Consider something for a second: Daniel Sams has never started a game with Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett as his wide receivers. We’re halfway through the season, and this hasn’t happened. And that’s just one of the many reasons I boldly proclaim Daniel Sams, who hasn’t found success slinging the ball all year, will do so on Saturday.
First, there’s a set of assumptions I’m making. The primary one is that Sams will see the majority of snaps against West Virginia. While Jake Waters has been given every opportunity to enjoy the starting position while Sams comes in as a change-of-pace player, it’s become more obvious with every game that Sams isn’t just more dynamic of the two – he also puts K-State in a better position to win games (albeit those wins have been hard to come by this year).
Assuming he starts the game under center and is able to stay in, Sams will receive something he’s never worked with before: continuity. Thompson has missed the past two games with mono, while Lockett had to exit the Oklahoma State game with an injury and missed the entire Baylor game (yet the Wildcats still had a fourth quarter lead!). With those two healthy and Sams comfortable throwing to them, to an extent the Geno Smith approach is all you need: throw something short, and let your speedy receivers create plays.
Another aspect to consider is that Sams has been an accurate passer this year – it’s just that his misfires are way more obvious because they tend to end in interceptions. Chew on this: Sams has a higher completion percentage than Waters this season. Number four has hit on 68.8 percent of this throws, gaining 8.19 yards/attempt. The problem is he’s only thrown two touchdown passes to four interceptions. I don’t expect a lot of touchdown passes from Sams – K-State rarely threw in the red zone last year either. But he’s only had 32 attempts on the season – that’s an interception thrown on 12.5 percent of attempts. Let that sink in. Ugh.
Sams’ first interception of the season wasn’t until the third quarter against Oklahoma State – his first game as a the legitimate starter – with five minutes left in the third quarter. The next two came with under five minutes to play in the game. His other interception came against Baylor, also with less than five minutes left to play.
What’s causing Sams to throw interceptions late in games? Pressure looks like a contributing factor when you first look at it, as he’s trying to make something happen and forcing plays late in games. However, I think there’s another issue at play – he’s tired. Sams carried the ball 27 times against OSU and 30 against Baylor. He was forced to leave the field and go to the locker room against the Bears, having a difficult time lifting his arms. He’s getting beaten up over the course of games. Maybe the solution is a combination of bringing in Waters at the right times and telling Sams not to carry the ball so much. Whatever the coaching staff does, expect a fresher Sams in the fourth quarter against West Virginia. And a fresher Sams is a dangerous Sams.
So Sams can be accurate, he just needs to quit making bad passes when his body is worn and ragged. What will he be passing against? West Virginia is one of the bigger engimas of the Big 12 this year. Expected to have a truly rough second year in the league, the Mountaineers have losses under their belt such as 37-0 against (a bad team in) Maryland and struggled mightily to put away William and Mary. However, they also held Oklahoma to 16 points and upset Oklahoma State 30-21. And the squad has definitely played better at home, while West Virginia must go on the road to play K-State.
West Virginia is giving up the second-most points per game at 29.7, and 453 yards/game (also second to last in the league). And while the team in the middle of the road in rushing yards allowed per game, West Virginia leads the conference in passing yards allowed this season at 1,800 (257 per game). Opponents are completing 58 percent of their throws against WVU. Those aren’t Mike Leach Air Raid numbers on a weekly basis, but demonstrate what to expect West Virginia to give up on a regular basis. The only concern is that West Virginia already has eight interceptions on the year despite not seeing a lot of attempts – and we all know what this team’s achilles heel is…
Sams is accurate. West Virginia gives up plenty of yards. The Wildcats have had a week off to prepare and Bill Snyder Family Stadium will be rocking on Saturday. Expect to see the Daniel Sams to emerge we’ve been patiently waiting for all year with 250 yards passing, a passing touchdown, and an interception. Combined with a ten point victory, I’ll consider it a successful passing day for number four.