One statistic, in various iterations, found footing this weekend among those who follow and cheer for Kansas State’s football program.
That stat: The four teams in the College Football Playoff — No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma — combined to go 51-1 this fall. The “1” was K-State, which upended then-No. 5 Oklahoma 48-41 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 26.
Following the announcement of the Wildcats’ Liberty Bowl invitation Sunday, first-year head coach Chris Klieman hopped on a teleconference. That numerical tidbit surrounding the Sooners surfaced. He tried not to make too much of it.
While he conceded it was a “neat” stat, Klieman said he hopes more victories of that caliber are in the offing.
“We played exceptionally well that day, and it’s something that I know that day here in October, our guys are going to remember for a long time,” Klieman said. “But it’s also the standard we want to play to. I know that a lot of recruits saw that game, but more importantly our own players (need) to continue to learn and grow from that experience (and see) that if you play well, you have the opportunity to be successful. We did that day, and there’s some days that we don’t play well and it doesn’t go our way. It was a great experience.”
Referencing recruiting is something Klieman did often Sunday — four times, in fact. His tone about the affect the Oklahoma win might have on the recruiting trail didn’t sound all that different Sunday than it did mere days after the upset itself.
“I think it’s still a body of work. I don’t want it to be one game,” Klieman said Oct. 29. “Obviously, that game was a big game and a big win, but it’s still your overall body of work.”
Earlier in that same press conference, Klieman put forth the assertion that every conference game the Wildcats play each season, nine in all, can influence the hearts and minds of prospective recruits.
“I think all of our games in the Big 12, because of proximity with all the recruiting areas, have an impact,” he said, “without question.”
Klieman’s claim notwithstanding, it was the magnitude of the Oklahoma stunner that reached K-State’s bowl foe.
“There’s always the euphoria of making a bowl game,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said, “and then you see your opponent and you’re like, ‘Oh crap.’ We know how good they are. ... We recognize this is a great challenge for us.”
That feeling, Klieman said, is mutual. Especially in the case of K-State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton, who is tasked with slowing down Navy’s rushing offense, which averages an FBS-best 360.8 yards per game — outpacing second-place Army (311.7) by nearly 50 yards.
“When I told our defensive coordinator that we were playing Navy, he said, ‘Oh, crap,’” Klieman said with a laugh. “It’s a challenging offense to face.”