K-State looks toward last season for turnaround inspiration
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder doesn’t have to flip back the pages in the media guide very far to find inspiration for turning around a season that has gone sideways.
In fact, one page should do it.
The Wildcats were muddling along at 3-3 last year after a disheartening loss to Oklahoma, and a season that began with high expectations had no direction. But they responded with close wins over Texas and Iowa State, kicking off a 6-1 finish that that included a Texas Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
Now, the Wildcats again find themselves at 3-3 after an equally disheartening loss to TCU, and only a similar turnaround against the meat of the Big 12 schedule might save the season.
“I think we have the capacity to finish the season well,” Snyder said Saturday night, after leaving a morose locker room following a 26-6 home loss to the Horned Frogs — an outcome made even worse by the fact that the Wildcats had to endure nearly 4 hours’ worth of weather delays.
“I think they’ll be competitive. I think they’ll have heart. I don’t think they’ll give up.”
They sure didn’t last season.
Kansas State has a reputation for getting better as the season progresses, a big reason why Snyder is considered one of the best coaches in the country. And they showed it last season by beating up on Baylor, Kansas and TCU down the stretch, then holding off the Aggies in their bowl game.
“It’s something you point to that says you can do it. But it’s not where we want to be,” linebacker Trent Tanking said. “We know we have to play hard and play our butts off to be where we want to be.”
The road to another nine-win season is a lot more difficult this time.
It begins with the ninth-ranked Sooners, fresh off their Red River Rivalry victory over Texas, heading to Manhattan on Saturday. The Wildcats have lost three of the last four meetings with Oklahoma, getting outscored by a combined 93-17 over the last two seasons.
Then, after playing the Jayhawks, the Wildcats must head to high-scoring Texas Tech. They return home to face No. 23 West Virginia, play No. 10 Oklahoma State on the road, then finish with Iowa State, a team that knocked off the Sooners in Norman before throttling Kansas last Saturday.
Throw out the Jayhawks and those opponents are a combined 22-8 this season.
“Just got to look for some answers on film and get ready for next week,” running back Alex Barnes said. “We’re all frustrated.”
Perhaps nobody more so than Snyder, who turned 78 last month.
Snyder returned the bulk of his starters from last season’s successful team, including quarterback Jesse Ertz, and let slip throughout the offseason that he thought the Wildcats had a chance to compete for the top of the Big 12. And it was that belief that in part drove Snyder through treatments for throat cancer and inspired him to get back on the field in time for training camp.
Ertz has been hobbled by more injuries, though, and young backup Alex Delton looked lost against the Horned Frogs last weekend. Throw in the inability to run the ball — crucial for the Wildcats’ ground-based attack — and the offensive-minded Snyder has reason to be disappointed.
He was quick to place the blame on his own shoulders, though.
“There are some things that I need to get straightened out,” he said. “They wanted to win. They gave a good effort. There are just some things that are not taking place. That falls in my lap.”
In truth, it falls on the lap of everyone in the locker room, just as it did last season. And together they managed to straighten things out, just as they hope to this season.
″“We just have to come in on Monday and work hard,” defensive tackle Will Geary said. “Like Coach Snyder said, ‘I’m going to do my best to get you guys ready next week, but I am going to need you to buy in, go along with it and give me your all.’”
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