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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: K-State could be tested by Bison

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  • Kansas State kicks off the 2013 football season on Friday at Snyder Family Stadium against North Dakota State. Anyone who thinks this is going to be a typically easy opener for the Wildcats had better get in line for another think. North Dakota State has won the Football College Subdivision national championship the last two years. In addition, the Bison were voted number-one in the Sporting News' preseason FCS poll. The Bison had a 14-1 record last season and return 18 starters from their national championship team.  Senior QB Brock Jensen was voted MVP in the FCS championship playoffs last year. He passed for 2,331 yards and 17 touchdowns during a sensational season. North Dakota State is bringing a tough, talented, experienced and well-coached football team to Manhattan. Coach Bill Snyder will do everything in his power to convince his players that they are in for a rugged challenge, but sometimes it's hard to persuade young men that they'll need to be at their best.  There are two main points of interest for K-Staters as another season begins:  The most talked about position during the offseason has been quarterback, with JUCO transfer Jake Waters and Daniel Sams battling for starting status.  And just recently, controversy has emerged concerning K-State's offensive left tackle, Cornelius Lucas. Lucas was missing during K-State's photo day, which was open to the public.  The Wildcats' coaching staff has been noncommittal about Lucas, leading K-State fans to believe there is nothing seriously amiss.  In the battle for quarterback, one factor stands out:  Waters has a huge edge in experience under game conditions – particularly in the passing game.  Waters put up great passing numbers in the JUCO ranks, while Sams has virtually no passing attempts in tight-game situations.  But Sams is a better athlete and superior runner.   Snyder is a one-quarterback coach.  When either Waters or Sams is named the starter, chances are the loser of the battle will not see much playing time.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.  Kansas State's $75 million stadium renovation is complete in time for the season opener and it's big-time in every respect.  Snyder will be starting his 22nd season as the Wildcats' head coach and has become a legend in his own time.  K-State will have an explosive and powerful offense with the offensive line returning intact.  But often the offenses on college football teams can sputter in the first game or two – that won't do against North Dakota State.  The defense will be made up primarily of inexperienced youngsters, but Snyder has talent waiting in the wings.If K-State can win decisively against the Bison, it will be a great beginning to the season and a warning to Big 12 foes.  If the Wildcats just win, decisively or not, it will still be a splendid start for what promises to be another exciting and entertaining football team.  Kansas doesn't open their season until Sept. 7 against a South Dakota team that won't pose much of a challenge.  KU football coach Charlie Weis has been fairly quiet about his 2013 ball club.  He might have learned that from Snyder, too.  One startling announcement is that walk-on place kicker Matthew Wyman might win the kicking job.  “He has a legitimate chance of being named the field-goal kicker,” Weis said. “He came in here a distant thought on the depth chart, and he's a candidate to be the field kicker because he's kicked so well.  He's got good pop. He's got good range.  He has no problem making it from 50 yards and he's been very consistent.”  Weis said he is pleased that the Jayhawks came through fall camp in remarkably good shape, without major injuries.  “We have some bumps and bruises, but it looks as though we won't have anyone that's not ready to go for the opener,” he said. “I can't ask for much more because we beat the hell out of 'em pretty good.”  KU is improved.  But how much in comparison to Big 12 teams that will be using numerous fifth-year seniors. Weis has just two classes to throw against five. -Mac Stevenson is a longtime columnist on collegiate and professional sports in Eastern Kansas.

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