson taking the first snap of 2018, it marked the fifth time under Snyder a sophomore started the season opener (Jesse Ertz in 2015; Dylan Meier in 2004; Ell Roberson in 2001; Paul Watson in 1989).
• The Independence, Missouri, native seemed to find his stride in the week-three win over UTSA when he threw for a career-high 213 passing yards with two touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing.
• His passer rating of 208.3 against the Roadrunners was the second highest of his career (minimum 13 attempts). His career high was 284.55 last year at Oklahoma State, when he had a previous career high of 204 yards.
MOVIN’ ON UP
• Alex Barnes has moved into the top 20 in school history in career rushing yards with his 228 rushing yards in 2018, a mark that ranks third in the Big 12.
• Barnes now has 1,489 career rushing yards to rank 17th in school history.
• A product of Pittsburg, Kansas, who carded the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career against South Dakota, Barnes is 20 yards away from 16th and 91 yards away from entering the top 15.
SCHOEN GOES DEEP
• Junior wide receiver Dalton Schoen has five career touchdown receptions, with most of those spanning long distances.
• A product of Overland Park, Kansas, Schoen is averaging 45.8 yards on his scoring catches, with four of those spanning at least 20 yards.
• Schoen finished last year ranked 11th nationally in yards per catch (20.43), while he is 24th in that category through three games (21.67) of 2018.
ZUBER CLOSE TO MILESTONE
• Thanks to the first 100-yard receiving game of his career last week against UTSA, junior wide receiver Isaiah Zuber is 75 yards away from becoming the 31st player in school history with 1,000 career yards.
• Zuber’s 144-yard effort against the Roadrunners featured a career-high two touchdown receptions – including a career-long 72-yarder – while he tied his career best with seven receptions.
RETURN OF THE O-LINE
• K-State returned all 65 total starts along the offensive line from 2017 to 2018, the first time under Bill Snyder all available starts from the previous year return for the next.
• The Wildcats were one of just five FBS teams – joining Northern Illinois, Utah State, Wake Forest and Wisconsin – to return 65-of-65 starts along the offensive line from 2017.
LEADER ON THE FIELD, IN THE COMMUNITY
• Dalton Risner has been a leader on the field for the Wildcats, being named a captain each of the last three years.
• Risner is just the fifth player in program history to be named a captain three times, joined by Brooks Barta (1990-92), Mark Simoneau (1997-99), Collin Klein (2010-12) and B.J. Finney (2012-14).
• A Preseason All-American by multiple outlets entering the season, Risner has started 41 career games, the fifth most by a Wildcat since 1989, and he can tie for fourth with a start at West Virginia.
• The leadership by Risner does end on the field as he was named to the AFCA Good Works Team and is also a candidate for the Wuerffel Trophy.
TOUGH AGAINST THE RUN
• The Wildcats, who ranked 13th nationally in 2017 by allowing only 117.7 yards per game on the ground, are one of only four teams to rank in the top 15 nationally in run defense each of the last two years, joining Alabama, Wisconsin and Ohio.
• K-State surrendered less than 100 rushing yards six times last year, including two against ranked foes (No. 6 TCU – 98 yards; No. 10 Oklahoma State – 85 yards).
• The Wildcats topped the season by surrendering only 69 yards on 25 carries (2.8 yds/rush) in the Cactus Bowl win over UCLA.
• K-State allowed only 77 yards in the opener against South Dakota, but Mississippi State rushed for 384 – the most surrendered by the Wildcats since 2010 – followed by 143 yards by UTSA.
• Although it plays in a high-powered offensive league, K-State was outstanding in terms of keeping opposing teams well below their season scoring average in 2017.
• Eight of the Wildcats’ final 10 opponents last year scored less than their season averages entering the game.
• The only two foes to not score less were Oklahoma – which scored 42 points when averaging exactly 42.0 – and Texas – which was averaging 34.5 points and needed two overtimes to top that mark.
PICKING THEM APART
• The Wildcats have notched at least one interception in 38 of the last 53 games, with a majority of those coming from returners in 2018.
• K-State returns 12 interceptions from a year ago, its most returning picks since the 2012 squad brought back 16. Seniors Kendall Adams and Duke Shelley each have five picks, while Denzel Goolsby recorded a pair in his first season as a starting safety last year.
• Adams (Charlotte) and Shelley (Texas Tech) had both of K-State’s interception-return touchdowns a year ago.
• Ironically, the Wildcats’ lone pick this year has come from defensive end Wyatt Hubert.
SHELLEY LEADS THE BACKFIELD
• Senior Duke Shelley is back for his final campaign as he leads an experienced defensive backfield.
• Shelley, who burned his redshirt five games into his true freshman season of 2015, has 33 career passes defended, which includes five interceptions.
• His 33 passes defended are the sixth most among active players and tied for 12th in school history.
