K-State focused on finishing season right

By Kelly McHugh

It only became official on Sunday night, but Kansas State players knew where they were headed on Saturday night following their Big 12-clinching victory over Texas at home.

On Sunday, though, everything became official when the Wildcats accepted the invitation to play in the Fiesta Bowl against at-large selection Oregon on Jan. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.

The Wildcats are excited about the opportunity to play to the program’s first BCS game since the 2003 season.

Senior linebacker Jarell Childs celebrated Saturday night’s big win, but also said the Wildcats’ new focus is on one thing — bowl preparation.

“Once we start practicing again, we’ll start moving on, but we’re going to celebrate (the Big 12 Championship),” Childs said Saturday. “But once we figure out who we’re playing, practice will be moving on. We’ll be prepared for anybody we play. We have great coaches who put us in great situations.”

The Fiesta Bowl, taking place at University of Phoenix Stadium, is exactly one month away and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett said he’s ready for the hard work that goes in to preparing for such a high-caliber game.

“We have a month to get ready for it,” Lockett said Saturday. “So, we just have to go out there and just bust our butts off in practice to get ready for that game.”

Lockett said it was the team’s hard work that got the Wildcats into a BCS bowl game, despite being picked to finish sixth in the Big 12.

Senior linebacker Justin Tuggle agreed.

“It’s just amazing that we’ve got to this point,” Tuggle said, “that we would actually win the Big 12 and have a BCS berth. We’re just so excited for the opportunity. I’m so proud of everyone out there. I love all those guys. It’s just amazing to see what hard work does, how hard work pays off.”

For one Wildcat, the Fiesta Bowl hits a little closer to home. Five years ago senior wide receiver Chris Harper began his career with the Ducks as a quarterback. It was during Harper’s freshman year that he rushed for a touchdown, threw a touchdown and caught a touchdown.

The Wichita native transferred to K-State for his final three seasons.

“I think Chris is going to be really excited,” Lockett said. “He was hoping for this moment, too. We would have wished it was the national championship if we played them, but I bet Chris is really embracing this moment right now.”

This matchup was supposed to be for the national title, as both teams were ranked in the top two just three weeks ago before both teams were upset the same night.

K-State was No. 1 before losing at Baylor and Oregon was ranked No. 2 when it lost to Stanford.

Now the Wildcats have a chance to make history for head coach Bill Snyder by going 12-1 for the first time in school history.

Lockett said being able to get his coach another Big 12 title is something he’ll always remember, but winning the Fiesta Bowl would be something else.

“To see Coach Snyder smile, you don’t really get to see that a lot, so just being able to see him smile allows us to keep on pushing, keep on fighting,” Lockett said. “We have one more game to win and if we win that game, we make history, and I’m pretty sure he’ll smile for the rest of the year.”

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