Wildcats set to put on show for fans at annual Purple/White game




Special to The Telegram

MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder is no fan of spring football games, but Kansas State's fans are.

So, in fact, are his players.

That's why there is no danger that Kansas State will follow the lead of some other schools and pull the plug on their annual Purple/White Game, scheduled for 1:10 p.m. today at Snyder Family Stadium.

"It's for our fan base," Snyder said of the game, which takes the place of one of the 15 spring practice dates allowed by the NCAA. "I prefer practices, but our fans enjoy seeing our players and seeing the environment and coming for the auction and all those things, so we'll always do it in that respect."

That's also good news for the players, who after 14 grueling closed practices and scrimmages get to wrap it all up in a game environment before friends and family.

"It's nice, some fans in the stands and kind of showcase what we've been working on all spring," said senior defensive end Laton Dowling, who will make his fifth and final spring game appearance. "You don't really get to work on a lot of the little things like the fundamentals that the coaches like to work on, but it's fun for the players.

"You get to go out there and have some fun with the fans and play out there with the fans."

But while Snyder said the coaches will use the scrimmage to replicate regular-season Saturday routines as closely as possible, from pregame meals to meetings to warm-ups, veteran players aren't kidding themselves.

"Our true spring game was last Saturday with the real scrimmage of the guys," senior defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "This Saturday is definitely for the fans.

"Coach Snyder's not going to show anything — we're not going to reveal our whole playbook. So it's just kind of a show thing, something to have fun with."

Though some players may feel pressure to perform for the fans, last Saturday's scrimmage tested their mettle in a different way.

"All the plays are in," Mueller said. "It's a huge mental test to see how well you can memorize all the plays and apply them to an actual simulation of a game, versus the spring game, where it's all just very basic calls — line up and play.

"There's not (any scheming). We're not trying to take out the quarterback, it's just kind of running around and getting the fans excited for the fall."

Senior center B.J. Finney agreed that the Wildcats won't betray any trade secrets today.

"It's just to get the new guys into the game atmosphere, the game tempo, run the basic plays, because we don't want to show anybody anything, so that's just what we do," he said.

For such established players as fourth-year starter Finney and Mueller, an all-Big 12 selection, the spring game may be more about tying up loose ends before heading into summer conditioning, but for those still battling for positions it's one more chance to make a good impression.

Take sophomore running backs Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones, who are competing with senior DeMarcus Robinson for the position held the past three years by John Hubert.

"I couldn't imagine not having a spring game," said Leverett, who missed last year's game with an injury. "It's fun to go out and say, 'Hey, this is how much I learned,' and just leave it all out on the field.

"To be realistic, we will have games in the fall, so let's have this spring game to practice how the games will be. It's my time to actually go out and play."

In keeping with the basic approach, Snyder said his goals for the game have more to do with fundamentals than specifics.

"It would be collective, across the board," he said. "It would be to be disciplined enough not to make foolish mistakes, whether it's assignment errors, turning the ball over or getting penalized — those types of things that take discipline and conscious effort to do things right.

"That would be number one. The rest of it, to stay healthy and play really hard."

Spring game notes

* Former K-State All-Americans Darren Sproles of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals' Terence Newman, a Salina native, will act as honorary coaches for today's game.

* Snyder said Tuesday that odds are the game format will pit the No. 1 offense against No. 2 defense and vice versa with the quarterbacks — at least returning starter Jake Waters — calling their own plays.

* Tickets for the game are $5 with children under age 2 admitted free, though season ticket holders who renewed before the March 28 early bird deadline should have received two complimentary spring game tickets in the mail.

* Gates to the stadium will open at 11:30 a.m. and fans can pick up 2014 football posters at the open gates (M, P,R and V on the east side and B and D on the west). Team captains for 2014 will be announced, along with a special presentation, at 1 p.m.

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