By Alex Hickey
Through three games, it’s not hard to figure out Kansas State’s Achilles’ heel in 2018.
The Wildcats have already fumbled seven times with opponents capitalizing on four of those mistakes. K-State only lost five fumbles all of last season. In 2012, when the Wildcats were among the nation’s best teams, they lost just three fumbles over the course of a 13-game season.
Needless to say, this isn’t something veteran head coach Bill Snyder is used to seeing from his squad.
“One that we lost was a great defensive play and perhaps unavoidable,” Snyder said. “The rest was being careless with the football and probably a significant indication of self-discipline and focus. That’s something we’re working on, not just in the turnover arena.”
The trouble has not escaped West Virginia’s notice.
“It would be nice for us to get a fumble,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
In two games, the Mountaineers have yet to recover one. The only takeaway is Dravon Askew-Henry’s interception against Youngstown State.
The lack of takeaways certainly isn’t from a lack of trying.
“We do a turnover circuit every day to start practice,” Gibson said. “Our guys have to be aware and punch the ball every opportunity we get.”
Running back Alex Barnes will certainly be targeted. Barnes had a rough start to the season, putting the ball on the turf three times as K-State eked out a 27-24 win over FCS South Dakota.
“There’s a countless number of ways a ball can be knocked loose from your arm,” Snyder said. “You need to be able to replicate the situations that occur. There’s ways to prevent the ball [from] knocking loose. Our coaches try diligently to do that.”
It seems to be working for Barnes, who hasn’t fumbled since. But his teammates have. Quarterbacks Skylar Thompson and Alex Shelton combined for three fumbles of their own against Texas-San Antonio.
Even if the Wildcats improve their technique carrying the ball, WVU linebacker David Long is taking the attitude that the Mountaineers need to be on the attack and create more havoc.
“I did see that they fumbled a few times. We’re definitely going to try to capitalize on it,” Long said. “We only have, like, one turnover, so we need more.”