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April 24, 2010

Purple starters unleash on reserves

The Bill Snyder Family Stadium scoreboard read 41-38 at the end of four quarters on Saturday, but, in K-State spring game fashion, did not reflect the true story of the game. The Wildcat first-team, donning purple jerseys, led 38-0 at the half. Their reward? An inheritance of their opponents' goose egg at the break. Truthfully told, the Purple squad left the White squad black-and-blue, outscoring them 79-0.

The game that closed spring drills, which Coach Bill Snyder's team played in front of 13,626 fans, was a lopsided one, a fact that Snyder attributes to the notion that "we're probably not really good with our (second- and third-team players) right now."

The performance of the game that no one could ignore was that of quarterback Carson Coffman. Coffman, who lost his starting spot to Grant Gregory a season ago and is locked in a three-way battle for the starting position this spring, looked as if he was trying to eclipse Josh Freeman's career passing marks in a single game. Coffman found wide receiver Brodrick Smith for a 15-yard score on the Purple's first possession. The next time down the field, he connected with fullback Braden Wilson for 27 yards. His third passing score again went to Smith and came just four seconds into the second quarter. It was somewhat apparent that he had found a rhythm.

"I was calling the plays and they didn't want me to be conservative," Coffman said. "They told me to just call whatever I wanted and try to score as many points as possible."

All told, Coffman completed 38 passes for 440 yards and seven touchdowns. Four of those scores landed in the hands of Smith, who nabbed 12 receptions for 167 yards. With Coffman, Snyder was more satisfied with the experience the quarterback gained than the numbers he posted.

"If you think back a year ago in the spring game, he had good numbers, as well," Snyder said. "You have to look at a lot of things outside the numbers. He was in a lot of learning opportunities today, and I think he responded to them very well."

Though his carries were limited, Daniel Thomas picked up right where he left off a season ago when he led the Big 12 in rushing and earned conference Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors. Thomas carried 16 times for 118 yards. Senior William Powell, Thomas' backup, ran 11 times for 88 yards for the Purple.

While the Purple offense grabbed attention by forcing the scoreboard operator to earn his paycheck, the Purple defense put forth an effort just as impressive by keeping points off the board. Despite the fact that a few key components were absent, the first-team defense allowed just 144 total yards and forced four turnovers.

Safety Troy Butler forced a pair of those turnovers, picking off freshman quarterback Billy Cosh twice in the second half. Butler took his second interception back 37 yards for a score. Putting some points on the board himself was a great feeling, Butler said, until "I realized I had to go right back out there (for the next defensive series)."

The first-string defense pushed the opposing squad off the field in quick fashion early on, forcing three-and-out punts on each of the first four possessions. Domination is not a word often used in spring football, but it seems appropriate when one considers the fact that the Purple defense allowed just 14 total yards in the first quarter. That domination, again if one is brave enough to use the term, is something Butler attributes to a new ball-hawking attitude on the defensive side of the football.

"We all fly to the ball more," Butler said. "Last year, we went to the ball. Now, we actually fly to the ball. Everyone wants to make the tackle."

The Purple defense did not allow the White squad to pick up a first down until midway through the second quarter. As if the yardage gained was too much to handle, cornerback David Garrett promptly picked off a Sammuel Lamur pass the next play.

Butler and Garrett comprised two-fifths of the first-team defensive backfield, with junior Matthew Pearson, freshman Ty Zimmerman, and junior Emmanuel Lamur joining the fray to help limit the White offense to just 97 yards passing. Tysyn Hartman, a returning starter and team captain, suited up but did not play.

Though the Wildcat defense appeared to be in midseason form against the second team offense, Snyder spoke of the unit's need to overcome inconsistencies when fall camp arrives.

"There were a few things that happened through the course of the ballgame that I don't think they responded to well," Snyder said. "I don't think it makes us worse on defense coming out of the ballgame. I think it just verifies the inconsistencies."

One of the 13 players who did not see the was sophomore quarterback Collin Klein, who Snyder said has a nagging injury. Klein and Coffman had been in a neck-and-neck battle for the starting quarterback job, but Snyder said Coffman's strong showing has to put him ahead going into the offseason.

On defense, many fans anticipated the return of Brandon Harold, who missed all but one game in 2009 due to injury, on Saturday, but the defensive end did not participate in the game due to what Snyder deemed an "academic issue." Also out for the starting defense was junior safety Tysyn Hartman, who continues to recover from a knee injury suffered in the last season's final game.

Coffman, while impressed with the play of his defense on Saturday, said the returns of missing defensive players would play a big role. "When we get all those guys going," Coffman said, "we'll be pretty tough."

The Wildcats started Payton Kirk and Antonio Felder at defensive end, with Prizell Brown and Ray Kibble clogging the middle at the defensive tackles spots. Their efforts combined with those of first-team linebackers Alex Hrebec and Jarell Childs limited the White squad to just 47 yards rushing on 24 carries.





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