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SPOTLIGHT
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KSU has a tough act to follow

Published on -8/27/2012, 9:53 AM

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By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN -- If Bill Snyder has one underlying philosophy, it's that you reap what you sow.

From the Wildcats' 16 Goals for Success that grace the back of the Kansas State football media guide to a fanatical attention to detail, Snyder simply doesn't leave anything to chance.

But not even Snyder could have predicted the way the Wildcats' magical 2011 season unfolded as they clawed their way back into the national college football conversation.

The 10-3 record, runner-up Big 12 finish, top-10 national ranking and Cotton Bowl berth where reminiscent of the Miracle in Manhattan, authored by Snyder in his first 17-year coaching tenure. But it was the way the Wildcats won that turned it into a season-long thrill ride.

"Everybody wants to say you make your own good fortune and I'm a believer in that," Snyder said of the eight victories by seven points or less. "But by the same token, every once in a while the chip just falls in your lap the right way and that happened for us from time to time."

A last-minute goal-line stand at Miami, a come-from-behind victory against Baylor and a 53-50, four-overtime marathon decision against Texas A&M were just a few of the highlights.

But true to his nature, Snyder also credited the intangibles -- "the intrinsic values" and those omnipresent 16 rules -- for making it all possible.

"They did more than lip service to them," he said. "They gave it their best effort (and) tried to live those goals.

"I think that had a major impact on the outcome of the season, or at least winning 10 games."

Now comes the hard part: doing it again.

Even though the Wildcats return eight offensive and six defensive starters, including senior playmakers Collin Klein and Arthur Brown, they were picked no higher than sixth in the league preseason poll. And it wasn't a snub.

K-State is ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press preseason top 25, but Oklahoma checked in at No. 4, Texas at 15 and Oklahoma State at 19. Then there are conference newcomers West Virginia at No. 16 and Texas Christian at 20.

"The two incoming programs, I think we have great respect for," Snyder said. "They're programs on a national scope.

"That just continually makes us an extremely talented and strong conference. It just makes it tougher and tougher and tougher."

It also makes it imperative that the Wildcats keep their eye on the prize and don't look back.

"What happened in the past is in the past," said sophomore receiver Tyler Lockett, who received All-America honors as a kick returner before missing the last four games with a kidney injury. "It's a new year and we can't really dwell on the past.

"I use it all as motivation to make me a better player overall."

Klein, a breakout star at quarterback who helped shape K-State's blue-collar identity with his hard-nose running style, was adamant that last year's success only made the Wildcats hungry for more.

"The big picture and mentality are not different, and that's trying to get better every day," he said.

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