Not many would have predicted that this Kansas State football team of 2011 would be 6-0 at this stage of the season.
After all, it’s the first time that the Wildcats have been off to such a start to a season since 2000, and the first 3-0 start in Big 12 play since 1999.
“We’re not that surprised,” said tight end Travis Tannahill. “We thought we could play all of these teams, and we have.”
But the K-State junior admitted, “Some of these games are giving me gray hair.”
Yes, K-State is 6-0, but five of those wins have come by seven points or less. And, five of the wins have come by margins of 3, 4, 1, 7 and 7 points. Yes, that’s only a 22-point difference in five of the wins.
While coach Bill Snyder has complained about the team’s lack of consistency, what it has proven to be is consistent in game-defining moments.
There was never a greater advertisement of that than in the Texas Tech game last week where K-State scored on defense with Nigel Malone’s interception return, plus scored on special teams with Tyler Lockett’s 100-yard kickoff return, plus denied two field goal attempts with Raphael Guidry’s blocks.
“Special team play is very under-rated and has proven to be very important to us winning games,” said Malone, who also mentioned how a forced fumble on a kickoff return in the one-point win over Baylor set up a field goal.
Having always emphasized special teams play, Snyder said, “I’ve seen too many games won or lost with special teams. On offense you run a play for zero yards, and you get up and do it again. On defense you can give up five yards, and you get up and do it again. But with special teams play, you get one shot. You don’t get second chances. You have one chance to do it, or one chance to defend it. It can change the complexity of the game so readily.”
MID-SEASON AWARD TIME:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Collin Klein …
the KSU quarterback likely wouldn’t be first-, second-, third-, or fourth-team all-Big 12 quarterback, but the junior has the Wildcats at 6-0. Klein is completing passes at a 59 percent clip with seven touchdowns to three interceptions to go with his 96 rushing yards (with 10 TDs) per game. He has demonstrated the ‘IT’ factor game in and game out.
MOST VALUABLE OFFENSIVE PLAYER (not named Klein):
play has been most consistent allowing the Wildcat to rush for 206 yards per game. Hit by early-season injuries to Manase Foketi and Shaun Simon, the five-man unit of Zach Hanson, Nick Puetz, B.J. Finney, Colten Freeze and Clyde Aufner have pretty much gone the distance in the first half-dozen games.
MOST VALUABLE DFENSIVE PLAYER:
continues to lead the team in tackles with 45, plus is tops with 4.5 tackles for negative yards, has two sacks and one interception that was pivotal in the victory over Baylor. When not making the tackle himself, Brown is escorting ball carriers into the awaiting arms of his purple-clad defensive friends.
MOST VALUABLE SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER:
David Garrett and Tramaine Thompson
have played error-free football in the return game. Garrett has averaged 22.8 yards on 13 kickoff returns, while Thompson has a Big 12 high with his 14.0-yard average on five punt returns.
FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR:
B.J. FINNEY and TYLER LOCKETT
have been rock-solid first-year performers … Finney at center and Lockett on special teams with a 100-yard kickoff return, plus seven catches for 80 yards.