Will Jones' first start at Kansas State was filled with mixed emotions.
On one hand, his big plays on special teams and defense led to two of K-State's four touchdowns against Arkansas State. But on the other, the Wildcats suffered a disappointing 35-31 loss in their Sept. 12 season opener.
Jones also was flagged for pass interference on a play that helped set up a Red Wolves score.
"It was exciting, but as a result, we've just got to get those," Jones, a redshirt freshman, said of the loss. "For myself and the team, emotions were flying in the first game and being excited to play, but at the end of the day we've got to execute business."
Coming off a bye week, the Wildcats will try to get back on track Saturday in their Big 12 opener at No. 3-ranked Oklahoma. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium in Norman.
For the most part, Jones took care of his business at nickel back against Arkansas State, picking off one pass and breaking up another. And his blocked punt on the game's first series led to a quick score and early lead for K-State.
The punt block and interception were the kinds of plays teammates already have come to expect from Jones in practice.
"I go against Will every day in practice, so he's one of the few guys that are just as fast, if not faster than myself," said sophomore wideout and return man Phillip Brooks, who was on the receiving end of a 17-yard Skylar Thompson touchdown pass after the blocked punt. "He definitely brings speed and playmaking ability, as you can see with the interception last game."
Jones, a 5-foot-9, 183-pounder from Mansfield, Texas, saw limited action in four games last year, allowing him to preserve his redshirt season. But he quickly emerged as the frontrunner at nickel during fall camp.
"(He) redshirted a year ago and we expected to have a big year out of him and he's producing," defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman said of Jones back in August, before Jones had won the job.
Jones chalked up his big plays against Arkansas State to preparation and attention to detail.
"We practice things (and) we watch film," he said. "So it's like, when you make those plays, you can only just thank your coaches and your teammates for preparing you for the moments like that, because you knew it was going to happen.
"You practice for it all week, so when it happens it's just so exciting, because you were able to trust it and execute."
But senior middle linebacker Justin Hughes suggested that Jones had a little to do with it as well.
"Will Jones is smart, athletic, fast, quick, and he knows football," Hughes said. "He has great instincts and knows where the ball is going to be before it even gets there.
"As you can see, he caught an interception last week and didn't even move, so he's a smart player. Me and him talk a lot because he plays nickel. We just talk ball. I know he loves ball just by the way I talk to him, and I love talking ball, so me and him talk a lot."
Perhaps Jones' biggest weapon is his raw speed. Thompson said it would come down to a footrace between Jones and wide receiver Joshua Youngblood for fastest player on the team.
Jones, who gave his 40-yard dash time as 4.3 seconds — well, actually more like 4.39 — picked himself.
"I'm going to have to take that," he said with a smile. "I'm the fastest."
And that is what he hopes to continue providing for the Wildcats moving forward.
"A lot of speed and explosive plays," he said. "I'm really just trying to be out there, make the best of it and the most of all the opportunities and just put the team in a good position to be successful."