RCT: Ok, lets get started by asking how K-State fans feel about the season to this point. Looking at the schedule, K-State appears streaky. The season opens with a loss then two wins in non-con games. At the start of conference play, K-State lost three in a row and then won four in a row until Saturday's loss against Oklahoma. Rational beings can see the reason for the losses and win but streaks like that are tough on a fanbase, how has it been handled by the fans?
Morse: Oh, we're all up in arms -- just not really about the results. Most fans expected this season to be about a 7-5 campaign, and if the Cats handle Kansas on Saturday that's exactly what they'll get. The real beef is with how it is K-State's come to be 6-5 in the first place, because there's an alternate universe not too far removed from this one where the team is easily 9-2 right now.
RCT: 9-2? Anything specific games in that record or just with a more focused approach from the team and coaching staff? I say "focused" because I know the two QB system has caused some issues with the team and fans.
Morse: The Wildcats should have won the North Dakota State and Oklahoma State games, flat out. And had the coaching staff not walked into Austin somehow completely oblivious to the fact that Texas had been giving up a billion yards on the ground, they'd have won that one too. In each case, it was baffling decisions -- mostly involving a failure to put the right guys in the right position to succeed -- on the part of the coaching staff that led to defeat.
That's the way most of us see it, anyway.
RCT: That sounds so odd coming from a team that is coached by Bill Snyder. I questioned the decision to bring him back and continued to question it even after 2010 and 2011 because of the crazy turnover margins from those years. Of course you had a great team last year, so the decision has obviously worked out. Back to this year's team, the team stumbled a little against TCU and lost to OU this last weekend. Are injuries starting to make the Cats vulnerable?
Morse: It's hard to argue that the biggest problem on Saturday wasn't the absence of Ty Zimmerman. Oklahoma (and TCU the week before, after Zimmerman left the game) targeted his replacement, Dylan Shellenberg, with impunity and it worked. Zimmerman's really the only injury of note, though. The larger problem is that with the lack of speed on this defense, losing the team captain and traffic cop is a critical issue.
RCT: To be honest I like the sound of that. The one thing Kansas has done halfway successfully on offense this year is run the ball, so am I being foolish in hoping the Jayhawks can do it Saturday? The passing game for the Jayhawks has been so unproductive this year that I have to believe we will see Cozart start and hopefully be able to get some yards by forcing K-State to choose whether to stop Sims or Cozart. How does the loss of Zimmerman fit into that?
Morse: It doesn't help. However, one issue against the Sooners was that Knight -- who supposedly wasn't a big threat in the air -- started hitting passes early, and that prevented the Cats from selling out the run. If Kansas just tries to run run run, it's probably not going to work. If, on the other hand, the KU passing game is showing signs of life, it could be a long day for the K-State defense.
RCT: Well that takes the air out of my balloons a little, the passing game hasn't shown signs of life all year. First time for everything?
I'll go ahead and ask about the other side of the ball quickly, is team #SAMS dead? I know the answer is no but he hardly got on the field against Oklahoma. What do you think the reasoning is behind that?
Morse: It was probably very specific to Saturday's game. With the cold and the wind, and with Oklahoma obviously lining up to stop the running game and just letting Waters throw the ball all over the place, I think the staff made the decision that there just wasn't any point in putting Sams in there. When you've got one guy who's dropping bombs all over the field and the run game just isn't going anywhere, it's kind of silly to throw your running quarterback out there in a stiff wind when his passing accuracy's problematic as it is.
RCT: That's interesting to me, seems counterintuitive. Watching the game, Waters did throw some really nice passes but the "run game just isn't going anywhere" sounds like BS to me. I'm not disagreeing with you but when Sams has 3 carries, it's tough to say it won't work. That's the kind of thing we heard the first 6 or 7 games about the run game for Kansas, too. Then all of the sudden, feeding Sims and having another threat on the field creates a productive ground game.
Morse: Well, to clarify, Sams isn't the only guy on the team who carries the football. Oklahoma made John Hubert irrelevant, which led to Waters airing it out.
RCT: About time to wrap this up, I've got two more questions for you.
1) One of my favorite things about watching a K-State basketball game is hearing the crowd boo anytime a referee makes a call that does not go for the Wildcats. These aren't even 50/50 calls, even obvious calls get booed in close games. Football's not as bad but it's always close to there. Why?
Morse: Because they're all out to get us, man! And, well, you probably notice it more because about half of that is against KU, and KU basketball has apparently never committed a foul in its storied history. Also, I don't think Oklahoma's ever been called for holding. I may need to look that up, though.
Being serious now, y'all do it too. Everyone does it. It's fandom. I probably spend a little too much time textually eye-rolling people who complain about phantom penalties and fouls; then again, I'm one of those "let ‘em play" guys who doesn't appreciate ticky-tack calls no matter who they're being called on (or not called on).
2) With how down KU has been and is in football, do you guys even care about the game or is it just another weekend?
Morse: Oh, we care. We expect it to be a blowout, but we care. I think the fanbase gets more "up" for our meetings in basketball, and the reasons there are probably pretty obvious. Being really honest, if there is in fact any dismissal of KU as a football rival, it's at least partially fueled by KU fans' own behavior. Everyone jokes about how KU fans don't care until basketball starts up. I know that's not altogether true; you have a lot of football fans who care a great deal. But the stereotype also isn't exactly unjustified, and for a lot of K-State fans that does tend to make them shrug their shoulders and worry more about Texas or Iowa State.
I'll say this: I really wish KU would get its house in order in football. I really do. I play up the hated rival thing, but the reality is that I rooted for KU in the Orange Bowl and I don't actually think it's funny when KU goes out and loses non-conference games to punching bags. There would be nothing better for both schools and for the state of Kansas as a whole for them both to be good at everything. I mean, I think we'd all agree that KU continuing to consistently beat Frank Martin is more of an accomplishment than K-State clowning Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, right? The last time we had a truly epic meeting between the two teams in anything was March of 1988. I look at this year's Iron Bowl and just get an immense case of the sads.
Because I want KU and K-State to have that much on the line when they play. Win or lose.