Kansas State football fans ought to be proud of their team’s 2016 season, capped by a solid win over Texas A& M in the Texas Bowl Wednesday night.
The team’s hallmark was the way it simply kept battling. Wednesday night, the Wildcats got down by a touchdown quickly, and then were down again a little later, but they just kept grinding. Similarly, the Cats started the season with a loss at Stanford, and after six games stood at 3-3. Some fans at that point could only envision one more win for the year.
But that’s exactly when the Wildcats got tough. They went 6-1 from there, losing only to Oklahoma State, in a game that they could have won. Come to think of it, the only disappointing element of the 2016 team is that — in retrospect anyway — the Cats were only a few plays away from going 11-2. A blowout loss at Oklahoma is the only game that they really never had a shot at winning.
Anyway, credit has to start with Coach Bill Snyder, who has long set a tone of toughness and perseverance. Those values go a long way, if people internalize them, and obviously this group did exactly that.
It was not a team loaded with the kind of talent that makes scouts drool. Jordan Willis, certainly, looks like a force of nature on the defensive line, but there’s no Jordy Nelson or Darren Sproles on this team. Likewise, Jesse Ertz is neither Michael Bishop nor Ell Roberson. He doesn’t have the size and power of Collin Klein, either, but he does make plays to help his team win.
We have to hand it to Ertz. He was knocked out for the season last year on the first play from scrimmage, tearing an ACL. Playing quarterback under Bill Snyder is a tall task, because it requires tough running as well as throwing. Ertz took a pounding but kept coming back for more this year.
Ertz has benefitted from some time in the program, but it’s important to remember that he had only played for the briefest of moments before this season. So he was basically a newcomer, and he handled the responsibilities well.
Next year, he will likely improve again. Quarterbacks in their second year of play under Coach Snyder have a history of a lot of success, and he will have a good line, good receivers and good options at running back. Expectations will rise, as they probably should. How they perform is another question entirely, depending largely on whether they internalize the values Snyder teaches.
But for the moment, fans ought to take a minute to remember that this season’s team did quite a bit better than anybody really had a right to expect. There was a reason the Wildcats were picked eighth in a 10-team league. For far surpassing that, we tip our cap to the players and coaches. Well done, guys.