K-State's 48-27 win over Louisiana-Lafayette wasn't as close as it looked. The Wildcats used two big plays on special teams early in the second half to stretch its lead to 34-3 over the Ragin' Cajuns. It wasn't smooth sailing down the stretch, but ULL never seriously threatened K-State after that.
Once again, I've rewatched and charted K-State's game for Bill Connelly's charting project. This is a look at what the advanced numbers reveal about this matchup.
The Quarterback Issue: I don't want to prolong this debate any more than necessary. Anyone who can't admit that both Jake Waters and Daniel Sams have shown that they're capable of a lot of good things, and a few bad things, too, isn't worth arguing with.
An interesting way to look at a team's offensive effectiveness is by comparing Actual Points Scored with Expected Points* on a drive-by-drive basis. So what I did was look at where each drive started, who the quarterback was on that drive, and how many points were scored as a result of that drive. Further, Expected Points is a play-by-play stat, so the yardage gained or lost on each play can be factored in. This enabled me to divvy up Expected Points on the few drives this year where Waters and Sams have split time.
*I'm using the phrase Expected Points in place of the proper EqPts that Bill Connelly uses, just for some initial clarity in this post. EqPts/Expected Points are based on the idea that each yard line on the field is worth a certain point value, based on how likely a team is to score from that point on the field.
Anyway, based on Actual Points vs. Expected points, Jake Waters is +31.79 in 22 drives this season. Daniel Sams is +6.12. Note that those totals are adjusted for drives where the two quarterbacks split time, such as the NDSU drive when Sams scored on a 17-yard run and the late drive against ULL where Waters took over on third-and-long. As such, Waters is +1.445 ActualPtsvs.ExpectedPts per drive. Sams is +3.06 ActualPtsvs.ExpectedPts per drive.
I also looked at both quarterbacks on a straight play-by-play basis. When you gain yards, you gain EqPts, and the opposite happens when you lose yards. On a play-by-play basis, Waters has been worth 51.52 points on 22 drives and 114 plays this year. That's 2.34 points per drive, and 0.452 points per play. Meanwhile, Sams has been worth 7.81 points total, which is 3.91 points per drive for his two drives, and 0.601 points per play in 13 plays.
These are noticeable differences, but the sample size for both is way too small at this point. There's a lot more to this, and we'll get to some of it in this post. But at this point, I don't see any reason why both quarterbacks can't contribute. A lot of people are stuck with the mindset that having two quarterbacks simply doesn't work. That may be true if the coaches don't manage expectations appropriately. If they give either quarterback the impression that he is the man, and then he gets pulled or the other quarterback is getting a lot of snaps, that gets a lot harder to believe. But if both quarterbacks realize that they will be used in situations where we can exploit matchup advantages, a quarterback rotation can work.
The Waters Effect and The Sams Effect: Earlier this week, I was asked to compare John Hubert's rushing when Daniel Sams was the quarterback to Hubert's stats with Waters in the game. I snarkily replied that I would be sure to do so, and include Tyler Lockett's reception stats alongside it. Instead of limiting it to Hubert, I'll include all running backs who have played.
RBs with Sams: 3 carries, 12 yards, 4.0 yards/carry
RBs with Waters: 22 carries, 61 yards, 2.77 yards/carry
Tyler Lockett with Waters: 9 targets, 8 receptions, 111 yards, 13.9 yards/reception, 12.3 yards/target
Tramaine Thompson with Waters: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 46 yards, 23.0 yards/reception, 11.5 yards/target
Sams hasn't even thrown a pass to either Lockett or Thompson yet.
Now, I'm not saying that 4.0 yards per carry versus 2.77 yards per carry is insignificant. One will get you a first down in three plays. The other won't. But this is a tiny, tiny sample size. Three carries for 12 yards does not convince me that Sams has a significant effect on the running game. And when our two wide receivers average 12.3 yards and 11.5 yards each time Waters throws the ball their direction, I tend to conclude The Waters Effect is much stronger than The Sams Effect.
A few positive signs in the running game: K-State averaged 4.0 yards per carry against Louisiana-Lafayette, a marked improvement over the North Dakota State debacle. And in the second half, it appeared that Bill Snyder and the offensive coaches decided to see how effective they could be by really committing to the run with Waters in the game. That drive started at K-State's 18 yard line with the Wildcats leading 41-24.
