MANHATTAN, Kan. — Give it up for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. He weaved a Webb of intrigue to perfection Saturday.
Up until Nebraska kicker Sandro DeAngelis placed the football on the tee in the very earliest stage of K-State's 45-21 thumping of the Huskers, Snyder kept Nebraska — and everybody else, for that matter — guessing who would be the Wildcats' quarterback.
K-State sophomore quarterbacks Dylan Meier and Allen Webb kept their helmets on until DeAngelis was ready. That's when Meier went to work.
He removed his helmet, grabbed a ballcap, then a headset. Meier's next move: get in Webb's face and slap his shoulder pads, a sign of encouragement to a teammate whose legion of doubters nearly filled sold-out KSU Stadium.
Webb's performance surely eased their minds.
“I can't tell you how proud I am of him,” K-State right tackle Jeromey Clary said. “He stepped it up in every aspect.”
Webb — much maligned for his previous efforts — looked more like an All-American than a second-string nobody filling in for the injured Meier. Webb scored four touchdowns, rushed for 147 yards in a quarterback school-record 34 carries, and keyed a 21-0 K-State run at the end of the game in front of the fifth-largest crowd (52,234) at KSU Stadium.
“He's had some struggles,” K-State wide receiver Jermaine Moreira said, “but we had to depend on him, believe in him. We couldn't have any doubts that would bring him down.”
Webb, making his third start, credited hours of watching Nebraska video for his success. It didn't hurt that he had a little Michael Bishop running through his veins, too. Webb reversed field on an option and raced in 9 yards for a score in Bishop-esque fashion, helping bury Nebraska.
And talk about efficient — all Webb did in his first three series from scrimmage was march the Wildcats for three scores. The opening drive after kickoff went 75 yards in seven plays. Webb completed both passes he threw, including a 23-yarder to Yamon Figurs.
Webb capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run and finished the next series scoring from 8 yards on third and goal, pushing K-State's advantage to 14-0 in the first quarter. Obviously, he was ready for this. Webb completed 14 of 23 passes for 124 yards and had no interceptions.
“I identified the defense a little bit better, got the plays and just reacted,” said Webb, who averaged a measly 2.3 yards per play in his previous outings, including 32 rushes for 26 yards. “Before, I was probably thinking too much. I was frustrated, but I never lost confidence in myself no matter what people think.”
Snyder, though, wasn't so sure the team had Webb's back. Webb hadn't done anything before Saturday to totally earn his teammates' trust and respect. Snyder sensed it.
“I told our staff on Sunday night we might be without Dylan Meier. If we are without Dylan Meier, we are going to have a major issue, perhaps because of how our players will respond to him (Webb),” Snyder said.
The way Webb responded thrilled Snyder, who insisted that Meier remains No. 1. Snyder gave no hint about who will start next Saturday against Texas Tech, but it sounded as if Meier wasn't close to being ready against Nebraska. Asked whether Meier could have played, Snyder said, “Probably not very well.”
K-State, 3-4 overall, snapped a three-game losing streak and in the process finally notched one in the win column in the Big 12 (1-3). The Wildcats have now beaten the Huskers (4-3, 2-2) for an unprecedented third straight game.
The Huskers, like the Wildcats, cling to North Division title aspirations. But to close the deal, Nebraska needs to be a much better finisher. The Huskers self-destructed in the fourth quarter, committing four turnovers, including 14 points for K-State on the last two gifts.
“We believed in our game plan. We were very shocked at the scoreboard. It reflected our bad play,” said Huskers quarterback Joe Dailey, who saw their West Coast offense go splat in the heartland. Dailey was zero for seven with one interception in the second half. In all, K-State outgained the Huskers 418-222, and the Wildcats' defense held Nebraska to just nine first downs.
K-State, though, didn't breeze in the second half. The Wildcats can blame themselves.
K-State was clinging to a shaky 24-21 lead after its special teams stumbled. K-State punter Tim Reyer was waiting for a snap when it caromed off up-back Brandon Archer. Nebraska's Daniel Bullocks scooped it and raced in 10 yards for a touchdown, making it a three-point game with 11 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
That's when K-State responded. Webb increased the lead to 31-21 on a 1-yard run with 4:56 left in the third quarter, and the Wildcats were on their merry way.
“He (Webb) was just making plays. We didn't expect him to have the game he did against us,” Huskers linebacker Barrett Ruud said. “He made guys miss one-on-one.”
Webb's performance prompted a big grin from K-State running back Darren Sproles, who ended a three-game streak in which he was held under 100 yards. Sproles had 135 in 22 carries against Nebraska.
“He (Webb) reminded me of III,” said Sproles, referring to former quarterback Ell Roberson III. “He had a great game. He stepped up when we needed him to step up.”
Kansas State 45, Nebraska 21
KSU: Webb 13 run (Rheem kick), 11:29.
KSU: Webb 8 run (Rheem kick), 4:47.
NU: Jackson 20 run (DeAngelis kick), 3:32.
KSU: Sproles 1 run (Rheem kick), 12:12.
NU: Jackson 2 run (DeAngelis kick), 8:43.
KSU: FG Rheem, 40, :06.
NU: Bullocks 10 fumble return (DeAngelis kick), 11:19.
KSU: Webb 1 run (Rheem kick), 4:56.
KSU: Webb 9 run (Rheem kick), 11:13.
KSU: Sproles 3 run (Rheem kick), 8:29.
Announced attendance: 52,234.
|Time of possession||22:07||37:53|
RUSHING: Nebraska, Jackson 11-57, Ross 16-43, Green 3-17, Dailey 4-(minus-11). Kansas St., Webb 34-147, Sproles 22-135, Clayton 2-9, Saba 1-5, V.Mann 1-3.
PASSING: Nebraska, Dailey 3-12-1-116. Kansas St., Webb 14-23-0-124.
RECEIVING: Nebraska, Ross 1-63, Nunn 1-55, K.Mann 1-(minus-2). Kansas St., Moreira 6-46, Dennis 4-26, Polite 2-13, Figurs 1-23, Sproles 1-16.