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K-State RB Alex Barnes vexed by lack of carries

October 24, 2017 GMT

Alex Barnes’ two words spoke volumes.

Following Saturday’s 42-35 loss to No. 9 Oklahoma, Barnes, Kansas State’s third-year sophomore running back, was asked whether he would voice his concern about his lack of touches following a 75-yard touchdown on the second play of the game.

“Yeah,” Barnes replied, noticeably tight-lipped. “Yeah.”

In sum, Barnes finished with 108 yards and a touchdown on six carries. But after ripping off his 75-yard score to give the Wildcats an early lead, he logged just five more carries. Afterward, K-State coach Bill Snyder explained it was simply a matter of circumstance.

“Some of the things we were doing, we didn’t have a running back in the game at all, because of the nature of what we were doing,” Snyder said. “(For the most) part, it was the quarterback run game.”

And featuring Alex Delton — making his second straight start at quarterback in place of the injured Jesse Ertz — didn’t turn out badly for the Wildcats, at least statistically. Delton responded superbly to the increased workload, as he ran 27 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns.

But Delton couldn’t have been more complimentary of his fellow Alex and backfield mate.

“Alex is a great back, I trust him so much and he takes some of the pressure off of me,” Delton said of Barnes. “It was a great run. The offensive linemen gave him a great hole. He is someone that wants the ball.”

Barnes couldn’t agree more, as he hopes to be a bigger part of the offense going forward, starting with Saturday’s game at arch-rival Kansas.

Still, his 75-yard scamper for a score was a weight off his shoulders, as it marked his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season and his first touchdown since Sept. 9 against Charlotte.

“I was so relieved. I kind of blacked out there after I scored,” Barnes said. “I don’t really remember what all I did. But it was a lot of emotion coming out of that.”

Barnes admitted that part of the reason he was able to score was because he glanced up at the video board and was able to sense the moves of Oklahoma’s defenders before they made them.

He also revealed how the play developed through his own eyes.

“We’ve been working that play for a while in practice and we kind of got the look that we were expecting,” Barnes said. “So I get the ball, and I’m thinking about bouncing it outside, but right as I make a little move that way, I see their inside linebacker, No. 9 (Kenneth Murray), go flying over the top.

“So when I see that, it tells me to cut it back and get upfield. When I did that, I was expecting the safety to be in the alley and nobody was there.”

When there was no safety to be found, Barnes was incredulous.

“It felt great,” he said. “I haven’t felt like that in a while. That was more emotion than I’ve had in a very long time.”

Above all, Snyder was impressed Barnes was able to outrun the top-flight speed of the Sooners.

“He stayed ahead of some pretty good speed, so he ran well,” Snyder said. “Major thing it showed me was we did a nice job blocking up front and he made the right decisions and got in the right place with the ball. And as I said, nobody caught him.”

After consecutive outings where they finished under 200 yards rushing, the Wildcats gained 268 against the Sooners.

It was the type of performance, Barnes said, that will serve as a shot in the arm the remainder of the season.

“It’s huge for us,” he said. “We have all the confidence in the world to be able to just pound the rock and grind it out like we did in that first half.”

Despite his career-long touchdown and the positives Barnes says the offense can take away from Saturday, there was one thing the Wildcats didn’t do: win.

To Barnes, it was tough to accept, saying Saturday was “a game we should have won” after taking a 21-10 halftime lead into the locker room. But they weren’t able to sustain that momentum in the second half.

It was hard for Barnes to believe.

“We were physically dominating them each and every snap,” Barnes said. “(Fellow running back) Justin (Silmon) ran a dude over, effortlessly. He didn’t want any part of Justin. The pieces were there, we just didn’t get it all together at the right time.”