• Of Shelley’s five career picks, two have been returned for touchdowns to tie for fourth in K-State history.
WALK THIS WAY
• Junior Reggie Walker already has multiple accolades through the first part of his career, but he is looking to take his game to another level.
• A 2017 Honorable Mention All-Big 12 pick, Walker recorded 6.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks last year, which was a dip in production from his freshman season.
• As a freshman in 2016, Walker was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year after totaling 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
• Walker has started his junior campaign on a high note with eight tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss, including a 10-yard sack in the season opener against South Dakota.
DISHON DIGS IN
• Junior defensive tackle Trey Dishon is taking on a bigger role this year with the loss of fellow interior lineman and three-time First Team All-Big 12 performer Will Geary.
• Dishon does have the benefit of experience, however, starting all 28 of his career games played, including all 13 a year ago en route to Honorable Mention All-Big 12 accolades.
• The Wildcats also have returning options for the spot beside Dishon in junior Joe Davies (15 career games) and sophomore Drew Wiley (16 career games).
• K-State also added Jordan Mittie, a graduate transfer from Texas State who has two years of eligibility remaining. Mittie, who was an All-Sun Belt player a year ago, has started each of the last two games.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
SOLID SPECIAL TEAMS
• Kansas State has annually had one of the best special teams units in the nation, and 2017 was no different.
• K-State ranked in the top 25 nationally in kickoff-return defense (2nd), punt returns (10th) and kickoff returns (14th).
• For the collective special teams efforts, coordinator Sean Snyder was named the 2017 Special Teams Coach of the Year by Phil Steele.
• The Cats boasted four All-Big 12 players on special teams in place kicker Matthew McCrane (first team), returner D.J. Reed (first team), punter Nick Walsh (second team) and Byron Pringle (honorable mention) picking up honors.
• Additionally, Reed was a Second Team All-American as he became Snyder’s fifth All-American in just seven years coordinating the special teams.
SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• Kansas State has been far and away the best team among FBS programs over the last decade when it comes to scoring via a kickoff or punt return.
• The Wildcats have a combined 48 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns since 2005, 19 more than any other FBS school over the last 13 seasons.
• K-State averaged 3.6 return touchdowns per year over the last 13 seasons entering 2018. The yearly average for the other 116 teams to play FBS football since 2005 is 1.1.
DEFENSE IN THE THIRD PHASE
• On the flip side, K-State has been just as consistent in terms of kickoff and punt coverage.
• The Cats have not allowed a kickoff-return touchdown in the last 66 games as the last was against Louisiana on Sept. 7, 2013. During that stretch, K-State has defended against 259 kickoff returns.
• K-State surrendered only 16.6 yards on kickoff returns in 2017, its best mark since 2000.
• The Wildcats have also not allowed a punt-return score in the last 53 games, the last being at Iowa State on Sept. 6, 2014. The Wildcats have successfully defended against 69 punt returns during that stretch.
• Kansas State is currently riding a pair of streaks in terms of kickoff returns as the Wildcats have returned a kick for a touchdown in each of the last 13 seasons – the longest streak in the nation by five years.
• Since head coach Bill Snyder‘s return in 2009, K-State has returned 19 kickoffs for touchdowns as opposed to only four in his first tenure, which lasted 17 years.
• Kansas State also is the only Power 5 team in the country to finish in the top 15 in kickoff-return average each of the last three seasons.
• Additionally, D.J. Reed earned First Team All-Big 12 honors, marking the 12th-straight year a Wildcat received all-conference honors for the discipline.
• Of the 29 First Team All-Big 12 returners in conference history, 12 (41.3-percent) have come from K-State to lead the league. The next closest team is Colorado, which had four.
LYNCH WITH A LEG
• Sophomore Blake Lynch has been true on seven of his eight field-goal attempts this year, as the Goddard, Kansas, product is eighth nationally and tops in the Big 12 in field goals per game.
• His seven field goals through the first three games is the most by a Wildcat since Jack Cantele also had seven in the first three games of 2015.
• In his first-career game against South Dakota, Lynch was true on all four of his field-goal attempts, the most ever by a Wildcat in their debut.
• Lynch, who connected on distances of 24, 22 38 and 44 yards against the Coyotes – all in the first half – was the first Wildcat kicker with four field goals in a single half since Jamie Rheem also made four in the first half against Utah State on October 16, 1999.
ZUBER TO THE HOUSE
• Junior Isaiah Zuber took the first punt-return attempt of his career 85-yards for a touchdown against South Dakota.
• It was the 10th-longest punt return in school history and the fourth-longest in the nation this season.
• By going to the house on his first-career attempt, it marked the second time in as many season openers a Wildcat took their first-career punt return the distance as D.J. Reed went 62 yards on his first-career attempt against Central Arkansas in 2017.