It’s Tuesday, July 2 – two days from Independence Day and 59 days to K-State football day. And while we march towards August 30th with unbridled optimism surrounding how Bill Snyder will follow up last year’s Big 12 Championship, there’s one statistic The Jug suggests you not try to follow this season – Kansas State’s yards per game. The team finished 59th nationally last year in this category, but was certainly not the 59th best team in the country.
For those following the stat lines last year, this placement shouldn’t come as a huge shock. TCU outgained K-State, yet the Wildcats won that game 24-10. North Texas was outgained by only 20 yards (373-353), while Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas all put up higher yardage totals than the Wildcats. Yet aside from the disastrous outing against Baylor, these games all went into the win column (some by large margins).
How do we explain it? K-State’s ground game is an easy answer, but it’s not the right one. Yes, the team emphasized controlling the clock and running the ball, but this was not a slow offense last year that milked every play clock before going up the middle for three yards over and over. The Wildcats finished 32nd in rushing yards per game, 91st in passing yards per game, and 11th in scoring. One of these numbers is not like the other (hint: it’s the small one).
The first statistic I’d point to is special teams. K-State gained over 1,000 yards on kick-offs last year and led the nation in average kickoff return yardage. The team was third in punt return yardage. This was a dangerous team that put the offense in favorable position to score without having to drive 80 yards every possession. It’s cliched, but these special teams really were special.
Additionally, the defense was particularly opportunistic. With 18 interceptions, 32 sacks, and 13 recovered fumbles, Collin Klein was oft given the ball back in his opponent’s territory. Combine this with K-State’s low number of giveaways (three fumbles lost, nine interceptions throw), and the team didn’t have to worry about gaining lots of yardage to secure wins.
The offense will need to produce more this year as the defense breaks in new players, and it’s possible Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson slightly back off their blistering return production. However, this is one of the reasons Snyder is one of the all-time greats; his teams don’t have to outgain opponents to win. It’s about not beating yourself and maximizing your opportunities, and there’s no one in the business better at it than KSU’s Silver Fox.
To backwards in the countdown and read about K-State’s anticipated production in 2013, visit day 60.