MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Charley Molnar took the coaching job at Massachusetts last season knowing that there was plenty of work to do. It turns out that Kansas State coach Bill Snyder could relate.
Snyder took over a dismal program in 1989 and made it a perennial contender.
So when the two coaches met before UMass played the Wildcats on Saturday night, Snyder made sure to offer Molnar a couple of encouraging words before delivering a 37-7 defeat.
“He goes, ‘Watching your film from the beginning of year one to where you are today, you’ve made progress faster than we made progress,’” Molnar said. “Whatever that’s worth. It’s not worth a whole lot, but it’s worth something. It made me feel good for a moment.”
A.J. Doyle threw for 186 yards but also two interceptions, getting the start at quarterback in place of fellow sophomore Mike Wegzyn. Tajae Sharpe caught nine passes for 98 yards for UMass (0-3), and Stacey Bedell ran for 81 yards and the its only touchdown.
“We’ve just got to keep pounding away at the rock,” Doyle said. “One of these days the rock is going to explode and we’re going to put up 35, 40 or 45 points a game.”
John Hubert ran for 118 yards, Kip Daily returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and Kansas State (2-1) piled up a season-high 329 yards rushing on 46 carries. Jake Waters added 115 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
“You want some balance with what you do, and defenses dictate which direction you go,” Snyder said, “and that was true tonight. After the first drive we had some opportunities to have some success running the ball.”
Things got off to a flying start for the defending Big 12 champion Wildcats when Daily picked off the first pass of his career and returned it 38 yards for a score. It was the second straight week that Kansas State returned an interception for a touchdown.
“He wasn’t totally at fault on that,” Molnar said of Doyle, his sophomore quarterback. “We absolved him of the part that wasn’t his and he made the corrections and never flinched.”
UMass answered with a 16-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up most of the first quarter and ended with a blocked field goal. After picking off Waters moments later, Bedell’s touchdown run on the Minutemen’s ensuing possession gave them a 7-6 lead and left a crowd of 52,958 in silence.
The Wildcats managed just 33 yards of offense in the first quarter.
They finally got cranking in the 15 minutes before halftime. Sams took over at quarterback for Waters and led Kansas State on a bruising 75-yard drive that he capped with his TD run. Waters tagged back into the game and led an 81-yard drive that Rose finished off with his touchdown run.
Both of those drives were spent entirely on the ground.
“We get out bulked at times,” Molnar said. “That’s an awfully big football team.”
Kansas State forced UMass to punt with less than 2 minutes left in the half and took advantage of kick catch interference for some good field position. Five plays later, Waters found Hubert all alone in broken coverage for a 43-yard scoring strike and a 27-7 lead at the break.
The Wildcats pushed the game out of reach on their first possession of the second half.
Hubert ran on six of their first seven plays, the 5-foot-7 bowling ball trucking his way forward for first downs. That softened up the Minutemen defense, and fullback Glenn Gronkowski — the brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski — got loose over the middle of the field. Waters hit him with a little jump pass that he took 50 yards for his first career score.
The Minutemen never finished off another drive after the first quarter, even though they moved the ball well at times against a porous Kansas State defensive front.
A false start penalty scuttled one drive near midfield, and Daily’s second interception of the game ended another in the third quarter. Lorenzo Woodley was stuffed on fourth down deep in Kansas State territory on UMass’s final possession of the game.
“We’ve just got to keep pounding away,” Doyle said. “One day it’s going to explode.”