K-State seeks offensive balance against Vanderbilt

Former Wildcats Elijah Lee, Cornelius Lucas join new NFL teams

Bill Snyder’s No. 18 Kansas State Wildcats have shown the ability to run and throw through two games this season, giving K-State the offensive balance Snyder covets. The Wildcats will play at Vanderbilt at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. (Emily DeShazer/The Capital-Journal)

MANHATTAN — Two games into the season, Kansas State has shown it can throw the football. Quarterback Jesse Ertz had a career-high 333 yards in the first game against Central Arkansas and is completing 70 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions.


K-State has shown it can run the football, rolling up 304 rushing yards last week against Charlotte.

“We’ve shown that we can be a multiple-type offense,” tight end Dayton Valentine said. “After week one, they had to game plan to stop the pass and it opened up the running game for us. It was huge for us to show that we can do both effectively.

“It’s being able to do both and make them have to game plan and worry about both of them. They feed off each other.”

Seeking balance and consistency, coach Bill Snyder is looking to put the two elements together when the No. 18 Wildcats (2-0) play Vanderbilt (2-0) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

“It comes under the category of balance, not only being able to throw it and run it and be able to create some big plays,” Snyder said. “All of those things have happened at one time or another in the first two ballgames but now it gets really serious. The significant thing is: Can we put it all together? That’s what we’re striving for, to be able to package all of that game after game and try to improve upon it. We’ll find out. The competition steps up.”

Ertz has completed 26 of 37 passes for 511 yards, playing three quarters in each of the first two games. Seven players have caught passes led by Isaiah Zuber with nine while Isaiah Harris and Dalton Schoen have five apiece.

“I’d like to have a decent comfort level in the schemes we have that we can create open receivers,” Snyder said. “The major element is can we find the guy that’s open because you never know exactly who it’s going to be.

“Part of being a quality quarterback is going through the progressions at a reasonably rapid pace until you find the open receivers. Jesse has done a reasonably decent job of that, and he’s had a nice touch on the ball. He’s thrown it accurately with a decent amount of efficiency.”

Alex Barnes and Ertz lead the way on the ground, with Justin Silmon expected to play at Vanderbilt after missing the first two games and Dalvin Warmack taking on a bigger role.

“I’ve been pleased with a lot of things,” Snyder said of the running game. “I’ve been pleased with a decent portion of our downfield blocking, which puts us in a position to have extended plays out of our running game and not just our passing game.

“The capacity to be able to mix up the running game with a variety of different schemes and the ability to get on blocks and stay on blocks, there’s nothing more significant than that in the running game. We’ve been reasonably good at that but not near good enough to play the schedule we have to play now.”

In registering wins over Middle Tennessee (28-6) and Alabama A&M (42-0), the Vanderbilt defense ranks No. 1 nationally in red zone and third down percentage, No. 2 in scoring, No. 3 in total defense, No. 9 against the run and No. 11 in passing defense.

“They are a physical front seven,” Wildcat center Adam Holtorf said. “We have to make sure and do our due diligence in practice prepping for the different looks they’re going to give us and make sure we come off the ball and are physical at the point of attack. Going against a great opponent this week, being able to pass the ball and protect up front will be a big challenge for us.

“Any time you return a guy like Jesse Ertz and you have backs like Justin Silmon and Alex Barnes back there and an insanely great receiving corps like we do, I think we’re set up to do some special things. Each Sunday we have to take the positives from the week before and try to build on the negatives and take it one week at a time, but I think we’re set up for a very good year.”

LEE, LUCAS SIGNED — Two former Wildcats recently joined new NFL teams.

Rookie linebacker Elijah Lee was signed by the San Francisco 49ers off the Minnesota practice squad. Lee, a Vikings’ seventh-round draft pick, was waived Sept. 2 and re-signed the next day to the practice squad. He was claimed by the 49ers and signed to a two-year contract.

Veteran offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas signed with the Los Angeles Rams. Lucas played three years with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent but was waived Sept. 3.

Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.



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