The Kansas State football team always relishes the role of the underdog.
But ranked in the top 10 after a thrilling 24-19 victory in Norman, Okla. — higher than any other Big 12 team — the Wildcats are the underdogs no more.
Yes, the seventh-ranked Wildcats can still look at themselves as the underdog, but the polls say otherwise.
Now, K-State coach Bill Snyder said his Wildcats must have the leadership to handle the success.
“I’m going to have to get back on the coaches’ poll so I can get us down in the rankings a little bit more,” Snyder joked Monday during the weekly Big 12 teleconference. “We really have to have quality leadership from within and we’ve got to understand how to keep things in perspective and respond to the fact that the polls have us at a certain place.
“Every single individual on the face of the earth understands that whatever happens in September probably isn’t totally relevant to where you are in November. To not forget how you got there is the significant thing, and hopefully we won’t.”
Going into the game at OU, the Wildcats (4-0) were against all odds. Statistics seemed to prove it was near impossible for teams to win in Norman.
The Wildcats also faced criticism for their 35-21 ho-hum win over North Texas two weeks ago.
On Saturday, K-State seemed to answer all critics — at least for now.
Snyder said the team has done a good job in responding to situations over the past two seasons.
“They’ve been there before, probably on both sides of the fence, and hopefully, they can respond appropriately,” he said. “I thought our team responded extremely well to the criticism from the previous performance against North Texas. It really is how you respond to a variety of different circumstances, so that’ll be significant in our week of preparation.
“Everybody in the world wants to pat them on the back, not that they’re not deserving of accolades, but it’s a harder time in this day in age to keep things in perspective and keep sawing wood.”
Being that it was their first road game of the season, Snyder was pleased with the way his team maintained its discipline and played hard in all three phases of the game.
With a bye this week before hosting Kansas on Oct. 6, Snyder hopes his team can turn in quality practices in preparation for their in-state rival.
“Sometimes (bye weeks) have been good and sometimes they haven’t — we’ve experienced both,” he said. “I think the important thing is how we handle this initial week. If our youngsters respond to it appropriately and we work diligently to stay up, get ahead, and improve, then it should work out OK.”
The Wildcats’ upcoming opponent has taken notice of how the team looks to this point, as KU coach Charlie Weis said the two teams are headed in very different directions at this point in the season.
“I think they showed how resilient they are,” he said. “They went down to Norman and hung around early and just played sound, fundamental football. There are no glaring weaknesses on their team.”