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Bo Rader The Wichita Eagle

Campus Corner

The Star's blog on college sports, featuring Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri

Campus Corner

K-State Q&A: Elijah Sullivan, Jesse Ertz, Vandy and road trips

By Kellis Robinett

krobinett@wichitaeagle.com

September 15, 2017 07:43 AM

UPDATED September 15, 2017 08:50 AM

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Here’s hoping everyone that makes the trip to Nashville for Kansas State’s football game against Vanderbilt has a good time.

That’s all I’ve got for an intro this week. Let’s jump right into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

How many K-State fans do you think will be at the game Saturday? Will we outnumber the Vandy fans?

— JBM (@JBM1929) September 14, 2017

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I expect to see somewhere around 12,000 K-State fans at the game. Maybe that guess is a little low, and 15,000 show up. Maybe that guess is a little high and 10,000 show up. But that’s the number I am anticipating.

Vanderbilt Stadium holds 40,350, and about 25,000 attended the Commodores’ home-opener against Alabama A&M. I feel like at least that many Vandy fans will show up for this (much better) game. So it’s hard to imagine more than 15,000 purple shirts in the stadium. I asked Nashville media what they expect the crowd to be like, and they all agreed on a 65/35 split in favor of Vandy. The Commodores almost always play in front of split crowds at home in the SEC.

No way K-State fans outnumber Vandy fans at the start of the game. But they could be louder. If the Wildcats score early and pull away, the stadium could belong to them by the fourth quarter, kind of like football games in Lawrence.

K-State will really have to play well for that to happen, though. Vanderbilt is good. I think K-State wins a close game.

My official question is: Is Vandy's stadium the worst P5 Football Stadium?

— scottwildcat (@scottwildcat) September 14, 2017

There are 64 teams in the five power conferences, and I have been to football games at 21 (by my count) of their stadiums.

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question, as I’ve never been to Vanderbilt Stadium, but that has never stopped me before.

No, I doubt it is the worst stadium in power-conference football. The stadium capacity doesn’t look great, and it is the smallest in the SEC, but Washington State is smaller at 35,117. I’ve been to a game at Northwestern and didn’t think much of that football stadium. Syracuse, Duke and Wake Forest all seem to have outdated stadiums, but I haven’t been there to confirm.

College football stadiums are a lot like pizza. Even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good.

Too bad Memphis isn’t in a power conference. I would happily declare the Liberty Bowl to be the worst stadium. That place was horrible.

More important this week... Dline getting a good pash rush ?? Or Oline creating space for the running game ??

— Larry Ross (@BowTieMetal) September 14, 2017

They’re both important, but I will choose offensive line if I have to pick between them.

Jesse Ertz has been blessed with lots of time to throw the ball in his first two games, and K-State’s offensive line needs to continue protecting him against Vanderbilt and the Commodores’ defense. The offensive line will also be critical for the running game. As good as Ertz has looked this season, the Wildcats are still a run-first team. They need to be able to move the chains on the ground and control clock.

How do we deal with Shurmur AND Webb? Scary talent on that offense.

— Nathan Enserro (@nenserro) September 14, 2017

I would not recommend loading the box with defenders in an attempt to slow Ralph Webb. That’s what Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M did against Vanderbilt. They dared Kyle Shurmur to beat them with his arm, and he obliged by torching them for 498 yards and seven touchdowns.

“I hope (teams) continue to load the box and we continue to take advantage of the one-on-ones,” Vandy coach Derek Mason said earlier this week. “It’s not up to me to try to convince somebody that Kyle Shurmur can throw the football. You look at the numbers and see what the young man can do. If you want to load the box, you’re going to pay outside, because we got dudes that can go.”

K-State is probably best off trusting its front six to keep Webb (Vandy’s all-time leading rusher) under control and roll with its usual defense. But Tom Hayes does prioritize stopping the run, so maybe he asks Kendall Adams and Denzel Goolsby to come up more than usual. It’s even possible they swap Cre Moore for a third linebacker. I doubt we see much of that, but we could see some.

Snyder talks all the time about the importance of having a balanced offense. This is a game where K-State could benefit from a balanced defense.

What are the chances our defense gets exposed on Saturday? Our non-existent pass rush and lack of speed at LB has me concerned.

