K-State talks West Virginia

Sep, 8, 2018; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; during the game between the K-State Wildcats and Mississippi State Bulldogs at Snyder Family Stadium ©Kelly Ross

MANHATTAN, Kan. (K-State athletics) K-STATE FOOTBALL WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
BILL SNYDER, K-STATE HEAD COACH

On Skylar Thompson’s experience playing on the road...
“Guys have good days and sometimes not so good days. I think he is a pretty poised young guy. Not necessarily concerned about getting rattled in an unfamiliar environment, which it is and was. He is a young guy that can kind of stay within the boundaries that you provide for him and he does it pretty thoroughly. I think probably just his poise and his self-confidence are major.”

On Skylar Thompson’s progression entering West Virginia...
“He’s a young guy that needs to make improvement and is making improvement. He played better, but again it's early and I don’t get really judgmental too early in the season, but I think he has taken some steps forward. As soon as you say that, it’s the kiss of death sometimes, but I think he has grown as we have gone through the season. I would like to think he would continue to do so as I would like to think everyone would continue to do so in the program that’s highly significant for us.”

On benefits of having Andre Coleman on the field and Colin Klein in the coaches booth...
“Well, it’s just a matter to see if we can enhance the communication and the use of eyes to see certain things, just making sure that we have all bases covered and everyone is in the best position to do what they have to do. There are some things that have some detail to them that you can see from the sidelines that you can’t see from the box, and vice versa. Most people would say, ‘You’re up high and you can see everything,’ but that’s not totally true. Nevertheless, there are things that you can see better up there than you can on the sidelines. The important thing is the transmittal of information and that it be done in a timely fashion that doesn’t disrupt the decision-making process, because there is a lot that goes on – you’ve got 22 guys out there so the dynamics of that is endless. It is important that you have eyes on virtually everything, so it is important that you put your people in positions where they can get their eyes where they need to be and then they have to be able to transmit the information in a timely fashion, as I indicated, so the information can get processed and decisions can be made based on that. That was the means for the purpose behind a number of changes that were made and just the dynamics of how we positioned ourselves and who’s paying attention to what and the communication process. Just trying to make it better.”

On communication tweaks through three weeks…
“Well, on both sides, when we say tweaks, it’s not that the coaches were doing necessarily anything wrong; it’s the matter of trying to get everyone coordinated in the best possible position to be able to do what they have to do and see what they have to see, as I indicated a minute ago, and being able to bring it all together in a timely fashion.”

On connection between sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson and junior wide receiver Dalton Schoen…
“Well, I thought on three occasions this past week, one with Alex (Delton) and two with Skylar (Thompson), I thought were significant. A – we caught the ball; we haven’t always done that. B – I thought the throws were excellent throws in both cases. When you’re throwing the ball 50 yards down the field, that’s a harder throw than what people want to imagine. How much air you put underneath it or the amount of elevation you put on the ball are really significant in those throws, and they are learning that process quite well, and they have developed a good coordination with not just one receiver but several receivers in our program to be able to execute those things. Both of them have done well.”

On West Virginia quarterback Will Grier’s progression...
“He was pretty good to begin with, but you see him getting better, and that’s what this game is all about. I see the improvement in so many different ways. Most people, I think, see it the same way. He manages the process and the game as well as most any. He understands the offense extremely well, he knows what to be in and what not to be in. He throws the ball extremely well, all types of balls well. He’s the guy that you see him run around quite a bit back there. He did against us last year and got a touchdown that made the difference in the ballgame. He is an excellent scrambler, I guess is what I am saying, and he has the athletic ability to really make people miss. If you cut up all of the scrambles that he has made, it is amazing how he has been able to avoid tackles from some very fine athletes. He’d be a great dodgeball player. He makes people miss quite well and that has freed him up quite well. He got one (two weeks ago), they played Youngstown State, just scrambling and finding an open area and throwing it. Like I said, he got one against us and got in the endzone for the same reason, we should have had him tackled and we didn’t. He’s a good player.”

On his own preference of coaching on the field or in the press box while the offensive coordinator at Iowa…
“I can’t tell you that I can remember all of that. Hayden (Fry) probably would tell me I was in the box, so I was in the (press) box, that’s what I did. But I liked being in the box because of being able to envision as much as I could. It’s been so long since I have been up there, I can’t tell you that I have a real good feel for it. Hopefully I did back then. But based on what I was doing, I preferred being up there.”

On what he saw from junior linebacker Justin Hughes last week…
“Justin’s situation has just been one of being able to process information and play by the guidelines. And by that, I mean do what you are supposed to do. His effort is good, he can run around pretty well, he’s not afraid to hit you. But I have never been certain exactly where that is going to take place, whether he is in the right place or not. He has become much more conscientious of what his shortcomings have been, and he has grown and improved and has become a much better player and deserved more playing time, he got it.”

On shutting out West Virginia in the second half last year...
“Well I wouldn’t say it is ancient history, and I think there is some significance to it. At least, as you relate information to your players. I don’t want to wait until the second half to move in that direction. The first half counts, they put that on the scoreboard too. So, we better play as well defensively in the first half. I think it is significant though because it proves that we were able to do exactly that. All those ballgames have been so close. They said it the other day, we’ve had a five-point game, a one-point game, a one-point game and a six-point game in the last four years. Just like they did, they had their chance to win all of them and we had our chance to win all of them. Because you play four close ones the fifth will, or has to be close as well. Nothing is dependent upon what took place last year.”

On Alex Barnes’ impact in the passing game...
“We’ve said it a number of times, he has become a very conscientious player and conscientious of all of the responsibilities that he has. It’s easy to get locked into running the football and that is all you love to do and the rest of it goes for not, but running backs have to be able to pass protect, sometimes have to be able to run block and certainly they have to be involved in the passing game as receivers. You have to be able to run routes and catch the ball, and certainly he takes a great deal of pride in each of those. I am quite certain running the ball is the most significant thing for him, but he is a team-orientated young guy and he will do everything he can to be the best he can at those other areas running backs have to play, and he has done a nice job of it.”

On putting pressure on West Virginia quarterback Will Grier this week..
“Well, that’s not always the easiest thing in the world. He can go north and south, but when you do that, he’s going east and west. We don’t have anyone that can catch him from any of our up-front guys. It is a mixed bag, so to speak. It is a tough situation to be in. That, coupled with the fact that we have not been a good four man pass rush team early, it is not as good as I would like for it to be. Now, that’s defined more so in sacks, which we have a limited number of sacks. But there are some pressures that we have been able to put. Wyatt Hubert got another tipped pass last week, something like that, where he got good pressure, but it doesn’t count as a sack. He got one a week before where he (Hubert) got an interception, that doesn’t show up as a sack. So, I think we pressured the quarterback a little bit more than statistics might indicate.”

On the significance of the passing game last weekend…
“It’s not about putting it on tape for them (Big 12 opponents) because we are any good at it, but because they didn’t see it. The significance lies in the fact that it allowed a number of people to gain the confidence in their capacity to be able to throw and catch the ball and get open and pass protect and all that goes along with it, which I think helps in the confidence of the people in our program and consequently that does promote all the sensitivity or the feeling that you could regain balance in what you do. As you bring that up, and as I have said all the time, to have the capacity to have balance is one thing, but actually games don’t always play out that way. Defensively, somebody is going to take away something. Most people will say, ‘Stop the run before you do anything,’ which will give you a better opportunity to throw the football and your throwing stats will consequently be significant and you might utilize the throwing game more. For someone who is dedicated to take away the pass, then they are going to leave themselves somewhat vulnerable to the run. You have to be smart enough and wise enough to run the ball, so the numbers do not always indicate that there is a balance, but it is having the capacity to have the balance that you would like. I mentioned earlier, I don’t know when it was, but there was several years back, we were some seven-yard difference between our total pass offense and our total run offense. When I was at the University of Iowa, we had three years in succession where the difference was less than 50 yards between rush and pass. That’s a good place to be, I think, and very hard to achieve.”

