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Kansas State Football: Players to Watch

The Frogs could have their hands full with this talented group on all sides of the ball.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State’s football season has been about as interesting as ours. Like Horned Frog fans these days, Wildcat fans never know what to expect from their team. We’ve both lost to West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. They beat Tech, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas, and The Team Who Shall Not Be Named. They’re currently 7-4 and 4th in the Big 12, just ahead of us at 6-5 and 5th. And you can’t dislike Bill Snyder. Seriously. He’s adorable.

But for one week, we have to fake disdain for the Wildcats. And we study their roster and numbers and compare them to ours. So here are this week’s players to watch from Kansas State:

Alex Barnes (RB) –

After an intermittent start this season, Barnes has drastically increased his carries for the Wildcats. He had 1 carry for 6 yards against Oklahoma on October 15, and had 19 carries for 129 yards November 19 in Waco. Clearly, when give the opportunity to run, the Wildcats are depending heavily on Barnes. And with an iffy passing game, look for the Wildcats to use Barnes in an attempt to take advantage of our rushing defense this week.

Dominique Heath (WR) –

Heath has become the leading receiver for the Wildcats this season, but the Wildcats haven’t really been passing the ball lately. Their passing game has been decent throughout the season, but running the ball has been a successful strategy in recent games. Heath failed to log a single reception last week against KU. While he continues to pose a threat against TCU, look for the Cats to use him as a decoy to draw our attention while they try to run the ball.

Jesse Ertz (QB) –

Ertz has been the starter all season, and Coach Snyder was cryptic after Ertz was injured last week, saying that he hadn’t spoken to trainers, but believed Ertz was fine. Joe Huberon has the experience to lead the team, but Ertz seems to have the team’s confidence backing him. Ertz is expected to play this week, but you can bet they’ll try to save him from taking too many beatings, in anticipation of their bowl game. He’s got a 57.8% pass completion percentage, but the Cats haven’t had been forced to rely on their passing to win games. I expect to see Ertz hand the ball off to Barnes as much as possible. He might try a few runs of his own, but Coach Snyder will be covering his eyes if that happens.

The Defense –

Even if we can figure out a way to stop the run on Saturday, the Frogs’ offense will have their own struggle against a Kansas State defense that takes pride in shutting out opponents. Elijah Lee (LB), Jordan Willis (DE), Donnie Starks (DB)…all of them are threats to our offense. The Frogs need to focus on limiting KU’s offense in an effort to make their defense carry the load. If KaVonte Turpin has been holding anything back since he returned from injury, this is the game to open up and throw it all on the field. And our offensive line has got to protect the pocket.

I’d like to adapt my summary from the wise literary words of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie: If you give a Wildcat an injured quarterback and a run option, he’s going to run the ball every time. While he runs the ball down the field, his defense is going to get rest. When the defense gets rest, it’s going to stop a Frog offense. And if the defense stops a Frog offense, you’re going to lose a ballgame at home. Therefore: If you force a Wildcat to pass, he’s probably going to be inconsistent. If he’s inconsistent, a Frog can intercept. Or force a 3-and-out. And if a Frog can do that, a Wildcat defense will get very tired. And if a Wildcat defense gets tired, Frogs will score. And if Frogs score, they will win at home.

Score, Frogs, Score.

Footnote: One of the topics that’s come up this year with this group of Frogs is their emotion. After the loss to Arkansas, Gary Patterson told the media he wanted to see more emotion from the team. At FOW, we’ve talked about the games where emotion has made such an impact. Last week against Texas. The game in Waco. Emotion is a powerful thing. And Kansas State’s Quarterback Jesse Ertz has a lot of it right now. Ertz’s sister Lydia Gatton suffered a seizure on November 2. She was hospitalized after doctors discovered a a brain tumor on her frontal lobe. After his touchdowns against Oklahoma State, he made a heart with his hands for his sister. Lydia has since undergone surgery, and she surely will be watching her brother this weekend as she continues to recover. If you feel so inclined, go to her GoFundMe page and help her family reach their $20,000 goal for her treatment.