MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)The only thing that could stop Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah from piling up sacks last week was the NCAA.
Definitely not the TCU offensive line, which appeared to give up six of them – including two strip-sacks – to the soft-spoken sophomore defensive end in a 35-12 victory Saturday that pushed the Wildcats within a win of bowl eligibility.
Hours after the game, the NCAA cited a rule that says any fumble that goes past the line of scrimmage must be recorded as a run. That meant that Anudike-Uzomah’s two sacks that produced fumbles, one of which came inside the 5-yard line and resulted in a touchback for Kansas State rather than a touchdown for TCU, had to be stripped from a total that would have matched the Division I record for a single game held by three other players.
Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things. Anudike-Uzomah’s huge day still matched a school record for sacks set by Chris Johnson against Missouri in 2000, and three of them came on consecutive snaps – the last two of the first half to take TCU out of field-goal range, and the first defensive play of the second half.
”To see somebody take control of a game like that, it’s something that you can’t even put into words,” Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn said. ”He’s somebody I connected to pretty early on just because of the way we got here, the things we had to endure throughout recruiting – putting on weight, working to better ourselves every single day.
”To see him have this success isn’t surprising,” Vaughn said, ”but I’m proud of him. I’m so proud of him.”
Anudike-Uzomah was grossly overlooked coming out of Lee’s Summit High School in suburban Kansas City, a byproduct of his size at the time – at 220 pounds, he was about as heavy as a running back. His only scholarship offers other than Kansas State came from Tulsa and Northern Iowa.
It also might have had to do with the fact that Anudike-Uzomah didn’t produce a whole lot on the field, either.
”In my high school career, for three seasons,” he said, ”I had like, seven sacks. Not even seven. Like, five.”
Yet the Wildcats’ coaching staff saw enough potential in Anudike-Uzomah to offer him a scholarship and he appeared in five games as a freshman before breaking out this season.
He had three sacks in a game against Southern Illinois, setting him up to become the first player in Kansas State history with at least that many in two different games. His total of 10 through eight games is second nationally and leads the Big 12, and he’s also second nationally with four forced fumbles.
Anudike-Uzomah just needs two more sacks over the final four games to break the school’s season record.
”He lets the game come to him. He doesn’t just rush the passer,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. ”Some of those sacks were off a three-man rush, so you can credit some of it to some coverages that we’re playing that the quarterbacks had to hold it. And then other times he’s just got speed. He’s got explosiveness. He’s strong. He works his craft.”
That much is evident in the way Anudike-Uzomah has transformed his body. He now weighs 255 pounds, almost all of the 30-plus pounds that he’s added since high school coming in the form of muscle mass.
With the transformed body has come a transformed attitude. While still humble and gracious, Anudike-Uzomah also is brimming with confidence.
”During the game (against TCU), I said, `Man, you’re finally double-teaming me,”’ he recalled, ”and 55 said after my fifth sack, `You’re not getting another one.’ And I got another one and he didn’t say anything.”
Quite a few people are saying things about Anudike-Uzomah this week. Not only was he honored by the Big 12, he became the fifth Kansas State player to be chosen the Walter Camp National Player of the Week.
”We’ve been seeing this from Felix ever since I got here in January,” Wildcats defensive back Julius Brents said. ”He makes those plays consistently in practice. It just showed up on game day. I’m so proud of him. He’ll continue to keep working and stuff like that will continue to happen.”