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7 Kansas State The Wildcats are counting on a wiser Ell Roberson to lead them to their first Big 12 title--and maybe more

Aug. 11, 2003
Aug. 11, 2003

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Aug. 11, 2003

College Football 2003

7 Kansas State The Wildcats are counting on a wiser Ell Roberson to lead them to their first Big 12 title--and maybe more

It was April 2000, and freshman quarterback Ell Roberson, taking
his first snap in his first spring game at Kansas State, dropped
back and spied a gap in the line. Sidestepping a couple of
defenders and juking a few more, Roberson raced through the hole
and went 73 yards for a touchdown. The spectacular display of
speed and agility left onlookers breathless, but Wildcats coach
Bill Snyder recalls the play for another reason: He believes it
was the worst thing to happen to Roberson on a football field.
"After that play Ell believed he could get by on natural talent
alone, so he didn't appreciate practice," says Snyder. "That set
him back. He's now become a real student of the game. That's why
he played the way he did last year."

This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2003 issue Original Layout

Over the final four games of 2002 Roberson was as productive as
any quarterback in the nation. In leading the Wildcats to wins
over Big 12 rivals Iowa State, Nebraska and Missouri and a
victory in the Holiday Bowl over Arizona State, Roberson averaged
178.3 yards passing and 105.8 yards rushing per game. Just as
impressive, he rarely misread defenses, which cut down on his bad
throws, and he made few bad moves in the open field--the kinds of
mistakes that he'd made with such regularity that he failed to
win the starting role before last season. "When I wasn't the
starter I became more focused," says Roberson, who regained the
top job after coming off the bench to lead the Wildcats to a
27-20 win over USC on Sept. 21. "I now pay more attention to
details."

If he continues to improve in his senior year, Kansas State
should cruise to the Big 12 North title. The Wildcats have five
starters returning from a blitzkrieg D that held opponents to
11.8 points per game, best in the nation. The offense will
feature 5'7", 170-pound junior back Darren Sproles, who last year
ran for 1,465 yards, scored 17 touchdowns and had more than one
opposing coach comparing him with Barry Sanders.

This summer about a dozen former Wildcats who are now in the pros
phoned Roberson. The conversations inevitably veered to the topic
of his maturity. "Those guys reminded me to always keep my head
on straight," says Roberson. "Now it's my responsibility to make
those guys proud of Kansas State football." That's a job
Roberson's now ready for. --L.A.

COLOR PHOTO: STEVE BOYLE/NEWSPORT CHOICE CUTS Roberson's standout performances at the close of '02 were the result of better decisions in the open field.

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 11-2 (6-2, 2nd in Big 12 North)
FINAL AP RANK 7
RETURNING STARTERS 14

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

RB Darren Sproles (Jr.)
Gained a school-record 1,800 all-purpose yards

QB Ell Roberson (Sr.)
Averaged 86.0 yards rushing per game

C Nick Leckey (Sr.)
All-Big 12 after starting all 13 games at left guard

DE Andrew Shull (Sr.)
Led team with 10 sacks, 1 1/2 shy of school record

LB Josh Buhl (Sr.)
77 of his team-high 135 tackles were unassisted

TELLING NUMBER

194.6
Differential between per-game rushing yards gained (264.1) and
allowed (69.5) by the Wildcats last season, highest in the nation.

SMART MOVE

When passing-game coordinator Greg Peterson was rumored to be
going to Nebraska, Bill Snyder promoted him to co-offensive
coordinator. Expect Peterson to open up the attack. In particular
he'll look to get the ball to senior Daniel Davis, a running back
who was tested at wideout in the spring and is a blur in the open
field.

SCHEDULE

AUG. 23 VS. CALIFORNIA*
30 TROY STATE
SEPT. 6 MCNEESE STATE
13 MASSACHUSETTS
20 MARSHALL
OCT. 4 AT TEXAS
11 AT OKLAHOMA STATE
18 COLORADO
25 KANSAS
NOV. 1 BAYLOR
8 AT IOWA STATE
15 AT NEBRASKA
22 MISSOURI

* AT KANSAS CITY, MO.