K-State’s run offense was absolutely anemic last week. This isn’t a subjective statement; it’s a fact. While Jake Waters looked solid in his first start, the lack of a rushing attack was responsible for the team scoring only 21 points on the night (14 of which came from huge downfield strikes to Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson). And while this year’s team may be much more pass heavy than in years past, it’s the duty of this coaching staff to run early and often on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Here are your stats for K-State last week: 41 yards, 23 attempts. That’s an average of 1.8 yards/run. That’s not good.
Here’s what Arkansas did to LA-Lafayette last week: 292 yards rushing. That’s all you need to know. I don’t have to discuss the Razorbacks’ defense, special teams play, passing ability, or anything else – if a team puts up 292 yards rushing, it usually wins. And Arkansas did, 34-14 (Lafayette also allowed 230 yards passing on 15-23 completed passes). The team averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 51 attempts, with two of its running backs getting 18 and 21 touches.
K-State knows it can pass. Curry Sexton looked good as the number three wide receiver following the departure of Chris Harper, and Zach Trujillo could be decent at tight end this year. I’m not sure if K-State knows it can run. I mean, I know the Wildcats can – I hyped this offensive line as the best in the league, and I refuse to back down from that claim. Yet it didn’t even look like the best line in the Big Sky conference on Friday.
Yes, Collin Klein is gone, and his presence completely changed the complexion of defenses. Without his threat to run in the backfield, it’s much easier to key in on stopping Hubert. That doesn’t change the fact that Hubert should be among the top three rushers in the Big 12 this year. At least, it shouldn’t change the fact. This team is down, and the leadership seemed lacking last game. Bill Snyder called out his team after the game, stating that he’s waiting for players to step up. Wins are nice, but how K-State wins is also important. If the players don’t regain confidence in the ability to run the ball, garnering that enthusiasm and leadership is still going to be a challenge. If Lafayette’s run defense truly is the sieve it appeared to be last week, getting Hubert and Robert Rose several good touches should help the team regain its mojo.
There’s a second benefit to emphasizing the run game – it can allow K-State to control the clock and keep the defense off the field. I was concerned about the interior line and cornerback positions going into the game against North Dakota State. Now I’m concerned about the entire starting line up. If the offense can help keep its defense off the field (the unit was completely run down last Friday and unable to get stops during the last drive), the Ragin’ Cajuns will have fewer scoring opportunities and fresh during an afternoon in Kansas that’s going to see temperatures in the 90s.
I’m not sure if Daniel Sams if part of that equation. If the emphasis is on the run, you obviously prefer him in the backfield. Although Lafayette won nine games last year, I still think K-State is a double digit winner regardless of who starts and how conservative the playbook is. And with that in mind, it’s imperative the Wildcats regain their identity and prove to the nation – but more importantly themselves – that they can gain yards on the ground any time they damn well please.