DALTON SCHOEN, JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER

On his connection with quarterback Skylar Thompson…
“I think ever since he’s gotten here we’ve had a good connection. We came up together on scout team and then now, over the past couple of years, we’ve accumulated a lot of reps together. We spent a lot of time together watching film and what we like against certain defenses and what we’re going to do against certain coverages. I think all that communication, being on the same page, has really helped our connection.”

On how much they needed the performance on Saturday for confidence…
“I think it was really important to just go out there and correct the mistakes we made against Mississippi State and just kind of get that confidence boost and get that momentum built up. It showed that we can perform well, and we can execute like we need to. Going into Big 12 play, it was huge.”

On K-State settling in on Skylar Thompson at quarterback…
“I think it’s definitely helped for his rhythm and everything like that. It’s definitely a tough position to be in, a position battle like that. You can kind of regulate in a practice situation, but in a game, you can’t really regulate or even split, so it’s really hard for those guys to get the rhythm back there. So, I think with Skylar getting all those reps, it definitely helps his rhythm, his confidence, his ability to lead.”

On starting Big 12 play on the road…
“It’s definitely interesting, first road game of the year. We’ve got a decent amount of experience, so it shouldn’t be too big for most guys. But like you said, it’s a great challenge because West Virginia’s a great team, ranked top 15 or something like that. I’ve never been there myself, but I’ve heard it’s quite the hostile environment. It’s definitely going to be a big test for us, but it’s a great challenge for this team.”

On what he remembers most about Skylar in the game last year at Oklahoma State…
“I think that was kind of his big coming-out party. He really unleashed what he could do. We threw the ball all over the place that game, which was really good for him. I think that’s kind of his first big game. I know he played a little bit here and there before that, but that was definitely a big one to go into Stillwater and beat a top-10 team like that. I think that was huge for him, and I look forward to seeing him do that same thing.”

On Skylar Thompson being made for big games…
“I think he’s the kind of guy who definitely doesn’t fold under pressure. I think it makes him better. He’s a guy who prepares a lot. He puts a lot of time in the film room and doing everything he does on the practice field. I think that just makes him ready for those big moments. So, when they come, he’s not shy of them.”

On Collin Klein moving to the press box and Andre Coleman going to the field…
“It was kind of new because Coach Coleman was down on the sideline. But I guess it was kind of more of what we were used to the past couple of years. I think it might be more comfortable for them. It’s definitely nice getting to talk to him (Coleman) face to face, especially for me being a receiver getting to talk to your position coach versus having to communicate through the phones or the headset.”

On gaining momentum going from non-conference to Big 12 play…
“They’re definitely different. It was definitely big for momentum moving forward. At the end of the day, you just have to go out a prepare for each and every team. Big 12 is definitely different too though, because there’s carry over from last year. You kind of have an idea of what people are going to do. At the end of the day, it’s the Big 12, so you have to bring it every week. It was definitely big to get that win last weekend and hopefully carry that over.”

DALTON RISNER, SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

On gaining confidence in the passing game after last week...
“I think that it was really good for our team. It gave a lot of confidence to our wide receiving corps and gave a lot of confidence to our quarterbacks and that’s really big. You guys know how Kansas State football is, we like to run the ball, everyone knows that. Teams like to bring their safeties down and play the run on us, everyone knows that, you guys watch that every Saturday. One thing we maybe might not have had as much confidence in is our ability to throw that ball, one-on-one with our wide receivers and beat the DBs on the other team, and that’s what we did last Saturday. That was really big for our team, and going into Big 12 against a really good West Virginia team, it’s good for us to realize that if they are bringing guys down, crowding that box, we can air it out, we can do that. Sometimes, believe it or not, 50 percent of the time that’s a mentality deal. If those wide receivers are running their routes believing they’re going to catch it, then good things will happen.”

