Special teams still up in the air

April 24, 2018 GMT

Kansas State’s offense provided plenty of highlights Saturday. The defense, while “porous” at times in head coach Bill Snyder’s words, still had decent performances from multiple players.

The Wildcats’ special team play was another story.

A unit that lost every significant piece from last season struggled mightily during the Purple/White Game. K-State is facing a complete overhaul in every position within that unit heading into next season.

In the race to replace Matthew McCrane — K-State’s career leader in both field goals made and field goal percentage — at placekicker, four players tried out for the spot Saturday.

Just one— Blake Lynch — actually made his field goal attempt. And it proved to be an important kick, as Lynch’s 44-yarder with 9:53 remaining were the final points of the game, lifting the Purple team to a 31-28 victory.

Two other kickers, Jake Roark and Nick McLellan, missed their only field goal attempts of the contest, while Andrew Hicks only kicked extra points.

The punters didn’t fare much better. Between Devin Anctil and Bernardo Rodriguez, the Wildcats averaged just 36 yards per punt.

And it was nearly impossible to judge any progress at the return spots.

K-State didn’t field any punts, and only one kick was returned. That one, by receiver Isaiah Zuber, went for 13 yards.

Despite the middling results, Snyder said he isn’t worried about the unit.

”I can’t assess our ones or our twos collectively as a whole, because we’ve got a lot of people that are watching that would normally be on the field, so that has some impact on how they do as a unit,” he said. “And as I’ve said so many times, because things are watered down so much ... it’s strictly about individuals and how they perform in the course of a ballgame. That’s exactly the way we judge it. That’s the way I judge it.”

Thompson wins coin flip

The quarterback battle is so close one might as well flip a coin to guess who will start this fall.

And ironically, a coin flip is exactly how third-year sophomore Skylar Thompson “won” the right to trot onto the field with the first-team offense to begin Saturday’s game.

Prior to kickoff, Thompson and fourth-year junior Alex Delton went into quarterbacks coach Collin Klein’s office. There, Klein held a coin toss.

Delton shared the story of his coin-flip “loss” afterward.

”(Klein said), ‘Who wants heads?’” Delton said. “There was like a five-second silence, and Skylar was like, ‘Whatever. I’ll take heads.’ So I got tails. Then we flipped the coin, and it hits Coach Klein’s couch slanted. And it ended up being heads, so obviously Skylar got the start for the Purple team.”

And in a way, Delton felt it was only fair Thompson got the nod.

”We rotate (starting) scrimmages all the time,” Delton said, “so I think (Saturday) was technically his turn to get the start, anyway.”

Format based on depth

In years past, the Purple/White game has often featured K-State’s starters against its backups. Not so Saturday. It was best-on-best.

The reason Snyder chose that format was simple: With so many players held out of the game with injuries, the Wildcats couldn’t afford more.

“You just kind of look at the matchups, and because we had a number of guys that were going to be out, we just don’t want ‘people running over people,’ so to speak,” Snyder said. “Depth was an issue, so that was a big part of it.”