College Football: Kansas State 55, Central Arkansas 19 - D1SportsNet


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College football

Kansas State 55, Central Arkansas 19

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was glad his team ended up on the plus side of the scoreboard, but that's about it.

"We will be practicing tonight at midnight against the option," Snyder said after his No. 20 Wildcats downed FCS opponent Central Arkansas 55-19 to open the season Saturday night in front of 51,043 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.

Snyder was most unhappy with the 223 rushing yards allowed.

"When they continually run the same play and get positive yardage, it's a bad story," he said. "We have to get better."

Even though Snyder was not pleased, there was plenty to admire in the Wildcats' game. The Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points to pull away at the end of the first half and outscored the Bears 38-3 after the 8:53 mark of the second quarter.

The biggest positive was quarterback Jesse Ertz, who finished 10 of 16 for 333 yards and four touchdowns. His 319.8 passer rating set a single-game high in Kansas State history.

"Ask the receivers man how I played. They made me look good," Ertz said. "We knew we had the talent. We just all have to get on the same page. Especially after-the-catch, this is a special group."

Even Snyder was pleased with his quarterback.

"He played well," he said. "He had two, maybe three, visible plays where he was off the mark, but outside that he played well. He had time to make decisions on the snap of the football."

Quarterback Hayden Hildebrand was 27 for 35 for 198 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Central Arkansas. The Bears (0-1), who came into the game ranked No. 15 in FCS, did plenty to please coach Steve Campbell.

"I liked the way we were able to run the football against a defense that only gave up (115 yards per game) with a lot of guys back," Campbell said. "So there are some things to build off of. We'll take this film and learn from it and we'll correct the mistakes.

"There are a lot of things we got to get corrected really quickly. That's the thing when you play a team like Kansas State that's good on offense, defense and special teams. If you have a flaw, they're going to shine a bright light on it, and it's going to stick out like a sore thumb. And they did that."

Kansas State started quickly. D.J. Reed returned the opening kickoff 96 yards to Central Arkansas' 4-yard line, and Alex Barnes punched it into the end zone two plays later.

The teams traded field goals before Central Arkansas responded with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Brandon Cox ran the final 37 yards for the tying score.

Kansas State quickly answered with a 25-yard pass from Ertz to Isaiah Harris, followed by a Byron Pringle sweep for another 15 yards that led to an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ertz to Isaiah Zuber. That put the Wildcats back up 17-10.

But the Bears responded with another 75-yard drive, this one taking 12 plays and capped by a 7-yard pass from Hildebrand to Roman Gordon. However, Matt Cummins' extra point clanged off the right upright and the Wildcats never looked back.

Ertz hit Pringle on a 55-yard scoring strike to put the Cats up 24-16 with 5:38 left in the half. Following a Central Arkansas three-and-out, Reed returned the punt 62 yards, untouched around the left side for K-State's 107th non-offensive touchdown since 1999, 15 more than any other FBS program in that span.

"He's always a great kick returner," Pringle said of Reed. "You can kick to either of us and we'll make you pay for it. He does it every day in practice."

Reed then picked off Hildebrand, setting up K-State for one last scoring chance. On third-and-5 at the Wildcats' 30, Ertz hit a wide-open Dalton Schoen behind the secondary and Schoen had his first career touchdown for a 38-16 halftime lead.

The bad news for K-State was the 158 rushing yards allowed in the first half. Last season, the Wildcats led the Big 12 in rushing defense (115 yards per game), by more than 47 yards per game.