Dalton Schoen sees several similarities between this year’s Kansas State team and last year’s.
Both entered the season with returning talent. Both were expected to finish in the top half of the league.
But this year, the junior wide receiver wants to see one thing change.
“We’ve got to be like Coach Snyder always says: We’ve got to be 1-0, and just focus on one week at a time,” Schoen said. “You can’t look ahead. You’ve just got to focus on who’s up next and going out there and performing the best each snap, 1-0, and win each game.”
Schoen said he believes the team was guilty of the opposite last season, taking certain opponents for granted and looking ahead to games two or three weeks down the road.
Even senior defensive back Kendall Adams, who missed the final three games of the season with an injury, said he got the impression that his team didn’t take every game as seriously as it should have.
“I do feel like we kind of had that tendency last year, just because of all the talent coming back from the previous season,” Adams said. “We looked ahead. Our end goal was winning the Big 12 championship and whatever comes after that. We didn’t take things one week at a time.”
This season, the Wildcats have the chance right away to prove they have changed. Their season-opener is Saturday at home against South Dakota, followed by a home matchup the next week with No. 18 Mississippi State, an SEC foe.
In other words: a trap last year’s team might have fallen into.
They won’t get to show it until Saturday, but for now, the Wildcats appear confident they’re all-in on the Coyotes.
“I think that we’re extremely focused on South Dakota,” senior right tackle Dalton Risner said. “We’ve been scouting them for two weeks now. Started (scouting) them in camp as well. Of course, you’re always going to look forward to other games — like we look forward to Big 12 games, like we look forward to an SEC game or UTSA, whoever it is that we play — but South Dakota is a good football team.”
The Wildcats also hosted South Dakota to kick off the 2015 season, blanking the Coyotes 34-0. Risner says South Dakota has since changed for the better — “Anyone that goes and watches film on South Dakota will see how they’ve turned around their program,” he said — but, he says, so has K-State.
“I think Coach (Snyder) has done a really good job of harnessing this group, this team,” Risner said, “and letting us know that he’s not going to let us do what we did last year, regardless of how well we do in camp and regardless of how excited we get. I think that the leaders on the team have also done a pretty good job of letting everyone know, hey, we are excited for these games, and we are excited for this season, but let’s make sure we take it one game at a time.”
The Wildcats’ non-conference slate this season is strikingly similar to the 2015 season, when they also faced contests against both South Dakota and UTSA. That isn’t the season K-State looks back on and regrets looking too far ahead during, but the point remains: these Wildcats are zeroed in on the week-by-week mentality.
“Coach Snyder, this offseason, has been preaching to use to take things 1-0,” Adams said, “and take each opponent one week at a time and don’t take any opponent for granted. We’re definitely not going to do that this year. I feel like the leadership we have is going to keep us focused on every game every week.”
Taking things one week at a time has become a theme for K-State under Snyder, a notoriously meticulous coach who said Tuesday he has watched South Dakota’s spring game “on numerous occasions.”
Risner said he wasn’t surprised to hear it. In fact, he has done just the same.
“I’m right there with him,” Risner said. “I think I might have watched it six, seven times now. I’m right there with Coach Snyder, man. We all have addressed South Dakota plenty, and we’re going to continue to do that until the game.”