On his message as a captain with the team this week…
“The message to the team this week is, ‘Hey guys, we are a good football team.’ These first few weeks have been tough. Like I told you guys a million times, we worked so hard this summer, so hard in the winter, we worked so hard during camp. We didn’t start the season like we wanted to, but guess what, we kept continuing to work. UTSA is a football team that hung in the game with Baylor the whole game, within seven or 10 points the whole game before losing by 17. We could have easily gone into that game, off of a rough start against South Dakota, not a pretty performance against Mississippi State, and could’ve easily said we’re not a good football team and we’re going to roll over and see what happens and could have easily lost that game, or it could have easily been close . I think the fact that we went in there, played such a good game – definitely still mistakes, but played such a good game was great. I think the message to the team is, ‘Hey, we’re capable of doing it, we’re capable of being a good football team. We’re not there yet, we’ve got plenty of things to work on. Yeah, West Virginia’s a good team, yeah these other Big 12 football teams are good, but we’re also good.’ We’ve got to continue to have that confidence in ourselves and continue working.”

JOE DAVIES, JUNIOR DEFENSIVE TACKLE

On the West Virginia offense…
“If anything, we think they’ve improved since last season. Will Grier has gotten a lot better and we just want to make sure he doesn’t try to scramble all over us again like he did last year. Coming in, we’re going to expect another dogfight because these past two games they’ve been pretty close, within a score. So, we’re just going to fight for all four quarters and finish.”

On facing Will Grier last year and how it prepares for this year…
“Well, it prepares us to become more aware in our pass rush; making sure we’re aware of where he’s at at all times because you know he’s got great awareness on where we’re at. So, we have to have the same amount of awareness as to where he’s going to be. We’ll make sure we’re prepared for that.”

On confidence level since being short-handed this week…
“No. We trust the guys that are next man up. They prepared just as much as the starters have. They’re here with us for a reason, and Coach put them in that spot for a reason. We just have to take advantage of it.”

AJ PARKER, SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE BACK

On creating more turnovers as Big 12 play opens...
“We’ve always needed to create turnovers – turnovers change the momentum of the game and really stop drives. That’s something we reinforce in practice; if you drop a pick, that’s push-ups that you’ve got to give us. We’re trying to get turnovers and affect the game.”

On the challenge of facing West Virginia’s offense and Will Grier’s improvement…
“As people age, they get better, so I’m sure he’s gotten better. That’s a game that the defense, the secondary is excited for the challenge, excited to get out and show what we can do and how we can play in the Big 12.”

On the focus of the defense this week...
“Staying in coverage on the scramble, playing our assignments, doing what we’re supposed to do and execute well.”

WYATT HUBERT, REDSHIRT FRESHMAN DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

On defending a quarterback like West Virginia’s Will Grier...
“Will Grier is definitely a great quarterback, great arm, great pocket passer. We just can’t forget that he can hurt us with his feet also. We didn’t play that great last year. That’s something we can’t forget, something we can’t have leave our mind. We’ve really got to stop the run and affect the quarterback. They’re returning a veteran offensive line, so that’s going to be a challenge for sure. We’ve got to really get in his face and force him to make bad throws, put pressure on him to help out the secondary.”

On the defensive line’s emphasis this week...
“If we get the opportunity to get a sack or pressure, we really have to take advantage of that. He has great pocket awareness, he has great feet. Once we get close to Will, that’s something we’ve really got to take advantage of, get that sack because of his skills and pocket awareness.”

On the importance of getting pressure on the quarterback...
“In week two and three, we definitely struggled with quarterback run and the quarterback draw. I think we’ve had great pressure on the quarterback, especially on third downs. Maybe the third-down conversion rate isn’t the best, but we’ve been getting in the quarterback’s face, and we’ve been causing disruption and bad throws. We’ve just have to carry that over into week four against West Virginia, and if we can get in Will Grier’s face, it’s a different ballgame.”