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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State ran up the middle. Ran to the left, then to the right. Even got crazy and threw a couple short passes to running backs out of the backfield on Saturday night.
So much for opening up the playbook.
The No. 20 Wildcats hardly made it past the first couple pages.
It couldn't have been scripted much better in a 55-16 romp over Stephen F. Austin. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was able to shake off the rust with his starters, liberally substitute his backups and show virtually nothing to opponents that are about to get a whole lot tougher.
Kansas State travels to Iowa State next weekend for a rare early start to Big 12 play, then returns home a couple weeks later for a high-profile showdown against No. 6 Auburn.
"That was just a minimal portion" of the offense," said Snyder, whose systems are famously complex, and whose playbooks are known to be roughly as thick as "Atlas Shrugged."
"I don't know what the numbers are," he said, "but that's at best maybe 40 percent of what we have to do in our playbook, so to speak. I don't know how that compares to last season and other seasons. I just know we try to put on the field things that have an opportunity to be successful."
Snyder may be generous in his estimation. Several players said that what Kansas State showed against the Lumberjacks amounted to a glorified spring game — simple running plays, a few designed passes, virtually no balls thrown downfield and very few risks taken.
The Wildcats only attempted 30 passes, instead running the ball heavily with Jake Waters and a trio of unproven running backs. Waters finished with 17 carries for 55 yards and two scores, and the Wildcats ran for 240 yards and four touchdowns in a game that was over by halftime.
Yet what the Wildcats showed was razor sharp and clinically efficient.
"I think the offense has progressed a lot," said star wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who only played one quarter because of what Snyder called a "coach's decision."
"We're starting to understand each other's roles," Lockett said. "We understand the offense more. We can go out there and instead of thinking we can just play, and that's the biggest thing, when you're not thinking you just react. You're relying on instincts."
DeMarcus Robinson started at running back and carried 11 times for 49 yards, though he was more helpful as a receiver out of the backfield. He finished with four catches for 47 yards.
Charles Jones spelled him throughout the game, carrying eight times for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jones had most of his success running out of the Wildcat formation, including a 15-yard touchdown scamper that was just about the most exotic trick Kansas State showed off.
Asked if there are any other wrinkles out of the Wildcat, Jones simply laughed.
"You're going to have to ask coach," he said.
The simplistic offense approach certainly didn't come at the cost of execution. Kansas State ran up 478 yards of total offense, raced to a 42-10 lead midway through the third quarter and was able to get their inexperienced backups onto the field the rest of the way.
The Wildcats were also able to get some positive feelings flowing.
Waters, for instance, spent most of last year in a heated quarterback competition with Daniel Sams, who transferred in the offseason. Now the undisputed leader of the offense, Waters was crisp in both the running and passing game, shredding apart the Stephen F. Austin defense.
"I feel so much better out there," Waters said. "The first couple plays you had some jitters and after that I felt comfortable. My footwork was good. I made some good throws. All in all, for the first game, I thought we started fast and that's what we needed to do."