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Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Mondays at The Salute

Mondays at The Salute

With the clock ticking near 2 minutes and 20 seconds remaining Saturday’s game against Oklahoma, Jake Waters took the shotgun snap, dropped three quick steps, and flung the football left toward the far sideline. The pass found its target, the hands of Curry Sexton, with pinpoint accuracy. Six yards. Third down became first. And the drive that would ensure the Wildcats’ one-point lead continued.

Connecting on an out pattern to the far sideline is a tough pass for any quarterback, requiring deft accuracy and substantial velocity to ensure an opposing cornerback does not wind up with an easy pick-six the other way. Waters completes the pass regularly, but this time he did so with his right shoulder and/or arm presumably feeling like some combination of Jell-O, embers, and gravel.

Waters came down on his right shoulder hard at the end of a 53-yard carry that opened the second half. The run was beautiful, even featuring a juke that would have Darren Sproles nodding in silent approval. It was the end of the run, though, that had me wondering if any quarterback has ever slid for safety after picking up 50-plus yards. Waters got up slowly, remaining hunched in evident pain for a few seconds. The pain was even more obvious later in the drive, as No. 15 clearly favored his right appendage after each play.

As the half moved forward, one of the game’s subplots evolved from “Can Jake Waters lead the Wildcats to victory over the No. 11 Sooners?” to “Can Jake Waters finish the game?” The quarterback was seen heading back to the locker room in the midst of the third quarter and ESPN cameras caught backup Joe Hubener warming up on the sideline. Along with the rest of Wildcat Nation, I pondered whether our hopes at a third Big 12 title and potential shot at a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff rested on the shoulders of the second-string quarterback.

Despite the theatrics, through palpable discomfort, Waters remained in the game and helped the Wildcats grab a 31-24 lead with a 21-yard strike to Sexton and a four-yard touchdown carry later in the third quarter.

Waters played every offensive snap for K-State and – thanks also to a strong defensive effort and a little bit of luck/karma in the realm of special teams – helped push the Wildcats to a 31-30 victory.

With 225 yards passing, 53 yards rushing and three touchdowns, Waters’ performance wasn’t necessarily one that screamed Heisman, but it at least brought whispers of K-State’s last Heisman Trophy threat, Collin Klein. Like Klein, Waters refused to let “hurt” mean “injured.” Like Klein, Waters made plays when situations that kept Big 12 title hopes alive called for them. Like Klein, Waters had Bill Snyder coming as close to gushing that he will ever get (which, truthfully, still isn’t that close) in the post-game press conference.

“[Waters] is a tough young guy,” Snyder said. “When I asked Jake ‘can you do this’ he said ‘I can do it coach’. I asked if there was anything we need to be restrictive of and he said ‘I can do it all, if you want me to run it, tell me, if you want me to throw it, I’ll throw it’.”

You know those 16 goals that Bill Snyder has? That paraphrased conversation serves as a pretty good illustration of how Waters covers every one of them. Commitment. Check. Toughness. Check. Leadership. Check. It was as if Waters was reciting from the book of Snyder while his right arm hung uneasily.

Like Klein, Sproles, many of his teammates and hundreds of other Wildcats throughout the head coach’s tenure, Waters exemplified the effort that Snyder has spent 23 seasons in Manhattan seeking. Put simply, he’s a Bill Snyder guy.

About The Author

Hi, I’m Derek Larson. You might remember me from such autobiographical blurbs as “Yo Soy Derek” and “Paste Blurb Here.” I was born and raised in the Manhattan area and I graduated from Kansas State University in 2005. Now I’m now adjusting to life in the land of husking corn. My groom’s cake was a Powercat and I was once convinced that the future of Wildcat basketball was a seven-foot volleyball player. I’ve written about K-State sports in different capacities, often without people asking me to. My hobbies include bringing more purple to Lincoln, Neb., and making vague (and not-so-vague) references to The Simpsons. Follow me on Twitter at @dereklarson.

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