MANHATTAN, Kan. — Trying to decide which coach was more upset following Kansas State’s 63-7 rout of Florida Atlantic on Saturday proved far more difficult than figuring out which was the better team.
In one locker room was Charlie Partridge, who lambasted his Owls for nearly getting shut out. They had four turnovers that led to 21 points on offense, and were largely inept on defense.
In the other locker room? Bill Snyder ripped his Wildcats for committing 13 penalties for 131 yards.
“We totally lacked the discipline to play this game,” Snyder said, giving no indication of joy after moving within six wins of reaching 200 for his career. “You might get away with it in a ballgame like this but if you do that in the conference we play in, you’re not going to be hanging your hat.”
Eliminate the penalties, though, and the Wildcats (1-1) were actually quite dominant.
Winston Dimel ran for four first-half touchdowns, Jesse Ertz threw for another score and Dominique Heath returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown as Kansas State put up its most points since 2009.
“A lot of people questioned our offense,” Kansas State running back Dalvin Warmack said, reflecting on a 26-13 loss to Stanford in the season opener. “A lot of people challenged us to be better.”
The Wildcats responded by cruising to a 42-0 halftime lead, at one point scoring on back-to-back one-play drives set up by Florida Atlantic turnovers. And the Wildcats finished off the route by getting backup quarterbacks Alex Delton and Joe Hubener in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Greg Howell had a touchdown run earlier in the fourth quarter for the Owls.
“We wanted the shutout,” Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee said with a smile.
Jason Driskel threw for 125 yards, but the Florida Atlantic quarterback also tossed two interceptions and lost two fumbles deep in his own territory. Kansas State turned those into 21 points.
“I gave them 21 points in one half and you can’t beat a good team doing that — can’t even beat a bad team doing that,” Driskel said. “That’s on me. My team and my coaches trust me with the ball every play. I’m the only person who touches the ball every play and I let them all down today.”
The Wildcats were playing their latest scheduled home opener since 1992, and also christening the most recent renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The $15 million project to enclose the lower bowl provided new space for the marching band and the visiting Owls (1-2) with plush new locker rooms.
They probably should have stayed in there at kickoff.
Kansas State marched 89 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession, then got the ball back and went 72 yards for another score. Two more touchdown runs by Dimel off Florida Atlantic turnovers made it 28-0 by the time some fans finally reached their seats — and the Owls knew what hit them.
“Second drive of the game they had a lot of success running the ball,” Owls coach Charlie Partridge said. “We got some things fixed and adjusted and tweaked, guys were being more aggressive.”
Not that it helped a whole lot.
Dimel, the Wildcats’ big fullback, scored once on a draw, twice out of the wildcat formation, and plunged in from the 3-yard line just before halftime to give Kansas State a 42-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Owls could only manage 211 yards total offense, and the ineffective Driskel was benched early in the fourth quarter with the game already out of reach.
RED ZONE ALERT
Kansas State was 8 for 8 in the red zone with eight touchdowns, continuing its perfect streak dating back nine games. The Wildcats, best in the Big 12 at scoring inside the 20 a year ago, have put points on the board on 36 straight trips with 26 touchdowns.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC: Partridge said this week that he is trying to emulate the way Snyder built his program. But he clearly has a long way to go. The Owls are coming off back-to-back three-win seasons, and could have a hard time getting to that mark if they play like they did Saturday.
KANSAS STATE: The Wildcats cleaned up a lot of the issues that popped up in their loss to Stanford, and get another chance to clean up the penalties against Missouri State next weekend. Things get tougher after that with a visit to West Virginia to open the Big 12 schedule.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls return home to play Ball State next Saturday night.
KANSAS STATE: The Wildcats wrap non-conference play against the Bears on Saturday night.