K-State overcomes rocky first quarter in win
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — The Massachusetts Minutemen enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame, but Kansas State didn't let it go any further.
The Wildcats rebounded from a shaky first quarter to dominate the rest of the half and coasted home with a 37-7 victory Saturday night at Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State, now 2-1 heading into next Saturday's Big 12 opener at Texas, scored three times in the second quarter behind an improved running attack that racked up a season-best 329 yards. Quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams both contributed and running back John Hubert busted loose for the first time with 118 yards to lead the way.
"I wouldn't say we made a concerted effort," K-State offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas said of the Wildcats' emphasis on the running game. "We just did what we needed to do and what we did worked."
In addition to Hubert, who broke the 100-yard mark for the first time this season after rushing for 79 in the first two games, the Wildcats got 77 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries from Sams and a career-high 74 on nine attempts from Waters.
Backup running back Robert Rose, who scored his first career touchdown on a 26-yard run in the second quarter, said the offensive line was determined to get the ground game going.
"Before the game those guys got really fired up and they made it a point that they were going to give maximum effort and get to those blocks," Rose said. "Basically we were just running straight and we could have picked any hole we wanted to run through today."
The Wildcats, who leaned heavily on Waters in the passing game the first two weeks, threw it just 12 times against UMass for 127 yards. Waters was 5 of 10 for 115 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, while Sams completed both his passes for 12 yards.
Waters, who set a single-season record for passing accuracy last year in leading Iowa Western Community College to the national championship, said it was his fewest attempts since "probably my sophomore year of high school."
He did hit a wide-open Hubert down field for a 43-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 27-7 halftime advantage and found fullback Glenn Gronkowski over the middle on a 50-yarder scoring strike in the third quarter.
"They busted on the one to Hubert. He was just wide open so I just had to get it to him," Waters said. "Gronk, we just ran a little fake QB run and he just exploded through and was wide open and he did the rest."
Defensively, the Wildcats allowed 309 yards and buckled down in the second half after UMass moved the ball effectively early. They also provided K-State's first points of the game on the Minutemen's opening series when cornerback Kip Daily intercepted A.J. Doyle and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.
"It felt good," Daily said of his first career pick and first of two in the game. "They went empty (backfield) and the coaches called a good play.
"I saw the quarterback pull up, so I just broke on the ball."
It was the second-straight game with a defensive touchdown for the Wildcats, who got an interception return from safety Ty Zimmerman last week.
"Any time you can score on defense and score on special teams, it just creates the balance that you need to have in your program and it's a great asset," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "There's absolutely no doubt about it.
"It was a nice play on Kip's part - in the right spot at the right time."
UMass came back from the interception and marched 77 yards to the K-State 6 and lined up for a field goal, only to have it blocked by Wildcat defensive tackle Travis Britz.
Undaunted, the Minutemen got the ball back when Antoine Tharpe intercepted Waters at the K-State 46 and scored in five plays on Stacey Bedell's 2-yard carry with 9:14 to go in the quarter. The big play on the drive was a 27-yard strike from Doyle to Tajae Sharpe.
That's when K-State took charge for good.
The Wildcats immediately answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Sams relieved Waters at quarterback on a third down at the K-State 44 and picked up 15 yards.
Sams then broke a 37-yarder to the UMass 4, and four plays later scored on a fourth-down sneak.
Waters engineered the next scoring drive - six plays for 81 yards, all on the ground - and even carried the first three plays for 31 yards. Hubert picked up first downs on the next two and Rose finished it off with a 26-yard sprint for his first career touchdown.
The Waters strike to Hubert closed out the half.
UMass finished with 309 yards total offense - 123 rushing and 186 through the air. Doyle, making his first start of the season, completed 21 of 31 passes. Bedell had 81 yards rushing on 23 carries and Sharpe caught nine passes for 98 yards.
"I think we made a lot of improvement, especially finishing," said Zimmerman, who had seven tackles, including one for loss. "The last couple of weeks we came out the second half and had a couple of drives where we just couldn't get off the field.
"I thought we did a lot better job today."