MANHATTAN — On the day last December that he first addressed his Kansas State football team, Chris Klieman implored the Wildcats to "win the dang day."
It was a marketer's dream, immediately blowing up on social media both as a Twitter hashtag and a catchphrase.
But those words carry much deeper meaning for Klieman, who 11 months into his K-State tenure continues to preach daily improvement, but also focusing not on results, but on the process.
"It’s still what I believe in, and what the program believes in, and what our staff believes in," Klieman said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. "I said this to the players yesterday, ‘Everybody wants to win and everybody is disappointed when you lose.’ But, if the only thing that they did was to come to Kansas State or wherever other school and play football and get a degree, boy I failed."
The Wildcats, who face West Virginia at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, are coming off a disappointing loss to Texas last week on a last-second field goal. It ended a three-game winning streak and dropped their record to 6-3 overall, 3-3 in the Big 12.
But quarterback Skylar Thompson insisted, in keeping with Klieman's approach, that the Wildcats are less concerned about the 27-24 final score against the Longhorns than about what the next day will bring.
"When you just focus on one day at a time and where your feet are at, that's what will make you successful, and it doesn't matter whatever the future may hold," Thompson said. "You're going to be successful because you've put in the time each day and you've sacrificed so much in the day-to-day process to where when that moment and opportunity presents itself, you're ready for it mentally, no matter what takes place."
Senior center Adam Holtorf admitted that in a results-driven game, where success typically is measured in wins and losses, those philosophies might seem at odds. But Klieman's consistency of message has resonated.
"They're two different competing ideas and things, but that's something that he's really stressed, even when he got here in January," Holtorf said. "And that's something I've really tried to focus on.
"You can still be focused on the process but still enjoy some of those results that come from the process."
And you learn to live in the moment.
"The biggest thing for me is it slows some things down and it takes some of the pressure off because you're focusing on just one play at a time," Holtorf said. "You're focused on the next step and getting better, and not necessarily, 'We have to go out and score this drive, we have to go out and win this game, or we have go out and get bowl eligible.'
"It's all about the next play in front of us, the next game in front of us and just continuing to get better."
Klieman said as much after back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor dropped the Wildcats to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12. In his mind, they were improving on a weekly basis, and they would be rewarded in the long run.
"I'm a big believer in not being simply a results-driven person, organization, company, football team, whatever it is, but enjoying the journey, enjoying the process, because it's a grind and everyone knows this, from the coaches to players," he said. "This is a grind of a season.
"You get 12 opportunities, and look at how much time you practice and you prepare. You better enjoy the process, you better enjoy that journey. These guys are going to remember — especially these seniors — because they're going to remember their senior year for the rest of their lives."
Klieman, who won four FCS national championships in five years as head coach at North Dakota State and several more as an assistant, said motivational speaker Ben Newman helped him shape the philosophy during his time in Fargo. Newman also has spoken to his K-State teams, perpetuating the idea of process over results with the "Pound the Stone" mantra that can be seen throughout the Vanier Football Complex.
"I think it's been huge for us," senior tight end Blaise Gammon said. "I think it's led to a lot of our improvements, too, really just focusing on that what happens last week and the week before has no bearing on what we do going forward.
"We just have to focus on each practice, one day at a time, and try to get better."
It has proven beneficial for what is essentially a new team under a brand new coaching staff.
"Especially when you go back to spring ball and installing a whole new offense, a whole new defense and realizing that something like that is a challenge," Holtorf said. "So you focus on that process and that continued improvement and it makes things easier."
The Wildcats are listed as 14-point favorites against a West Virginia team (3-6, 1-5 Big 12) that has lost five straight games. But that's the least of their concerns.
"We don't really base it off a win or a loss, we just try to each and every day get better," said redshirt freshman safety Wayne Jones.
To Thompson, it's the practical approach.
"I think that's helped our football team, especially as far as not making any moment (too big) or putting any additional pressure on us," he said. "We already have enough pressure as it is to go and perform.
"Anticipating and focusing on the future and what we want the end result to be, it makes it worse. It's helped me a lot this season having that approach and going about it that way."