— Tyler Smith (@tsmitty_43) September 14, 2017

I guess that depends on your definition of the word, “exposed.”

Bill Snyder seemed to think Central Arkansas exposed K-State’s defense with its option running attack in the first game. I tend to wait for an opponent to go off before saying someone got exposed.

I don’t see Vanderbilt going off on K-State’s defense, but I can envision the Commodores doing some damage. The Wildcats have four sacks in two games, but none of them have come from defensive linemen. Most of their tackles for loss have come on blitzes.

Reggie Walker (remember him?) has three tackles and no quarterback hurries. Tanner Wood has six tackles, but no quarterback hurries. K-State needs to get pressure on Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur, and if it is blitzing all game that means someone isn’t back in coverage. This will be a big test for K-State’s defensive line.

I’m still not sure what to think about K-State’s linebackers. They have looked a step slow, but Trent Tanking and Jayd Kirby are also new starters. They should get better.

This game should provide some answers about K-State’s defense, whether Vandy exposes anything about it or not.

What's it going to take to get Elijah Sullivan more snaps or start? Clearly better than Kirby

— Marcus (@KSU_LYNCH_MOB) September 14, 2017

A fan vote? That would definitely send Elijah Sullivan into the starting lineup.

From what I’ve seen so far, I expect Sullivan to move up the depth chart at some point. It’s just a question of when.

Is it just me, or does there seem to be an improvement in the LB position when the backups come in?

— Ryan Humphrey (@theR_train) September 14, 2017

It is not just you.

K-State fans like their backup linebackers like most fan bases like their backup quarterbacks.

Bojack: a show I should start watching?

— Ep (@johny_epleseed) September 14, 2017

Most underrated show on Netflix, my man. You should definitely start watching it.

Some episodes are upbeat and all about laughs. Others get surprisingly dark, but are still funny. One of my favorites takes place under water and goes something like 20 minutes without a word of dialogue. Talking animals living with humans adds an element you won’t find in any other show. The theme song and the music are also super catchy. Watch it!

My only regret about the new season is that Netfilx released a new season of Narcos (another great show) at the same time, so I have been watching both instead of racing through BoJack like I should.

What other teams would you like to see on future schedules?

— Wildkat Photography (@wildkatphoto) September 14, 2017

California, UNLV, Miami, San Diego State, Florida, Tulane, Mexico City College, Technical University of Berlin, Oxford ... Those would be fun road trips.

Vanderbilt is honestly up there in terms of college football destinations. I’ve never visited the Music City, but it looks and sounds awesome.

Snyder's comments about applying for a sixth season for Ertz kinda caught me off guard. Do you still think that issue is dead and buried?

— Justin Nutter (@JNutter) September 14, 2017

K-State and Jesse Ertz have always planned to apply for an extra year of eligibility, and they will do so after the season. Nothing has changed there. No harm in asking.

It would just be an upset if the NCAA says Ertz can play another season. In order to get an extra year, K-State will need to prove Ertz was too injured to play as a freshman (when he redshirted and won the team’s Red Raider Award as the top contributor on the scout squad) and as a redshirt sophomore when he tore his ACL in the season-opener. No problem with the second injury. But the NCAA only gives student-athletes five years to complete four years of eligibility, and it’s hard to get the redshirt year back when you won an award while playing for the scout team.

I understand what Snyder means when he says Ertz wasn’t game healthy that season, but I doubt that will be enough to win Ertz another year. That’s why he is approaching this season as his last.

After a game of mostly passes and one of primarily rushes do we finally see a balanced attack?

— Kevin hampton (@Kbhampton13) September 14, 2017

You should see a balanced attack in this game. At least more balanced than the first two games.

K-State averaged more than 20 yards per pass against Central Arkansas. There was no reason to run. K-State averaged six yards per rush against Charlotte. There was no reason to throw, especially with a big lead in the second half.

Vanderbilt has put up some serious numbers on defense (yes, I know the competition hasn’t been great) including a 12 percent conversion rate on third downs and no points in the red zone. Expect the Commodores to challenge the Wildcats on the ground and in the air. That being said, I won’t be surprised if K-State finishes with more passing yards than rushing yards. Vandy likes to play man coverage.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett