After serving as a complementary quarterback to starter Jake Waters through four games of 2013, sophomore Daniel Sams took a bulk of the snaps for the Wildcats in last Saturday's 33-29 loss to Oklahoma State.
It wasn't K-State's best performance of the season; actually, it was the worst.
Had the 'Cats not committed five turnovers and 12 penalties, they probably would have won. Sams was responsible for four of those turnovers himself: three interceptions and a fumble that, in fairness, may or may not have actually been one.
Those mistakes ultimately didn't end up being as costly as they could have been since the Cowboys were only able to convert those into three field goals. But that says more about Oklahoma State than it does Kansas State.
The point is, Sams can't give opponents that many opportunities again.
The turnovers were concerning, but Sams also provided leadership to an offense that has been lacking it through the first month of the season. On an 11-play drive in the fourth quarter, Sams rushed seven times for 22 yards and a touchdown to put the 'Cats up 27-23, and went 4-for-4 passing with a two-point conversion.
For the first time all year, Kansas State looked like, well, Kansas State—at least the one people had come to know over the past few years. And all without the team's two leading receivers in Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson.
Sams' leadership extended beyond his performance on the field.
When Waters fumbled the ball while being sacked near his own goal line in the third quarter, it was Sams coming over on the sidelines to comfort the junior college transfer.
The backup was telling the starter to keep his head up.
Leadership alone doesn't always guarantee someone a starting job, but in Sams' case, he gave K-State's offense an emotional lift and the best chance to win despite the turnovers. Waters couldn't move the ball and ended the day with a short 3-of-7 performance. It's not like Waters hasn't had his share of turnover issues, either.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference that the competition between Sams and Waters will continue through the week. The Wildcats host Baylor next, and after the performance the Bears had against West Virginia, any quarterback is going to be challenged trying to keep up.
But Snyder already showed on Saturday that he was willing to ride with the hot hand with Sams.
If Sams practices well this week, it wouldn't be surprising to see Snyder give him another try. At 2-3, Kansas State is approaching the point where it has to start going with what works.
Baylor's defense hasn't been tested extensively yet, and Sams is the most elusive quarterback in the Big 12 next to Oklahoma's Trevor Knight.
The issue for Kansas State, as with any Big 12 team facing Baylor, is whether the Wildcats can get stops and keep things close with the Bears. In that scenario, Sams' running ability could be a key factor. If Baylor keeps scoring and K-State has to play catch-up the for the majority of the game, then Sams is less effective.
Snyder also said on Monday that the statuses of Lockett and Thompson remain up in the air. If one or both of those receivers are out this Saturday, K-State's passing game takes a major hit no matter who is starting at quarterback.
But if Kansas State can stay within striking distance, or even take a lead, Sams gives the Wildcats the best chance to win.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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