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Wildcats still have much to play for

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

Now that reality has set in, Kansas State's biggest challenge is to keep it real.

While Saturday's stunning 52-24 loss at Baylor exposed some weaknesses and almost certainly took a national championship off the table, the Wildcats still have much to play for -- namely a Big 12 title and BCS bowl invitation.

And in case they need a reminder, this is the same team that reeled off 10 straight victories before the crash.

"You don't get away from what you've done throughout the course of the season," Bill Snyder said Monday during the weekly Big 12 coaches' teleconference. "I think consistency needs to be a staple, and it has been up to this point in time.

"We can't all of a sudden decide that we're the worst team in the world and alter everything. We just have to stay the course and keep rowing the boat, as we say so often, and put greater emphasis on being able to correct the mistakes."

That can be difficult to do in one week, but the Wildcats have some extra time to sort things out with an open date Saturday before completing their regular season Dec. 1 at home against Texas. The process remains the same regardless.

"You have to learn how to deal with the emotions that come with this -- a tremendous amount of disappointment, and eventually that turns into anger and frustration," Snyder said. "Maybe the frustration comes first and then the anger.

"Then it's a matter of being able to, each of us individually, look at the things that we can do better and need to get corrected and accept the responsibility to do so, players and coaches alike."

While Snyder saw no obvious danger signs that the mounting pressures of an undefeated season were weighing heavily on his team, it was clear to him that something was amiss when the Wildcats took the field.

"All you have to do is watch the ballgame," he said. "We didn't play as well, we didn't coach as well as was necessary in order to have success.

"I think number one, we probably weren't as well prepared as we needed to be. Secondly, I think Baylor played extremely well both offensively and defensively."

The Bears were able to build an early lead, which allowed the defense to aggressively go after quarterback Collin Klein in the K-State passing game. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who held a similar position at K-State more than 10 years ago, seemingly pushed all the right buttons against his old friend Snyder.

"It wasn't a surprise to me at all and I've shared that with everybody in this building all of last week," Snyder said. "If you look at them incrementally throughout the course of the season, they had a lot of injuries at the outset of the season, so new guys stepped in to fill those spots, and over a period of time they got better and better and better.

"Phil is a tremendously talented individual, football coach and coordinator. You would never take Phil for granted in any of his defenses."

Baylor coach Art Briles, whose Bears improved to 5-5 and still need a victory against Texas Tech this week or Oklahoma State the next to be bowl eligible, said he has seen his whole team progress in recent weeks.