- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Kansas State looked like it was destined to stay home at bowl season after starting the year with losses in four of its first six games. The Wildcats, however, got things back on track in the second half of the season and ended the season playing as well as any Big 12 team.
The Wildcats had the second-best offense in the Big 12 behind Baylor, it just went largely unnoticed because it was so relentlessly efficient. K-State’s 2.54 points per drive and 6.32 yards per play were second behind the Bears and they led the league in third down conversion rate (48.8 percent).
Receiver Tyler Lockett was arguably the Big 12’s best receiver and most valuable player. He was nearly unstoppable with his quickness and route running, which transformed him from a feared returner into a nightmare matchup anytime he was on the field.
The Wildcats had some uncertainty at quarterback but Jake Waters and Daniel Sams each had their moments of brilliance. Running back John Hubert had the best season of his career with 198 carries for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. His production was up and down but he still provided a playmaking option in the offensive backfield and K-State’s offensive line was very solid throughout the year, helping the Wildcats offense rank among the Big 12’s best.
The Wildcats defense wasn’t dominant but it was good enough to win games. KSU finished third in the Big 12 in points allowed per game at 22.9.
K-State’s defense didn’t put fear into any offense but opponents knew they would have to execute flawlessly and play physical to have success against the Wildcats. This unit was clearly better with a healthy Ty Zimmerman roaming the secondary at his safety spot and Ryan Mueller was a force at defensive end throughout the season. Linebacker Blake Slaughter was one of five Big 12 defenders to finish with at least 100 tackles (110).
Special Teams: C
The Wildcats special teams weren’t great but they weren’t bad either. Lockett and Tremaine Thompson were solid return threats on kickoffs and punts but K-State’s kicking game was middle of the road in pretty much every aspect. Ultimately K-State’s special teams units did their job but they didn’t go above and beyond to consistently change games in the Wildcats favor.
The Wildcats had a solid season considering the loss of do-it-all quarterback Collin Klein from last year’s Fiesta Bowl squad, but they could have been even better if they weren’t so mistake prone in the first half of the season. The Wildcats were playing some of the best football in the conference at the end of the season, finishing with six wins in their final seven games after starting 2-4.
9hBrandon Chatmon and Max Olson