Wildcats hold annual Spring Game in Manhattan

Eight-year-old Kaiden Schroeder, who suffers from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, scored a touchdown during K-State's Spring Game.

COURTESY: Kansas State Sports Information

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State fans received a small glimpse into what the 2014 Wildcats will look like on the football field on Saturday during a very competitive Purple/White Spring Game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Purple held off the White for a 23-13 win.

Purple was led by senior quarterback Jake Waters, who finished the afternoon 26-of-38 for 227 yards through the air and eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore running back Charles Jones led the Purple rushing attack with 20 carries for 73 yards.

Waters spread the wealth amongst his receivers, finding seven different receivers. Senior wide receiver Curry Sexton led the way with a game-high eight catches for 88 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Deante Burton checked in with six catches for 48 yards.

White was led by the two quarterback attack of sophomore Joe Hubener and redshirt freshman Jesse Ertz. The duo combined to tally 20-of-29 for 167 yards and a touchdown while finding 13 different receivers.

Glenn Gronkowski bulled his way up the middle on his first carry of the afternoon for 14 yards and a touchdown with 2:03 to play in the first quarter to give Purple a 7-0 lead. Gronkowski finished the afternoon with three carries for 14 yards and a touchdown. In his first full season in 2013, the sophomore from Amherst, N.Y., tallied just one carry for no gain.

White narrowed the game to 7-3 with 54 seconds to play in the first half, as redshirt freshman placekicker Matthew McCrane connected on a 42-yard field goal. During the drive, Hubener was 6-of-8 for 43 yards while leading the 15-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in the field goal.

Purple held the edge statistically in the first half, outgaining the White 141-114. Jones carded 48 of the Purple’s 76 rushing yards in the first half. Senior tight end Zach Trujillo was Waters’ favorite target in the opening stanza with three receptions for 34 yards including a 15-yarder.

For the White in the opening frame, sophomore Jarvis Leverett, Jr., checked in with nine carries for 35 yards. Leverett would finish with 14 carries for 69 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Collin Sexton was the top target for the White with two catches for 16 yards.

Waters put the Purple squad up 14-3 with a 10-yard scamper and tight rope walk on the far sideline with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter. Waters registered six rushing touchdowns last season.

The Waters touchdown was set up by Purple’s Randall Evans, who forced and recovered a fumble by wide receiver Jordan Schultz at the White 22 with 10:06 to play in the third quarter.

With 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter, head coach Bill Snyder called timeout to allow eight-year old Kaiden Schroeder – who suffers from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia – an opportunity to run in a 30-yard touchdown for the Purple. Following Kaiden crossing the goal line, the fans inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium gave him a standing ovation while he was hoisted upon the shoulders of the Wildcats and was mobbed by the entire team in the end zone.

After Purple increased its lead to 17-3 on a 27-yard field goal by Jack Cantele early in the fourth quarter, Hubener found Judah Jones for a 51-yard touchdown pass with 11:47 to play in the fourth quarter to bring White to within 17-10.

Waters marched the Purple down the field into the White red zone, but his pass attempt into the end zone was intercepted by junior defensive back Nate Jackson. Jackson returned the interception to the White 44 with 10:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. The interception eventually resulted in a 46-yard Ian Patterson field goal into a stiff wind to bring White to within four, 17-13, with 4:40 remaining.

The Purple offense was able to march down the field and punch in a Laton Dowling one-yard touchdown run as time expired for the final margin.

Senior defensive end and the reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Ryan Mueller tallied three sacks and four tackles – all for loss – on Saturday for the Purple. In the 2013 season, Mueller tied the school record for sacks in a season with 11.5 on his way to earning numerous Second Team All-America citations and All-Big 12 First Team honors.

Kansas State returns 41 letterwinners, including 14 starters, from a team that turned a 2-4 start into an 8-5 finish that was capped by a victory in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over Michigan. Included in the 14 returning starters is a pair of All-Americans in senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett and Mueller, as well as five other players who earned All-Big 12 honors in 2013.

Led by its 23rd-year head coach in Snyder, K-State opens the 2014 campaign on Saturday, August 30 with a matchup against Stephen F. Austin in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, a game that serves as the sixth annual K-State Family Reunion. Following a trip to Iowa State on September 6, the Wildcats return home for a nationally-televised primetime matchup against BCS National Championship Runner-Up Auburn on Thursday, September 18.

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