We’re one quarter into the K-State football regular season and the Wildcats are 3-0. That’s not a bad place to be. In fact, after meticulous research that involved – among other things – conferring with an astrophysicist, reading A Brief History of Time, consulting with an international team of mathematicians, eating a box of mini donuts, and calling Miss Cleo, I have confirmed that it is impossible to have more than three wins after three games.

Though flawless in the eyes of the standings, Saturday’s game shed more light on all phases of Wildcat football, good and bad. With just 25-percent of the regular season complete, it is not time to rush to judgment on any particular area of the program. That said, this is the internet, and if you’re not reading this, you’re probably stuck reading political rants on Facebook. Let’s pass judgment on a couple of areas of K-State’s running game, shall we?

Silmonmania is running wild.

Midway through the third quarter against Louisiana Tech, K-State needed a spark. They trailed 13-6. The offense was stagnant. Wildcat fans around Bill Snyder Family Stadium were beginning to wonder if the concession stand kettle corn would actually be the best part of their day. Then, Justin Silmon happened. Silmon opened the drive with a 10-yard carry. He followed with an 11-yard carry. Two plays later, he broke free for 25 yards. He then carried for seven yards and five yards, pushing the Wildcats inside the Bulldog 10-yard-line, before being called to the sideline; presumably because his presence on the field was forcing the La Tech defenders into shame spirals. Three plays later, the Wildcats scored, tying the game at 13 and setting the stage for the overtime roller coaster that I would refuse to ever talk about again if K-State had ended up losing.

That scoring drive was 75 yards long. Silmon picked up 58 of those yards on the ground. For the game, he racked up 114 yards and more social media love than Throwback Thursday.  Three games into his playing career, he has already developed a cult following, spurning a #FreeJustinSilmon hashtag on Twitter and leading fans everywhere to beg for him to be inserted into the starting lineup.

Starter or not, Silmon was the workhorse on Saturday. He carried 24 times, tripling the total of Joe Hubener, who was second in carries. He’s the back the Wildcats were missing last season. A John Hubert type. An Eric Hickson type. A Mike Lawrence type. It’s early, but he 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.

Perhaps in a few weeks, Big 12 opponents will be attempting to answer the question, “What’cha gonna do when Silmonmania runs wild on you?”*

*Wildcat First Down: Your source for ripped-off Hulk Hogan quotes.

It may be time to abandon the Wildcat formation.

The Wildcat formation, wherein the traditional quarterback lines up at a wide receiver spot while a running back or wide receiver takes a shotgun snap from center, was a staple of Bill Snyder’s offense for a handful of years. It evolved from the Michael Bishop era, ensuring that supreme athleticism enveloped the football as soon as it snapped. The formation added electricity to drives throughout the game. Times have changed. Today, instead of adding a buzz among purple-clad fans, the formation seems to suck the air out of all in viewing vicinity.

Upon returning from his retirement, Snyder used Daniel Thomas as his Wildcat formation back. It worked because Thomas’ running style was that of the “Yes, I see you standing there. You will be laying there soon” variety. Thomas had been a quarterback in junior college, which also provided the threat of passing the ball out of the formation. No, it was not common. But when it happened, it proved devastating to opposing defenses.

Daniel Sams was a different sort of Wildcat formation back. After all, he was a quarterback. Well, he was a quarterback on the depth chart anyway. More accurately, Sams was a lottery ticket. His carries were jukes, spins, bursts of speed, and high steps strung together in succession. It was like he was a malfunctioning video game controller come to life. His throws weren’t always pretty, but they were on target enough to provide a scare. When he was good, he was a human highlight mixtape. His explosiveness and big-play ability made him a weapon that every defensive coordinator had to scheme against.

Today, the Wildcat formation back is Charles Jones. Jones is a steady back, but one whose role is rapidly diminishing. (See: Silmonmania.) He features neither the big play ability of Sams, nor the “You know what I’m going to do, but you still can’t stop me” running style of Thomas. And therein lies the problem. When Jones is in the Wildcat formation, opposing defenses know what he’s going to do. And they have no problem putting eight (or nine, 10, or 11) defenders near the line of scrimmage to stop it. In his season-and-a-quarter as the Wildcat formation back, Jones has shown no threat of passing the football out of the formation, and until he does, defenses will feast.

 

Judgment passed, we now have to wait two weeks before the Wildcats are back on the field. Bye weeks seem evil, but I’ll never complain about giving Snyder an extra week to gameplan. The road to 4-0 heads through Stillwater, Okla. I’ve confirmed that with an online schedule, an army of cartographers, and a maze on the back of a Pizza Hut placemat.

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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