One week after Kansas State’s 35-25 loss to Baylor, Ryan Mueller’s highlight defensive play is still sticking in fans’ minds.
And the junior defensive ends’ words are sticking with his teammates.
During the third quarter against Baylor, Mueller chased down Bears’ quarterback Bryce Petty and stripped the ball and recovered it as Petty was trying to escape out of bounds.
It’s a play that caused K-State coach Bill Snyder to take note, and he made a rare comment about it too.
“I thought it was a great play, I don’t think I’ve ever said that before,” he said. “Just because of the effort it took for him to get from where he was to make the play, and he did it in such a way that a lot of players might not do that. They might not get there.
“If you know Ryan, he is not the fastest guy in the world. To run the (quarterback) down is not the easiest thing to do. For him to get there and have the presence of mind to put his hand where he put his hand and strip the ball was a very, very fine play.”
Some of Mueller’s teammates said the play was deserving of recognition in Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays, which it didn’t get. But Mueller said he wasn’t the only one who deserved credit on the play.
“It was a good play, it got a lot of attention, but I would not have been able to make the play if it wasn’t for the secondary behind me giving me enough time to get to the quarterback,” he said. “Any play, it’s never a one-person play, it’s a team defense and everyone helped me make that play.”
Snyder went beyond the play to compliment Mueller on his practice technique.
While Mueller appreciates the compliment, he said he wants to use it as an opportunity to make others better on the team and have Snyder pointing them out too.
“It means no plays off for me from here on out,” he said. “I just have to keep trying to push my teammates to hopefully get the same compliment. I would rather have coach say, `I have never had a team practice like the one that I am coaching right now.’ That would be a bigger compliment to me, personally.”
Mueller was disappointed with the loss to Baylor, obviously, and took it upon himself to speak to the team in the locker room after the game.
Quarterback Daniel Sams said the message was one that stuck with everyone.
“Mueller said we just have to find a plan — ‘What’s our plan? Are we going to lay down?’” he said. “Right now, we need to get to a bowl game. We’re just taking it as round two, and really show ourselves that we don’t have to let this season go down the drain.”
Mueller expanded on the message he gave to the team and explained his purpose behind it.
“The message was just to pay attention to details,” he said. “How good of a player do you want to be in this program? I have had some great role models since I have been here, some great teammates like Collin Klein, Arthur Brown, both of which had so much attention on them constantly. They were able to cope with that and eliminate distractions. I think that is such a key if you want to be a great player — eliminate distractions and focus on the team, take coaching and apply everything that your coaches said.
“Every rep you do and anything you do in practice, just being coachable, because those are the little things that carry over to the games.”