Looking Back – The 2015 Wildcats in Review Derek Larson January 4, 2016 Wildcat First Down It’s over. With a 45-23 loss to Arkansas in the books, K-State’s 2015 season is finished. For some (sadistic types, mostly), it’s a shame. For many others, it’s a relief. Whatever your take is, now is a time to look back. A time for reflection. A time to weep quietly in the corner. A time to reminisce and look at what we learned. Today, we look back at the 2015 season, through quotes from this very column. Relive the ups and downs through poor predictions and asinine analysis, and look ahead to 2016 with a few quick takes that are sure to be proven inaccurate as soon as this is published. 1. “The defense will miss guys like Randall Evans and Ryan Mueller, but you’re still looking at a unit that won’t be charitable when it comes to giving away yards.” – EFAQAW III, August 31, 2015 Nice try, Derek. The Wildcats were practically the Salvation Army against Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, allowing 569 offensive yards. For the season, the Wildcats finished sixth in the conference in total defense, allowing 452 yards per game. It was a far cry from the days when K-State defense made Heisman Trophy winners look like second-stringers. The defense suffered mightily from an injury bug infestation, which may sound like an excuse, but, honestly, it’s a pretty good one. The Wildcats lost preseason all-conference safety Dante Barnett in the season opener, and the injuries piled up from there. In the secondary alone, K-State saw Barnett, Danzel McDaniel, Kaleb Prewitt, Morgan Burns, Nate Jackson, Kendall Adams, and Duke Shelley miss time due to injury. Barnett will return in 2016. Hopefully a frown toward gridiron charity comes with him. 2. “While I’d love to see Heath become the next (Tyler) Lockett, if he can become the next (Andre) Coleman, that will be just fine.” – I’ve Seen This Before, September 7, 2015 Heath finished second in both receptions and receiving touchdowns, with numbers that exceed Coleman’s performance as a freshman. The youngster has a lot of room to grow, but his development will be a necessity as the Wildcats look to put up stronger passing numbers in the future. In 2016, Heath will lead a receiving corps that will (hopefully) benefit from an infusion of young talent from redshirt freshmen Denzel Goolsby and Isaiah Zuber. Both receivers impressed during practices leading up to the bowl game. 3. “Joe Hubener is not Collin Klein. He was not the starting quarterback to begin the season. He may even face an uphill battle to be the starter in 2016. That said, Hubener is K-State’s quarterback right now. And if a reasonable Collin Klein impersonation, right down to continually exceeding expectations, keeps this team winning, I’m all for it.” – Collin It Like I See It, September 14, 2015 The idea of comparing Hubener to Klein may see absurd by now, but at the time, it seemed promising. To be fair, I compared Hubener to Klein’s sophomore self, whose passing was so refined that the Wildcats allowed him to attempt a whopping four passes in his first start. I wanted to see Hubener as a facilitator for a strong Wildcat rushing attack. Naturally, the Wildcats attempted to make Hubener a passing quarterback. That playcalling resulted in a 47-percent completion rate and more interceptions thrown than touchdowns. 4. “It’s early, but [Silmon] seems like the sort of back the Wildcats can depend on. With conference season on its way, the more the Wildcats entrust the offense to the redshirt freshman, the better off they might be.” – Rushing to Judgment, September 21, 2015 Silmon averaged six carries per game in 2015. Six. I’m as frustrated about the lack of evidence to support my hypothesis as you are. Silmon returns next season, as does incumbent starter Charles Jones. Rounding out the mix in the backfield will be Dalvin Warmack (who actually had a chance to show his worth in the Liberty Bowl) and fullback Winston Dimel. The talent to tote the ball will be there, but the Wildcat offensive line will feature four new starters, meaning running lanes could be difficult to locate early on. 5. “If you take only the Oklahoma State loss into consideration, Cook appears to be the stronger option. His numbers are better (Hubener completed just three-of-nine passes and threw an interception), and Cook appeared more comfortable throwing short routes than Hubener has all season.” – Now We’re Cookin’?, October 5, 2015 The Hubener-Cook quartback dance was reminiscent of the Dylan Meier-Allen Webb battle of yesteryear. (Webb had even played quarterback while at Indiana.) Unfortunately, neither quarterback competition resulted in overwhelming success. In 2016, Cook is gone, and Hubener may well be buried on the depth chart. Look for 2015 original starter Jesse Ertz, injured freshman Alex Delton, ill(?) transfer Jonathan Banks, and incoming freshman Skyler Thompson to battle Hubener for the right to take snaps next season. 