Now more than a week since Kansas State had its national title game hopes dashed by Baylor, the Wildcats are focused on the importance of their final regular season game this Saturday night against Texas.
Not only will it be the final time for a number of seniors to play in Manhattan, a win would give the Wildcats a share of the Big 12 title, and the conference’s automatic bid into a BCS bowl.
K-State coach Bill Snyder said his team isn’t oblivious to what’s at stake against the Longhorns.
“They weren’t born yesterday,” he said. “They’re young guys that understand what’s at stake for this ballgame. How much do I put in front of them? We’ve met and I certainly shared that with them, but it’s certainly not something I have to go around and beat the drums about every day. They realize what’s at stake.”
The team took some time to break away from football this past week, as they were allowed to travel home and take in Thanksgiving with friends and family. But when they came back on Sunday, it was right back to work.
Snyder wasn’t sure how his team would respond to the loss to Baylor. On Monday, he indicated it was going well thus far.
“I think they’ve responded well, at least that was the inference that I received last week during the course of practice,” he said. “We started the week off well, maybe tempered it a little bit toward the end. I think they were looking forward to having the opportunity to have some break time, which they did get. I visited with them last night and they’re refreshed.
“I’d like to believe they understand the value and the significance of this ballgame — I think it’s important to them. We’ll see how we practice (Monday) and the rest of the week. I’d feel as though they’d be highly motivated.”
The opponent is a team you can never overlook. Texas always features some of the premiere athletes in college football. This year’s Longhorns squad has struggled with injury and, once again, problems at the quarterback position.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, haven’t lost to Texas in quite some time. K-State has won its last four games against the Longhorns, and hasn’t lost since the 2003 season.
Snyder said the Longhorns present a dangerous opponent.
“What stands out to me about the University of Texas is probably what stands out to virtually everybody, they’re a team of very, very fine coaches, very, very fine players,” he said. “They’re very athletic and have very good speed at all positions. They’re a very multi-faceted football team. They change up an awful lot. They do an awful lot during the course of a football game in regards to movement and that’s on offense, defense and special teams alike.
“There’s an awful lot to prepare for, maybe more than what you might have to prepare for against most teams that you play. They’re very diversified.”
As the Wildcats head into the senior night game this week, Snyder talked about the importance of leaders taking charge and keeping the team steered in the right direction after the first loss of the season.
He said he’s seen players in leadership roles and ones that aren’t in those roles stepping up.
“It’s an individual thing, to begin with, but the leadership is really significant both from a coaching standpoint and from a teammate standpoint, and it may be even more significant with their teammates,” he said. “We have a substantial number of seniors in the program, so even those that aren’t captains or player representatives, many of them still accepted some leadership responsibilities. It seemingly has gone the right way.”
The Big 12 gained some attention over the weekend when Baylor defeated Texas Tech in overtime to give the conference its ninth bowl-eligible team.
With 9-out-of-10 teams slated to go to bowl games, Snyder said the conference is as strong as he can remember.
“I’d say it’s probably as strong and there’s probably as much parity as I’ve seen, and that’s without doing any type of research whatsoever,” he said. “As I’ve said before, I think anybody in this league is capable of winning against anybody else, which seems to reflect the talent and the capabilities of each team. You see the conference kind of fall out of the national spotlight gradually over the season but at the end of the day it’s because you were playing a number of talented football teams week in and week out. Having a nine-game schedule like that is quite difficult.”