In six plays, K-State lined up with two tight ends on the field five times, and with a fullback on the field on four of those six plays. K-State picked up two first downs and faced a third-and-one from its own 43 yard line. Here's what happened next:
Watch Cody Whitehair on this play. He whiffs on his block, and ULL linebacker Justin Anderson nails Hubert for a three-yard loss. If Whitehair locks up Anderson, Hubert converts, and the drive continues.
Gronk is a badass: I didn't have GIFs made of any of them, but in rewatching the game, I noticed at least three or four instances of Glenn Gronkowski making the correct read and then executing his block with a little redass behind it. Keep an eye on him on running plays.
Watching UL makes you appreciate how varied our offense is: Out of 75 plays on offense, the Ragin' Cajuns lined up in a Pistol formation with two running backs and three wide receivers 29 times, and in a two-back, three-wide Shotgun set another seven times. Nearly half of their snaps came out of essentially the same look. K-State runs out of shotgun predominantly -- 43 out of 73 snaps -- but alternates from five-wide, empty sets to two-back, three-wide sets with no tight end, to one-back, three-wide sets with a tight end to ... you get the picture. Formational variety makes K-State difficult to prepare for.
ULL didn't adjust for Sams: By my count, Sams took 11 snaps against ULL. On the first drive where he scored early in the second quarter, he ran two quarterback draws, for seven yards and 13 yards, respectively. On both plays, K-State outnumbered ULL at the point of attack because the Ragin' Cajuns didn't make the obvious adjustment of bringing an eighth defender into the box to counter an obvious run situation.
On the first play, a seven-yard gain, K-State lined up with two tight ends and Gronkowski in the backfield, giving the Wildcats eight blockers at the point of attack. Louisiana-Lafayette lined up in its base 4-3 defense, with two safeties 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage. On the second play, Sams' 13-yard touchdown run, ULL showed lined up with three down lineman and a linebacker/rush end in a two-point stand on the strong side. K-State lined up in 11 personnel, giving them seven blockers against ULL's seven-man front.
In the fourth quarter, Sams led K-State on a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive. In six plays, and excluding the goal-line play, ULL put eight men in the box only once (and missed a tackle on a read-option play to John Hubert that gained 12 yards). On the second play of the drive, they lined up with only six in the box, against seven K-State blockers, and Sams ran for nine yards.
Apparently, at this point it dawned on ULL's coaches that Sams had taken nine snaps, and K-State had run the ball on seven of them. And passed successfully on only one of the other two, the quick-read to Zach Trujillo that we'll look at in a minute.
Sams took two snaps on the next drive. On the first play, K-State lined up with only six blockers and ULL walked an extra defender into the box. Robert Rose was nailed for a two-yard loss on on a read option.
K-State decided to get a little bigger for the next play, lining up with two tight ends and Gronkowski in the backfield. Louisiana-Lafayette didn't quite put an extra defender in the box, but take a look at the GIF below. You'll see that ULL's cornerback lined up over K-State's slot receiver walks down toward the line of scrimmage as the ball is snapped, anticipating another quarterback run. He gets it, and Sams turns back to the middle, right into Justin Anderson's waiting arms.
About that pass to Trujillo: It was a thing of beauty. It may also be something Bill Snyder stole from Chip Kelly. As I watch the play below, it looks like Sams has a run read and a pass read, similar to Michael Vick, as detailed in the article linked. Unlike Vick, K-State's run read is a quarterback draw. ULL's linebackers understandably bite hard, as they've seen that play a few times with Sams in the game already. When they step down and leave Trujillo alone in space, it's just an easy pitch-and-catch.
This could be a sign of things to come. As detailed in Bill Barnwell's article linked above, and this excellent piece from Smart Football's Chris Brown, modern offenses often give their quarterbacks both run and pass reads. These attacks put a lot of pressure on a defense. Be on the lookout for more of these types of plays from K-State as we move into Big 12 play.
Don't get too anxious, though, because we likely won't see anything new against Massachusetts this week. The Minutemen are a struggling team that K-State shouldn't have any trouble with. And with trips to Austin and Stillwater looming to open Big 12 play, Snyder isn't going to show anything he doesn't have to show.