Thursday, November 26, 2015

Next step for Cats: Win a bowl game

Shortly after wrapping up Kansas State’s 31-10 victory over Kansas this past Saturday in Lawrence, senior receiver Tramaine Thompson wasn’t picky when asked about his preference of possible bowl destinations.

“I don’t really care — just not cold,” he said. “As long as it’s not cold, I’m fine.”

Thompson, however, wasn’t so nonchalant regarding his team’s performance in the post-season.

“Every year I’ve been here we’ve gone into the offseason trying to get back right, because of a bowl loss,” Thompson said.

“I want to leave here with part of my legacy being part of getting Coach (Bill) Snyder’s first bowl game win (since being back).”

In fact, no K-State team has tasted a bowl victory since Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles powered the 2002 Wildcats to a 34-27 win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.

The Wildcats are 0-5 in bowl games since then, but it looks like there’s good news for Thompson and a bit of history on K-State’s side coming up.

With either the Holiday Bowl in San Diego (Dec. 30), or the less likely Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. (Dec. 28), looking like possible destinations, warm weather should be on the horizon.

Including the 2002 win, K-State is a perfect 3-0 in Holiday Bowls all-time.

As maddening as the bowl woes might be for some, the pain of K-State’s early season struggles is perhaps more fresh in the Wildcats’ minds heading into the bowl season.

Even after his team finished the season 5-1 after starting the year losing four of its first six games, defensive end Ryan Mueller looked to the missed opportunities first.

“(Finishing) 7-5 is a disappointment, but you just gotta roll with the punches,” Mueller said. “You look forward. We’re going to the bowl game, wherever it is, and you gotta go win it.”

The close nature of the losses only adds to the discomfort.

“The biggest margin was 10 points,”  Snyder said of the losses. “There wasn’t a ballgame we played that we didn’t have our chances, so that’s the frustrating experience. One of our players said last night, they asked to define the season in one word, and one of the players said, `Frustrating.’”

The Wildcats were able to use that frustration as fuel during their turnaround, and senior linebacker Blake Slaughter, who led the team with 15 tackles against KU, is looking for that to continue into the bowl season.

“That means so much to me, as far as from a character standpoint,” senior linebacker Blake Slaughter said. “It’s stick-to-it-ness, a fighting attitude. We talked about caring, whether or not we cared. We showed the world that we care.

“It’s something I wrote down on my own personal goal sheet before the season, to win a bowl game. Wherever we go, whoever we play, to get it done.”

In addition to a bowl win, two notable individual achievements could be reached in the Wildcats’ bowl game.

Running back John Hubert’s 220-yard performance against KU left him just 32 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the season — something the senior has never done at K-State.

Hubert said that reaching that elusive mark will “most definitely” be on his mind during the bowl game.

The bowl will also give Mueller a final opportunity to become the Wildcats’ single-season sacks leader. His 11.5 sacks so far ties him with Nyle Wiren (1996) and Ian Campbell (2006) atop the record book.

K-State will learn of its bowl fate on Sunday when all the matchups are announced.


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