6. “On Saturday, the Wildcats face an Oklahoma Sooner team that just suffered an embarrassing loss to the University of Texas. They are beatable, as the Longhorns showed. How did the Longhorns win? By rushing for 313 yards and passing for just 55… Hmm… I hate running, but there is nothing I want to see the Wildcats do more. There’s no better time to start than this Saturday.” – Run This Way, October 12, 2015 Wildcat running backs combined for 11 carries against Oklahoma, on their way to a 55-0 loss. I would go into further detail on this game, but the urge to throw my laptop into traffic is rising. These things aren’t cheap. 7. “This may not be assuring to some the week after K-State’s worst loss since 1532 (year approximate), but Snyder’s teams have consistently improved from the start of the season to the end of it. Saturday’s game may have been akin to watching the live dissection of your childhood pet, but things will get better.” – Three Things, October 19, 2015 Things got better… It just took a couple more weeks. I’m counting this as an accurate prediction. I need something positive at this point. 8. “Let me get this straight: your team has lost four straight games, is winless in conference play, lost its starting quarterback on the season’s opening drive, has battled injuries all season long, lost its best defensive player, won’t run the ball consistently, can’t rely on its backup quarterback, struggles doing the little things right, and – obviously – has no luck to speak of?” – Worst-Case Scenario Guide to K-State Football, October 26, 2015 When you view the season in such tight summation, it’s kind of amazing that the Wildcats made a bowl game. And that we all lived to tell about it. 9. “Sure, it’s pure fantasy, but fantasy is what many consider K-State’s chances of beating Baylor on Thursday night. Word is that Las Vegas is only accepting bets on the game in the form of Schrute Bucks and dragon eggs.” – Which Former Wildcat Would Be the Best Addition to the 2015 Wildcats?, November 2, 2015 Oh, what could have been. The Wildcats had a chance to tie No. 2 Baylor in the fourth quarter, but a late interception sealed their fate. I won’t tell you how many Schrute Bucks I lost on that game. 10. “I could throw together a column of five predictions, wherein I mention that I think K-State football will win its remaining four games and land in the Liberty Bowl.” – The Struggle, November 9, 2015 Nailed it… Almost. The Cats won their final THREE to land in the Liberty Bowl. I’m counting this prediction as 3/4 right, which means, all-time, my predictions are 0.0000000000000000012% accurate. Impressed? 11. “With three games to go, K-State sits at the bottom of the Big 12 standings with perennial punchline KU. They have lost six consecutive games for the first time since 1989, Snyder’s first season. They approach the passing game like the guy set on dating a supermodel: it seems like a fun idea, but success is improbable and life can be pretty good without it. Meanwhile, the defense made me throw my hands in the air so many times on Saturday that I fear I may need rotator cuff surgery.” – How Will You Remember the 2015 Wildcats?, November 16, 2015 How will you remember the 2015 Wildcats? Now that the season is over, it’s an interesting question. They overcame strong adversity to land in a bowl game, but will finishing under .500 forever sit like a week-old burrito? 12. “Burns, adding on to one of the greatest special teams performances in program history (did I mention he blocked a punt?), grabbed the ensuing kickoff and decided that being tackled did not seem appropriate for the occasion. Burns, the three-time-reigning Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week, burned 97 yards to the end zone, scoring what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown.” – I Was Saying Boo-Urns, December 7, 2015 The brightest spot of K-State’s 2015 season, Morgan Burns evolved into a terrifying weapon in the return game. He earned All-American honors, a quite handsome writer* deemed him K-State’s third-best return man of the modern (read: Snyder) era, and Arkansas refused to allow him to have a clean return in the Liberty Bowl. *Another inaccuracy in my writings. Burns, a senior, won’t be back in 2016, but the Wildcats will look to maintain its “Return U” moniker with the next man up, whether it’s Heath, Goolsby, or Bill Snyder in full uniform. 13. “Throughout the injuries, the struggles, the losses, Bill Snyder and his players alike did not cite injuries as problems or talk about what could have been. The message remained, and continues to remain, consistent: this team needs to improve. Even after Saturday’s dismantling of Kansas – a game where our mythically feathered friends down the road gave us a reminder of what truly ugly football can look like – Snyder’s message remained the same.” – No Excuses, November 30, 2015 Keep rowing the boat. Keep chopping wood. Keep eating bran. Keep playing canasta. Snyder’s message remained consistent throughout the season, as it always has. With another year passed, however, one question grows more prominent: How much longer will Snyder serve as K-State’s lead lumberjack? (Apologies… Chopping wood is now on my mind.) Rumors surround the Wildcat program. About Snyder’s reign and his successor. About next season. About the foreseeable future. What does the future hold for K-State football? I’ll only make one prediction: K-State will take the field against Stanford in only 241 days. Forget 2015. Let’s get the 2016 season going.