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Wildcats look to finish strong

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

Much as he might prefer it at times during football season, Bill Snyder knows his Kansas State players don't live in a bubble.

Even after a shot at the national championship slipped from their grasp with a loss at Baylor, the Wildcats know there's still plenty to play for Saturday when they close out the regular season at home against Texas.

"They weren't born yesterday," Snyder said Monday morning during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference. "They're young guys that understand what's at stake for this ballgame."

A victory against the Longhorns not only would send a stellar senior class out in style, but also would clinch K-State's first Big 12 title in nine years as well as the league's automatic BCS berth in the Fiesta Bowl.

"We've met and I certainly shared that with them, but it's certainly not something I have to go around and beat the drums about every day," said Snyder, whose Wildcats (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) had last Saturday off and enjoyed a four-day break from practice before resuming their game week routine Monday.

The players, still smarting over the Baylor upset, already were starting to focus in on the Texas game last week before heading home for Thanksgiving.

"That's been the goal ever since I've been here, for every senior," senior kicker Anthony Cantele said of the league title. "To have the stage set to the point that if we win, we're Big 12 champions no matter what, that just means a lot.

"It means everything. To be on the brink of it is great. We've just got to finish."

To tight end Travis Tannahill, there's also the matter of his class' legacy. The Wildcats won 10 games last year, and a victory over Texas could tie the school record of 11.

"If we can win against Texas and go out and prepare for the bowl game like we know we can -- that's so far down the road it's hard to even think about -- but 12-1 is a heck of a year and it's definitely the top five and maybe the top two or three in the country," he said.

Snyder said Monday that last week's three practices suggested the players were back on task and that the Thanksgiving break came at a good time as well.

"I visited with them (Sunday) night and they're refreshed," he said. "I'd like to believe they understand the value and the significance of this ballgame.

"I think it's important to them. We'll see how we practice today and the rest of the week. I'd feel as though they'd be highly motivated."

Center B.J. Finney concurred.

"There's still a lot to play for," he said. "There's still a lot left on the table for K-State this season, so we've got to get back together, we've got to regroup.

"We've got to execute better, we've got to get every day and improve and close out the season the way we should."

For senior linebacker Arthur Brown, finishing on a high note would be the perfect parting gift to the Wildcat program.

"(It would be) raising the bar for the future K-State guys and having the opportunity to be a part of history being made," he said.