There is a long-held belief that football teams show the most improvement between the first and second game. If true, it bodes well for Kansas State.
K-State opened the season with a 55-19 win over Central Arkansas, the No. 15-ranked FCS team, and Saturday the No. 19 Wildcats play a Charlotte team in only its fifth year of competition under coach Brad Lambert, a native Kansan from Hoxie who played at K-State from 1984-87.
“Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of the Game 1-2 improvement. “I think it should. I think the theory makes sense, and I hope it happens. I hope we make substantial improvement between the last game and this one but it remains to be seen.”
The Wildcats opened last season with a 26-13 loss at No. 8 Stanford then came back home to throttle Florida Atlantic, 63-7.
Snyder, as does every coach, desires continued improvement and the Wildcats certainly played their best football at the end of the 2016 season. They won their final four games, including a Texas Bowl win over Texas A&M.
“It is difficult,” Snyder said of weekly steps forward. “It’s more difficult for young people today, but if they have that passion for the game and that passion for being the best that they can be and they truly buy into the process of daily improvement, then it manages itself pretty well.
“Normally, there’s some dips in the road as you go but if you start here (holding his left hand low) and end up here (holding his right hand high) it’s a positive direction.”
Charlotte offense: It took the Wildcats some time to figure out how to defend Central Arkansas’ option run game and they’ll see more running from the 49ers.
Led by quarterback Hasaan Klugh with 101 yards, Charlotte had a 166-126 rushing advantage in its 24-7 loss to Eastern Michigan. The Eagles were better through the air, though, with a 267-114 advantage over the 49ers.
“They have a good running back (Robert Washington) who can run downhill well but the key to their offense is the quarterback,” Snyder said. “He is a very talented guy who runs well in the quarterback run game and they have option football, which was a nemesis for us this last week.”
“He’s fast,” Wildcat defensive end Tanner Wood said of Klugh. “He likes to run the ball and they do a lot of cutting with the offensive line to get him outside and make quick throws.”
Charlotte defense: Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, a Manhattan native and former Wildcat player and coach, runs a 3-4 set.
Senior linebacker Karrington King needs three tackles to break the school record of 217 held by Larry Ogunjobi, the program’s first NFL player. Sophomore linebacker Jeff Gemmell had 14 tackles against Eastern Michigan.
“They are a physical football team up front,” Snyder said. “They have some pretty athletic people on the back end. They can press your wide receivers and they are a physical secondary. They are a bigger blitz team than what we’ve seen. They are probably as heavy a blitz team as we will see in the course of the year.”
Why the 49ers (from UC website): Charlotte’s athletic teams are nicknamed the 49ers in honor of the importance of the year 1949. The City of Charlotte first opened a temporary school of higher education in 1946 (Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina) to handle the influx of servicemen returning from the war. In 1949, founder Bonnie Cone successfully fought to make the school a permanent institution. Thanks to that can-do attitude and pioneering spirit, and in honor of the importance of the year 1949, the school[s athletic teams were nicknamed the 49ers – a nickname that was adopted in 1962.
While the 49ers nickname was brought about by the importance of the year 1949 and had nothing to do with the gold rush of 1849, it should be noted that the first gold discovered in America was found in the Charlotte area, less than 20 minutes from campus in 1799. Charlotte’s mascot, Norm the Niner, is a gold miner, by trade.