Good fundamentals keep K-State rolling
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder built his Kansas State football program twice on the same core values.
Charity is not one of them.
"I think there's a variety of different things that you would like to hang your hat on, and it goes back to that old thing about not beating yourself," said Snyder, whose Wildcats take a 4-0 record — 1-0 in the Big 12 — and No. 7 national ranking into Saturday's 11 a.m. Sunflower Showdown against Kansas at Snyder Family Stadium. "It's a true element of the game for anybody, that you just can't afford penalties and turnovers and missed assignments.
"All those things really become significant in the long run in terms of how successful you happen to be."
Using the more common measuring sticks, the Wildcats are middle-of-the-pack at best. They rank 48th nationally and seventh in the Big 12 in total offense, 45th and fifth in defense.
But nobody in the nation has been less penalized than K-State, which has drawn a mere eight flags for 66 yards through its first four games. Throw in the Wildcats' No. 18 ranking with a plus-5 turnover margin, the top punt return team in the Bowl Subdivision and the sixth-rated kickoff return team, and the picture becomes clearer.
Quarterback Collin Klein, when asked Tuesday about the 2.0 per-game penalty average, would have made Snyder proud.
"It's two per game too many," he said with a laugh.
Then he grew serious.
"It's a level of discipline, it's a level of focus that has to permeate everybody," Klein said. "Anybody can bust it at any point in time and create a penalty — five yards, whatever the offense would be.
"It's just a lot of little things. Focus on the little things."
It didn't take first-year Kansas coach Charlie Weis long to identify what makes the Wildcats tick.
"I think that this is a team that really plays sound fundamentally on both sides of the football and lives off your mistakes," he said. "And if you make mistakes, they pounce on you.
"They don't turn the ball over much or take too many penalties. They're just a sound, fundamental team."
Since Snyder's 2009 return from a three-year retirement, the Wildcats have continued to improve on the little things that Snyder knows from experience bring big results. But they didn't get there by taking their eye off the ball.
"We've led the conference in the least number of penalties and I think turnovers last year we were right at the top and we're there again this year," he said. "So we are making improvements, but that's up to this point in time.
"You still have to do it. Saturday's a whole new ballgame."
Keep it up and who knows what the ceiling is for a team that was picked sixth in the league but served notice two weeks ago by knocking off then-No. 6 Oklahoma on the road.
"There might be a game or two where you turn the ball over and end up winning the ballgame for some other reason," he said. "But by and large, if you don't get penalized, you don't turn the ball over, then your chances to be successful are elevated a great deal."