MANHATTAN — The Kansas State football team expected more than a 7-5 record and a fourth-place Big 12 finish, but those results don’t seem so bad now that the Wildcats have finished the regular season.
“We have got all the momentum in the world,” K-State running back Alex Barnes said. “We have got all the confidence in the world, too. It will be exciting to go into bowl season.”
Momentum and confidence have a funny way of changing the way people look at things.
When K-State climbed to No. 18 in the national polls after a 2-0 start, the Wildcats were thinking double-digit wins and a berth in the Big 12 championship game. When a losing skid dropped them to 3-4, some saw the makings of a disastrous season. Now that they have won four of their last five, team morale is on the rise.
A 20-19 victory over Iowa State on Saturday was a fitting end to the regular season. Things went poorly much of the way, and it appeared K-State was headed for defeat early in the fourth quarter. But the Wildcats rallied from a 19-7 deficit and won on the final play when quarterback Skylar Thompson found Isaiah Zuber in the back of the end zone.
“It is definitely not what we wanted, but we came through,” K-State receiver Zach Reuter said. “In the second half of the season, we showed our potential -- what we could have been if we had maybe prepared that way from the beginning. It shows that we maybe could have done some special things.
“We still are doing special things, we just need to keep going and get this bowl win.”
It remains unclear which bowl will select K-State, but the Cactus Bowl, Camping World Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Texas Bowl are the most likely destinations.
K-State coach Bill Snyder is looking forward to another game, regardless of location and opponent.
“It’s easy to say what could have happened, what could have been, but you have to get beyond that,” Snyder said. “They said that to themselves a few games ago. I think they will be all right with attitude and approach with whatever bowl game we are at.”
Another victory would send the Wildcats into 2018 with considerable hope.
Injured quarterback Jesse Ertz is the only senior listed on the offensive side of K-State’s depth chart, which means the Wildcats will return a player with starting experience at every position. That should take some pressure off the defense as it looks to replace four senior starters.
K-State will be expected to build on its late-season surge, which includes come-from-behind victories over Texas Tech and Iowa State, as well as an upset win at No. 18 Oklahoma State.
“I don’t know how much better a football team we are we,” Snyder said, “but we are better than when we started the season.”
The Wildcats can show their improvement one more time next month at a bowl game.
“Bowl prep is always a lot better coming off a win,” K-State defensive back Denzel Goolsby said. “Last week’s win is something that is definitely going to give us momentum going forward.”