MANHATTAN — Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder thinks he knows at least one reason why the Wildcats are having a disappointing season.
And it has nothing to do with strategy or execution. His issue: team chemistry.
“I think we are still searching for it,” Snyder said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “I have said that many times. They are still trying to find themselves.
“When you win a ballgame, because they are young and it all starts to pull everyone a little bit closer together, they know where they want to be and basically how to get there. And yet, something needs to help push them over the hump. Then they get a little closer and we have what happened to us this past week, and there is some uncertainty.”
K-State has been all over the map this season. The Wildcats won their first two games by large margins, but lost three of their next four while dealing with quarterback injuries and other obstacles. Then they beat Kansas and Texas Tech to move within one victory of bowl eligibility. Now, following a frustrating 28-23 loss to West Virginia, they are 5-5 with a difficult game at No. 10 Oklahoma State up next.
Those inconsistent results are also visible in the locker room, according to Snyder.
“I’m not a big fan of taking anything for granted, and I think we did,” Snyder said. “There was a lot of feeling that this was going to be a good football team, for whatever reason, and I think there was a little selfishness that kind of entered into that.
“I am going to get mine and I am going to get mine, and all of a sudden we realized we are not nearly as good a football team as we thought, or at least not playing as well as we are capable of playing. I think there are a lot of those kinds of feelings bouncing back and forth. Not uncommon for young people. They haven’t experience anything like this before.”
Players were in good spirits at the beginning of the season, but morale crashed following losses to Vanderbilt, Texas, TCU and Oklahoma. Smiles returned with back-to-back victories. But it was hard to find much joy after the West Virginia loss.
That much was obvious immediately following the game when only three players chose to speak with media — kicker Matthew McCrane, running back Dalvin Warmack and linebacker Trent Tanking. About 10 players usually grant interviews after home games.
Snyder does not require K-State players to speak with media, but he likes it when they participate after losses.
“If you win and play well it’s so easy to put yourself in front of the media,” Snyder said. “... Are you going to be able to do that when things don’t go well? It is kind of a defining moment in your character.”
Right tackle Dalton Risner wishes things were different, but after listening to the words of his coach he said they were tough but fair.
“I hate to say it, but I think Coach Snyder is right when he talks about us looking a bit too forward,” Risner said. “I think that 1-0 mindset is really important to have. I don’t think we overlooked anybody, but the end goal the whole time was playoffs, Big 12 championship. Maybe that did affect us.”
Ten games into the season is a bit late to search for team chemistry, but the Wildcats think they can find it.
Risner said K-State players are still fighting and pushing for a strong finish. He doesn’t see any quit in this group.
“We bring it because we are 5-5 and we know we could be 8-1 or 9-0,” Risner said. “We bring it because we are pissed off. We bring it because we are mad. We bring it because we see what everyone expects from us and we aren’t putting it out there. We bring it because the fans are upset. We bring it because Coach Snyder is upset. We bring it because we have faith in Kansas State football and what we can be as a team. We aren’t going to give up.”