Jon from Bring On The Cats was kind enough to answer some questions about today's regular season finale. Let's get started, shall we?
Matt: Obviously this hasn't been K-State's ideal year. What have been the > biggest reasons that have caused this team to fall to 5-6?
Jon: Three main factors: attrition, injuries, and the inability of the coaching staff to prepare Next Man Up.
Realistically, K-State is actually operating with a guy who should have been the fifth-string quarterback. Daniel Sams transferred to McNeese State because he didn't want to ride the pine. Aaron Sharp decommitted and ended up as a defensive back at UCLA. Jesse Ertz got hurt on the very first play from scrimmage this year. All of that conspired to rob Alex Delton of his redshirt (although he's probably getting it back on a medical, because HE got hurt, TOO). In a normal turn of events, Joe Hubener probably would have been behind Delton on the depth chart; the desire to try and keep the redshirt on Delton moved Hubener up to second, and thrust him into the starting role when Erts went down.
"But Jon", you say, "K-State seems to be able to score a lot of points. The offense isn't really the problem, is it?"
It's not. The defense was even more decimated, as K-State had two pre-season all-conference selections in the secondary. Dante Barnett went down in the opener, and Danzel McDaniel was lost for the season one quarter too late to qualify for a medical waiver which would have allowed him to return next year. The players forced into action as a result have been sound athletically, but are making mistakes that are strongly attributable to coaching failures. It just so happens that Tom Hayes, K-State's defensive coordinator, is also the secondary coach. And he's been wanting to retire, but Archmage Snyder is keeping him in place through compulsion or something. No, we're not bitter or anything.
Matt: Realistically, how much more gas does Bill Snyder have in the tank? Could this year be ot after he collects one last bowl windbreaker and is there a replacement plan in place?
Jon:Nobody knows. There is no plan in place, and that's a problem. There's a clash between Snyder and AD John Currie; Snyder really wants his son Sean to replace him, while Currie really doesn't. Ask most fans in the know, and they're hoping Brent Venables will come home when Snyder finally steps down; the fact that Venables hasn't made himself available for any head coaching interviews the past two seasons sort of feeds this.
But that lack of a plan is now damaging the program, as Snyder's age and refusal to put a timetable on his departure are being used against him on the recruiting trail.
Matt: Who are some under the radar Wildcats we should be looking out for on Saturday?
Jon: Aren't they all under the radar? You've probably heard enough about Hubener, and at this point if you don't know Morgan Burns you're just not awake. Charles Jones has blossomed as the feature back, while the 1-2 fullback punch of Winston Dimel and Glenn Gronkowski have done a little bit of everything other than actually carrying the ball a bunch.
Defensively, keep an eye on Duke Shelley, a true freshman corner forced into action when McDaniel went down. He's been both really good -- in his first game against TCU, Trevone Boykin didn't even throw in his direction, which tells you how well he was covering Colby Listenbee -- and really bad, getting burned on a few plays in the losses to Oklahoma and Texas Tech. (That said, a couple of those burns were actually efforts to make something happen when the team really needed a spark. So nobody's mad.)
Matt: Give me a perfect Manhattan weekend for a visiting fan.
Jon: Arrive. Head to Aggieville. Eat, then drink until game time. Sleep is for the weak. After the game, drink until you pass out. Go home. (Or you could visit our outdated but still mostly relevant Manhattan 101 guide
Matt: How does this one shake out?
Jon: I think West Virginia probably pulls out their first Big 12 win over the Wildcats. I don't think it will be a blowout like some are predicting, though. K-State is focused, and they really want to avoid going to a bowl game with an asterisk. I just don't see how the Wildcat defense is going to contain the 'Eers offense, so it's going to be a horse race. K-State has made a habit of losing those this season. (See: Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech.) Mountaineers by 7, I'm thinking.
Thanks again to Jon from Bring on the Cats for taking the time to help us preview today's game.