MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — All Chris Harper wants is a little respect.
That’s not asking for much, is it?
Playing the no-respect card is nothing new to Kansas State and its been the motivation of many wins under coach Bill Snyder.
But this season, the Wildcats are putting together a pretty strong resume in what could be one of the wildest finishes the BCS has ever seen.
K-State is coming off its third straight road win — a 55-14 squashing of West Virginia on Saturday — and remains perfect overall at 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the Big 12.
The Wildcats now have two signature wins this season, including its 24-19 victory at Oklahoma to open Big 12 play.
Yet, when the best teams in the country are debated, often K-State is left out of the discussion entirely. For example, a piece in Sports Illustrated last week asked the question, “Who can beat ‘Bama?” and the Wildcats weren’t suggested as a possibility. Instead, the best odds were given to unbeaten Florida, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Some pundits even suggest we could all see another All-SEC matchup in the title game this season, albeit one that includes a one-loss SEC team, or that one-loss Southern California could jump into the No. 2 spot if it beats Oregon in the regular season and again in the Pac-12 championship game.
In another story written by a national writer Saturday night, it was suggested people should start to pay more attention to the Wildcats. However, in the piece, the writer referred to K-State receiver Tyler Lockett as his uncle, Aaron.
So, the question still remains — is the rest of the country actually taking the Wildcats’ surge to the elite seriously, or is it just another feel-good story about the little team that could? After all, K-State was picked to finish sixth in the Preseason Big 12 poll this summer and has done nothing but defy that logic.
“We don’t get the love they get, but we definitely have the players,” Harper said Saturday night. “We beat Oklahoma, but they’re still saying Oklahoma is in it. We beat them. Can we not get any kind of love, like please?”
Harper said he thought K-State might get a boost in the polls on Sunday after making a statement against a Mountaineers team that was once ranked in the Top 5.
He was wrong.
The Wildcats actually dropped a spot in the USA Today coaches poll, down to No. 4, while remaining at No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25.
Apparently, the voters aren’t impressed just yet.
Some voters in the coaches’ poll seemed to be more impressed with Florida’s 44-11 victory over South Carolina than K-State’s win at WVU, causing the Gators to leapfrog ahead of the Wildcats.
K-State did move up, however, in the BCS standings released Sunday night, up one spot past Oregon to No. 3, behind only Florida and Alabama at No. 1. The Wildcats’ moved up because they’re No. 2 in computer average, despite not getting love in the human polls.
It’s those humans that just don’t seem to see what’s happening in Manhattan, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who last week said quarterback Collin Klein — now the Heisman frontrunner after his record night — was just a good player on a mediocre team.
Those comments didn’t set well with the Wildcats.
“We looked real mediocre today,” Harper said.
Most of the criticism of K-State is based on the number of stars, or lack thereof, a player receives during his recruitment. The Alabamas, Oregons, Floridas of the world make a living snagging the five-star recruits — seemingly judged by the number of presumed All-Americans on their rosters. K-State, on the other hand, relies more of the two- and three-star variety. Also, the Wildcats aren’t afraid to take junior college transfers or play their walk-ons.
Yet, all K-State has done is win with those perceived “lesser” players — on the road and against some pretty good football teams.
“I don’t care about those personal accolades — (West Virginia) has a lot of All-Americans on their team, but they have two losses and we’re undefeated, so it doesn’t matter,” Harper said. “We’re out here beating these teams that have so many great players and it’ll be a matter of time before they’re like, ‘these guys can play.’”
It’s where the Wildcats finish at the end of the season that matters most to K-State’s outspoken receiver.
“I would really rather have the attention at the end of the year,” Harper said. “I don’t watch ESPN — honestly, really don’t watch it. It doesn’t matter. They don’t show us, they don’t talk about us. It doesn’t matter because we’re winning games.”
But none of this matters if the Wildcats don’t win Saturday when they host Texas Tech — or win out, for that matter.
“They beat (West Virginia) like we did, so we’ll be ready for the game,” Harper said. “It’s all about that goal — to win a national championship. That’s the goal and you have to take baby steps, win one game at a time. That’s the final goal. And if you don’t have that goal, then what are you playing for?”