By Kellis Robinett
Tribune News Service
The mariachi band grew restless as it waited to greet Kansas State on Sunday.
The quartet of performers, dressed head-to-toe in matching Charro suits, were part of the Alamo Bowl's welcoming party. They were scheduled to serenade football coach Bill Snyder and K-State's entire football team at 3:45 p.m. as it arrived at the Marriott River Center, its home for the next week.
Instead, they tuned their instruments and mingled with fans until Snyder led a procession through the hotel's lobby, 30 minutes late. Punctuality is a virtue at K-State, so, as you might expect, the Wildcats had good reason for their tardiness. They allotted extra time to their first postseason practice in San Antonio.
"Coach has our schedule down to a T," senior K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "There is a time for fun and then there is a time for business. We are here to win a bowl game. Every minute that is spent here in San Antonio needs to be geared around winning the game, that goes from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to bed at night.
"We want to use every minute efficiently and we are doing everything we can to have success."
That means wearing coats and ties, thanking bowl employees for their hospitality and treating their time leading up to kickoff on Jan. 2 as an extended business trip.
K-State players mastered this approach last season at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Tired of ending their seasons with bowl losses, they ignored every distraction Arizona had to offer and put everything they had into preparations and practices.
The result was a week of scrimmages that Snyder described as the best he could remember and a postseason victory over Michigan.
"What stood out about it was, really, we did not prepare well up until that time when we arrived at the bowl site," Snyder said. "Our practices had been poor and lethargic and I was angry with our players. We had a very detailed meeting about what we needed to do and how we were going to go about doing it and whether we were really going to get invested in the preparation.
"Our players came together and made a consciousness effort to improve their preparation and their practice routine and all that goes along with it. They did. I think that was very beneficial to the outcome of that game."
Senior K-State center B.J. Finney recalls that meeting and the week that followed as the birth of what he calls "Super Cat Time." During the regular season, players try to work five minutes ahead of schedule. If a team meeting is scheduled for noon, they are expected to be in attendance by 11:55. Players refer to that punctuality system as "Cat Time."
During the postseason, that philosophy goes into hyper drive. If a team meeting is scheduled for noon, you are considered late at 11:40. Those are the rules of "Super Cat Time."
"He has (the schedule) down to the minute," Finney said. "To ... the ... minute. That is how detailed coach is. It is better to be there that much earlier so you are there and you're not risking running late.
"Even when we get done with practice and we have an evening off and eat dinner with family or teammates, he will give us after practice until whenever our curfew is. And you better be in bed 30 minutes early, because we have coaches and they have to walk around a lot. So you better be there on 'Super Cat Time.'"
Time will tell if K-State's week in San Antonio will be remembered as positively as last year's lead in to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
So far, though, the Wildcats are ahead of where they were a year ago. Even if they kept a mariachi band waiting.
"We have been kind of up and down," Snyder said. "I couldn't say the negative things I said about the preparation early before last year's bowl game. But we still have room to improve. We are not where we need to be yet."
K-State's veterans are ready to work to get there.
"Last year, we really took that bowl prep serious and it was just instilled in our minds early on that we wanted to win," Mueller said. "We wanted to know what it feels like to be champions at the end of the season and hold up a trophy. It's the same mindset this year."