Much thanks to Jon Morse from Bring On The Cats for taking some time to answer questions about sandwiches and football.
Seth C: Is the Kansas state sandwich the Runza or the Bierbocks ( http://www.slate.com/blogs/business_insider/2013/11/04/national_sandwich_day_map_best_sandwiches_from_every_state.html )? Please describe because I like sandwiches. If not, then what's the official Kansas state sandwich?
Jon Morse with Bring On The Cats: Some of the younger members of the BotC community may react in horror to this, as might some of the folks from small Kansas towns with lots of central European immigrants, but it has to be said. In Kansas, at least, this runza thing is kinda hipsterish nonsense. I spent pretty much my entire life, until age 22, in Kansas. I went to K-State. The very first time I ever even heard of a runza, I was sitting at a desk in an office in Virginia some time after the freakin' millennium reading a message board after a K-State/Nebraska game. I have never so much as seen one outside of pictures, much less eaten one. The runza -- which I guess is a pocket of bread stuffed with meat and cabbage, sort of like a German version of a Philly -- is a Husker thing, and I can only hope that it infects the Big Ten.
The real Kansas sandwich involves barbecue. Preferably burnt ends chopped up and simmered in sauce and glopped onto a toasted bun.
Seth C: You've probably already been asked about the rough start and the two-quarterback situation for Kansas St., so we won't go there. K-State appears to be playing much better or maybe it's just easier opponents. What's been the key to the recent turnaround?
JM with BOTC: I actually haven't been asked anything about that all year by a colleague from another site, which is sort of weird, but my answer to your real question will probably cover it. The first month of the season, I don't think the coaching staff truly understood what they wanted to do with these guys. Daniel Sams got very little playing time in the first three games, and then inexplicably didn't see as much action as we'd have liked against Texas. That led to a chaotic mess against Oklahoma State where neither quarterback had any level of comfort.
As part of all this, the coaching staff was making truly inexplicable decisions with the quarterback they HAD put on the field. It was obvious to us watching the game that for the most part designed runs with Jake Waters just weren't going to work. It was also obvious that while Waters is fantastic at moving the ball downfield (or scoring on long pass plays) with lots of space in the secondary, once K-State gets into the red zone Sams is the better option. I think the coaching staff's finally glommed onto these two things for the most part.
Another aspect of the turnaround is that the underclassmen are being allowed more snaps on defense. The starting eleven on opening day -- almost entirely in place purely as a result of seniority -- had a very serious case of the slows, while the kids are quicker.
Seth C: This is a totally ridiculous notion, but I'm going to ask it anyway. One of the things that I really worried about with Tuberville at the helm was the long-term prognosis of the program. I wasn't sure where the program was headed and what was going to happen when he would eventually leave. He just didn't seem like a guy that would retire in Lubbock. But with Kingsbury, I feel that the long-term of the program is really good, that there are a handful of coaches that are really part of the community and program so even if he does leave, there's going to be continuity (HE'S NOT LEAVING EVER!). My question is if you all worry about this with Snyder, who is 79 and he still has passion for the game, but he's 79? Do you concern yourself with a contingency plan when Snyder leaves or are you all just trying to live with what's happening now?
JM with BOTC: Oh, god, we worry about it incessantly. We worried about it a decade ago and got Ron Prince, so you can just imagine our level of panic now that we've already lived through the nightmare of replacing Snyder once. All too often, comparisons are made between 2003-05 and 2013-now, especially insofar as this season's taken the tenor of the 2004 campaign in so many respects.
Our biggest fear of all, though, is the succession. Never mind the fact that John Currie completely underwhelmed the fanbase by hiring Bruce Weber, giving them the impression that Currie's looking to hire a safe big name to replace Snyder; that just leads to fears that the next coach is going to be someone like Rick Neuheisel or Ron Zook or Dennis Franchione or god forbid Tommy Tuberville.
We're just as worried that Bill's going to hang in there long enough to convince the administration to let his son Sean take over. We're all vehemently against this -- not because we actually dislike Sean Snyder, but because under the circumstances it's nepotism most foul. We love Bill Snyder, but I think we've all learned a very important lesson about allowing a head coach that much influence. If Sean had gone off somewhere else to be a coordinator for a few years, it would be entirely different. But right now... well, let's just say that there's a pernicious rumor that part of the problem this year is that Bill's just acting as a CEO while Sean's doing the actual work. That may be completely false, or it may be entirely too close to the truth; either way, it's reflective of what the fears of the fanbase represent.
Seth C: This is really self-serving, but I'm still interested in your opinion. What's been your opinion on hiring Kliff Kingsbury? I'm intentionally leaving this open-ended.
JM with BOTC: Hey, I thought he'd be the guy the second Tuberville left. In fact, during last season's rush by A&M, it occurred to me that Kliff was essentially already the coach-in-waiting at Texas Tech, because god knows nobody expected Tuberville to stick around for the long haul. Rarely has there been so obvious a candidate for a particular school. So far, he hasn't disappointed (speaking from an outside perspective, of course). The key question for you guys going forward, I think, is all going to revolve around the culture of the program and whether Kingsbury's free-wheeling demeanor leads to problems down the road. I'm not saying I think they will, to be clear. I'm just saying he's a very non-traditional coach and therefore we don't know IF they will, so it's something to keep an eye on.
Seth C: What do you think are the biggest advantages that K-State has going into this game.
JM with BOTC: Tech seems to be (like most other Big 12 teams this year) susceptible to the run, so as long as K-State can establish an aerial threat the ground game's going to be the big advantage. Defensively, the Cats have been surprisingly resilient; if they can hold Baylor to 35, one suspects they can keep Tech within reach as well.
Seth C: Who is the offensive and defensive MVPs for K-State thus far?
JM with BOTC: Defensively, it's DL Ryan Mueller without a question. He's come up big on multiple occasions in every single game so far, and it's totally fair to say he's playing this season in beast mode. That doesn't mean he's a Clowney; I mean, sure, he's in beast mode, but he's also a former walk-on so his beast mode's not quite the same thing. Still, he's going to make some of your guys wish they'd never met by Saturday afternoon.
Offensively the question's a little tougher, but we'll go with WR Tyler Lockett in the end. Daniel Sams is electric and has had one absolutely lights-out performance... but, you know, K-State lost that game anyway.
Seth C: What's the best thing about K-State? I also realize that this is totally open-ended, but am interested in your answer.
JM with BOTC: The best thing about K-State is the people, and I know that sounds cheesy but bear with me. You'll hear a lot about "family" from fanbases, and it's all a pile of hooey. That's even true at K-State mostly. But for the most part, the K-State community is a level-headed and friendly crowd. Sure, we want our team to be recognized when it's good, but we're one of the most realistic fanbases in the nation. There isn't a vast mass of nimrods out there representing the school like you'll see with so many other schools, and pretty much without fail visitors to Manhattan report back to us that they had a great time and, while Bill Snyder Family Stadium is most definitely a hostile environment for their TEAM, they themselves were treated with nothing but respect.
And that sensibility isn't just a sports thing. It's how the K-State community is every day. As long as you're not wearing blue and red, I mean.