MANHATTAN — Few college football teams thrive on disrespect better than Kansas State, but the Wildcats could use some work when it comes to handling high expectations.
K-State is off to a disappointing 3-2 start after beginning the season with a national ranking and Big 12 championship hopes.
“At the outset of the season, I think our players had a little bit of a misperception about how good we were,” K-State football coach Bill Snyder said. “There was probably too much outside influence in regards to a playoff team, a conference championship team. We have to go back or get back to what our premise is. It’s that 1-0 concept. It’s about today. Let’s do all we can do today. Let’s be better today than we were yesterday.”
“That is what has benefited us in many years past.”
Where did the Wildcats lose their way? Snyder points back to the first weekend of September. K-State was ranked (No. 20) in preseason AP top 25 for just the third time in 13 years. It was picked to finish third in the Big 12 preseason poll, up considerably from eighth a year earlier. With Jesse Ertz back at quarterback and a strong nucleus returning from a 9-4 team, many thought this group was destined for big things.
Blowout victories over Central Arkansas and Charlotte appeared to validate those expectations, and K-State rose to No. 18 in the national polls. The hype seemed real.
That seems like ages ago. Little has gone right since. K-State is now trying to bounce back from a pair of early losses to unranked teams -- Vanderbilt and Texas.
“There were high expectations. Now we are in the process of getting back and taking things one at a time,” K-State linebacker Jayd Kirby said. “We were focused on the wrong things, just the expectations and the things we could have done, and still can do. We probably had our minds wrapped around someplace else.”
It’s an opportunity for the Wildcats to hit the reset button.
Next up are a pair of difficult home games against No. 6 TCU and No. 12 Oklahoma. Win one, or both, and K-State will be back on solid footing and alive in the Big 12 race.
The Wildcats are considered 4.5-point underdogs against the undefeated Horned Frogs, and that could help create motivation throughout the week. But they aren’t trying to think about any of that. Worrying about how one game could impact another is what got them into this predicament. Now, they simply want to focus on playing well in their next practice.
“What we really need to do is take it one game a time and have that 1-0 mentality,” K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said. “We need to focus week by week, because a lot of us probably looked a little too far ahead. We knew what we were capable of. We have lost a couple games and let games slip by us. The big thing for us is taking it one game at a time, not really thinking too far ahead and letting things go as they go.”
That is the mindset Snyder wants from K-State players.
When the Wildcats are more focused on practice than hype, good things tend to happen.
“We need to look at what is in front of us now, not all the way down the road,” K-State defensive end Kyle Ball said. “That is just going 1-0 every week, focusing on that practice that day trying to get in as much work as we can that day and then going to the next one, just having a short memory and next day going after it. If we focus too far down the road, we lose focus on what is important, and that is what has hurt us this year.”