Travis Britz was fuming.
The Kansas State defensive tackle had just endured 60 minutes of trying to keep the nation’s most prolific offense in check long enough for his Wildcats to snatch a victory from 15th-ranked Baylor on Saturday.
But, like the previous two games at Texas and Oklahoma State, Britz and the Wildcats fell short — taking yet another close loss and falling to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big 12.
Questions are continuing to mount, as time is starting to run out on the season.
When surrounded by reporters and microphones, Britz was asked how he and his teammates would respond, how they would be able to weather the adversity and disappointment of three straight narrow defeats?,
Britz was curt and to the point.
“It’s just an attitude,” he said, between looks that could have burned a hole through your soul.
That attitude starts with K-State coach Bill Snyder’s 16 goals and values he’s built the Wildcats’ program around.
“It better matter to them,” Snyder said. “It better matter to everybody involved in the program. I hate to think that you lose four ball games through the early segments of your season and be a 2-4 football team and not have it matter.
“That doesn’t make any sense to me. I think it does matter to our players and they don’t want to be there. They want to do something about it.”
“Never accept losing,” is No. 11 on Snyder’s list of goals. It’s sandwiched between No. 9 “Eliminate mistakes,” and No. 13 “Expect to win.” But with each loss, especially with the Wildcats having chances to win late in each one, truly expecting to win could become harder to do the rest of the way.
The distaste for losing is there, as exemplified by Britz and virtually every Wildcat following Saturday’s loss. K-State is improving — Goal No. 4. The costly interception by quarterback Daniel Sams, who dazzled with 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns, was the lone turnover on the day against Baylor, an improvement from the four turnovers at Oklahoma State.
The four penalties for 37 yards on Saturday were less than half of what they’d been averaging in conference play. Still, it was those mistakes that ultimately cost them another game in the end.
Improvement aside, the losing can’t help but take its toll.
“It’s just tough, very frustrating,” K-State senior safety Ty Zimmerman said. “We felt like we did a lot of good things, a lot of things that could have given us the win.
“Obviously, those four big plays hurt us. We just can’t do that. Last year we had a lot of close games like this, and we were winning them. I don’t know what you can account for to that, but we were just flat out getting it done.”
The Wildcats might have started to find their identity, both offensively and defensively. They carved up the Baylor defense on the ground with 327 rushing yards at 5.6 yards per carry. They dominated time of possession — another Snyder staple — holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes in the game, and more than 12 minutes in the third quarter alone to outscore Baylor 15-0 and take a brief 25-21 lead.
K-State was relentless on defense, holding ballyhooed running back Lache Seastrunk, who rushed for just 57 yards, and the rest of the Bears running game to just 2.9 yards per carry. And even with those three long touchdown passes, the Wildcats kept Baylor’s offense in check better than anyone has done during the Bears’ current nine-game winning streak.
But Saturday’s game is a loss — the third straight for the defending Big 12 champions.
“We just have to go out there and come together,” Sams said. “We can’t let this get to us. We can’t fall. We have to use this to pull each other up.”
With a bye this week — before hosting West Virginia on Oct. 26 — the Wildcats will have plenty of time to pull each other up and stew over yet another missed opportunity. Perhaps captain, and linebacker Blake Slaughter said it best Saturday.
“Big picture? We just have to get it done, make it happen,” he said. “We have to win.”