Bill Snyder says Oregon may be biggest challenge K-State has faced

Kasas State head coach Bill Snyder pauses before responding reporter's question. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Kasas State head coach Bill Snyder pauses before responding reporter's question. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Posted by Isaac Rosenthal on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 9:23 am.

PHOENIX—The question was put to Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder rather bluntly: “Is Oregon the best collective team that you feel this team will face this season?”

The Oklahoma Sooners — ranked sixth when the Wildcats went into Norman and escaped with a 24-19 win — might object to that line of reasoning, but Snyder acknowledged there may be some truth to it.

“I wouldn’t say that was inaccurate,” Snyder said. “They are a fast, offensive football team in two ways. One is the tempo and the other is the speed of the people that execute the offense, whether it’s linemen, receivers, backs, quarterback, etc. They have dangerous speed, so to speak.”

But the speed isn’t limited to Oregon’s offense. The Ducks speedy defensive backs have put themselves in positions to intercept more than a few passes (Oregon leads the nation in that department) and Oregon’s specialists have shown their speed too averaging 14.16 yards on punt returns, good enough for 10th in the nation.

“They’ve got some tremendous return people,” Snynder said. “Which embodies the other element of their team: speed, and they run well, good return guys. They’re
certainly a threat to us.”

Snyder praised redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota on his ability to minimize mistakes and manage the game. Mariota has thrown for 30 touchdowns this year quarterbacking a team considered to be more of a rushing team and has been as accurate as just about anybody in the country with a completion percentage of 69.9. That completion percentage puts Mariota on pace to set an NCAA record for a freshman, about half a percentage point better than the previous record.

I think as much as anything,” Snyder said. “The fact that for a very young person on the field playing in some very highly competitive environments, he seems to be a very, very poised young guy … I think his game management is beyond his years.”

Of course, Snyder knows a thing or two about good quarterbacks. The Wildcats own Collin Klein finished with 37 total touchdowns this year including 22 rushing scores and finished third in the Heisman voting. And while that may have put undue pressure on a less experienced quarterback, Snyder said Klein handled the attention with maturity and professionalism.

“I simply told Collin,” Snyder said. “I said, ‘Collin, normally I might have someone in, we’d have a long dissertation about how to deal with this, what it means, what it means to you, what it means to your program, your teammates, what’s the best way to deal with it. I said, I have so much confidence in you that all I can tell you is the best thing you can do is just continue to be Collin.’”