Kansas State defeated Charlotte 55-7 on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
Three lingering thoughts from the game:
1. There is no reason to be concerned about K-State’s running game.
Turns out, there was no need to worry about Alex Barnes rushing for 29 yards and the Wildcats moving the football primarily through the air in the season-opener. K-State did everything it wanted on the ground against Charlotte, rushing for 304 yards and five touchdowns.
Barnes looked like his normal self, delivering 99 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. At one point, he hurdled a defender. Jesse Ertz meandered through Charlotte’s defense for 76 yards and a score. Dalvin Warmack and Winston Dimel both found the end zone. And Mike McCoy leveled a would-be tackler on his touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“It was a statement thing for us,” Barnes said. “We wanted to get back to pounding the rock, and that’s what we did.”
K-State has a talented running attack and lots of depth at running back (even with Justin Silmon watching the first two games from the sideline). The Wildcats remain one of the nation’s best running teams. One down week, against a defense geared entirely around stopping the run, did nothing to change that.
2. Some K-State reserves look like they deserve increased playing time.
One of the perks of scoring 55 points in each of your first two games is that you can get your backups onto the field. We’ve seen a lot from K-State’s reserves so far, and many of them have played well. Perhaps well enough to warrant increased playing time.
Elijah Sullivan has looked good at linebacker. Eli Walker has looked great at safety, and he made one ferocious tackle on Saturday. Dalton Schoen had another strong game at receiver, grabbing four passes for 61 yards. McCoy and Warmack have made some noise in the backfield. And A.J. Parker had a heck of a game filling in for Duke Shelley at corner.
K-State coach Bill Snyder had high praise for Walker on Saturday.
“I just like the way he plays,” Snyder said. “He doesn’t hesitate. He will get up and hit you. He would be equally as comfortable as a linebacker as he would as a free safety, and I just like the way he is coming along. He is doing a nice job.”
Snyder also complimented Parker, who had three tackles and two pass breakups.
“I have been impressed with A.J. in a lot of different ways,” Snyder said. “He caught my eye first on special teams, then we moved him up the ranks on defense. He practices well. He has great instincts, as well. He made a couple breakups today that normally you don’t see guys do.”
It will be fascinating to see if Sullivan and/or Walker can move up the depth chart at some point this season. They both have the talent. It may be a question of opportunity.
3. It’s time to see what K-State can do against a real opponent.
No offense to Central Arkansas and Charlotte, but the warm-up games are over. K-State’s next 10 games are all against power-conference teams. Up first is a trip to Nashville, where the Wildcats will face Vanderbilt. The Commodores are coming off victories over Middle Tennessee State (28-6) and Alabama A&M (42-0).
K-State opened as a 3.5-point favorite (surprised that number isn’t a little higher) and will be expected to win. But road games against SEC teams are never easy. It will definitely be more of a challenge than K-State’s first two games.
A quick scouting report on Vandy: quarterback Kyle Shurmur is completing 76.1 percent of his passes while averaging 10.83 yards per attempt. He has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Ralph Webb is the team’s leading rusher, but he is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry. Four different receivers (Trent Sherfield, Ralph Webb, Kalija Lipscomb, Jared Pinkney) have caught touchdowns.
On defense, Vanderbilt allowed 215 yards against Middle Tennessee and just 103 against Alabama A&M.
The Commodores haven’t played a hard schedule, but they did beat Middle Tennessee on the road and Middle Tennessee won at Syracuse on Saturday.
A win in Nashville would validate K-State’s 2-0 start and set it up for good things in the Big 12.
Several K-State players admitted they circled this game on their schedule and are looking forward to it with an extra jolt of enthusiasm. They were right to think that way. This will be their first true test.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett