Looking back on Kansas I thought it was particularly significant that our team rallied the way it did. We started off the game 14 points down and had run one offensive play on the road in an environment that has been tough for us – our players and coaches showed a lot of poise, staying calm and believing in each other, fighting and finding a way to win the game.
Dominique Brooks' play was big to give us a boost there. And then the play in the fourth quarter by both our offense and defense (was good). We jarred the ball loose a couple times on defense, we made some tackles.
Our offensive line really played well and dominated the line of scrimmage. We were able to put together a drive at the end of the game when we needed it.
Twice we came from behind. That was really exciting to see from a coaching standpoint. And I know for the players it was a relief to know it was in ‘em and that they could do that. It was good to see ‘em smile after the game and be excited again.
It's a really young team. They have not learned how to deal with all this stuff, but they're learning. It's a process; it's an education. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Hopefully, we can capitalize on that and take advantage of the kind of energy we had at the end of that game and take it toward the opportunities we have in front of us.
This game (Saturday vs. Kansas State), the way the North is, is like a playoff. Every game is critical for everybody.
We can't control anybody else but ourselves, and that's we will do. We'll spend all of our time this week trying to figure out a way to win this game at home.
It's a matchup of two pretty interesting teams, statistically. It's a pretty good match on paper. Both defenses have struggled this year. Both offenses have been inconsistent. But we're both sitting in a position where a berth in the championship game is within our reach with two games left.
Hopefully, getting them at home is an advantage. Weather is supposed to be OK. It should be a good day for football. But it's going to come down for both teams whether they're willing to pay that price to win that game. As it usually does.
Kansas State offensively has multiple weapons. Darren Sproles is leading the conference in all-purpose yards. He's a great, great player. It seems like he's been there for seven or eight years. He's hard to tackle. He was the difference in their game at Missouri. He single-handedly brought them back. They couldn't tackle him.
The quarterbacks, we're not sure who we're going to see. We'll maybe see them both (Dylan Meier and Allen Webb). But we may see more Webb just because of the injuries, which none of us really know about. But it doesn't really make any difference.
They do throw the ball a little bit more with Meier in the game, and run the ball more with Webb in the game. That would dictate our calls a little bit. Not our defense, but some of the calls we would make during the course of the game.
Webb's an exciting athlete. He can make a lot of plays. He's got a live arm and big receivers, much like Mizzou. They're a team that goes up and gets the ball – very aggressive in their receiving corps.
They've got seven seniors on their offense. We've got three.
Defensively is where they've changed a lot since the beginning of the year. They're not playing the same people they played early on. Since their loss against Fresno State, they seemed to evolve to a lineup they're more comfortable with.
This is a team that's never out of it. They were down 21-zip to Missouri. You'd think that'd be enough, but it wasn't. They've done that all year. Against A&M, they came back and almost won that game after being down quite a bit.
This is a team that you just can't let down against for a minute because their big-play capacity is huge.
Special teams, this is the two best placekickers in the conference in this game. Punting, I thought Saturday we were outstanding in the punt game, and obviously the punt return with Stephone Robinson. So two good matchups on special teams.
Statistically, these two teams line up pretty evenly. It should make for a good ballgame.
Q: Sproles has had an up-and-down year. Does he look better with Webb beside him at quarterback?
Gary Barnett: I don't see a difference. We haven't noticed a difference.
Q: Which quarterback do you expect to see more of?
GB: I don't know that we can call that right now. We'll just prepare for both, and whatever happens, happens.
Q: Have you had a season in your career where you've had so many ups and downs?
GB: I haven't seen it where there's been so many ups and downs and still had a shot to play for the title. I haven't been in a conference where in the end it's so muddled and unclear, and everybody still has a shot. I know coming down there's usually two, maybe three teams involved, but not (five) like there is now. It's an interesting year.
I think a lot of us saw this coming early on in August.
Q: Do you look at the Kansas State game as almost a title game?
GB: We can't call it a title game. But if we don't win this game, we can't play for the title. We know that.
The game after this one really means nothing to us right now. We literally can't look beyond anything. We just have to find some way to win this game. We're not in control. You'd like to be able tell your kids, ‘OK, if we win these next two, we're going to the Big 12 Championship.' But you can't say that. All you can say is, ‘If you win this one, you've got one more game and we'll see how it falls.'
On adversity the team has encountered from fans at opposing stadiums.
GB: The sidelines on the road have been great. Kansas was the only game that had anything that was remotely obscene or interesting. Actually, it was pretty funny. But everybody else has been very respectful; none of what we were prepared to handle (has occurred).
Q: Usually seven or eight weeks into the season, you're able to identify the identity of your team. Can you do that with this team?
GB: I still think we're in the process of becoming. Our defense gets a little better every week. Frankly, I think we're so young that an identity isn't a question at this point in time. We're just trying to make plays, no matter what the situation is, or who we seem to look like.
One, I don't think anybody's tried to find an identity. Two, I don't know that there's one there. I think it's just that everybody is trying to find a way to be better than they were the week before in every phase.
We've gone up and down with the receiver group. We got to a point where we were starting to make a lot of plays as a receiver corps. Then we go through a game or two where we're not making any. We're sort of floating up and down of that line right in the middle. We need to find a way to get above that line in more phases.
Q: Is your team clinging? Or just hanging on?
GB: I think we're beyond clinging. I think we're beyond hanging on. But I think there's some hanging on feelings there. I think younger guys are hanging on. But I felt coming out of Kansas, coming out of that locker room, that there was a real relief. There was a point in time where this team said our goal was to get through everything in the spring, get through all the offseason stuff, get through the summer, get to CSU and beat CSU, and then see what happens.
Is that true or not? I don't know, but that's how it's felt. At Kansas, there was like this renewed vigor, renewed enthusiasm. And a new sense of a quest. That's what I felt coming out of that game.
Q: Did your team grow up at Kansas?
GB: I don't know that we'll know that. It's like turning points; you don't really know turning points until you look back on them and say, ‘That was it.' I certainly think there's a chance that we did. But I felt that way coming out of A&M.
Q: Is this team too young to remember the pain from losing the final game and missing a bowl last year?
GB: No, I think some of that will hang on. Greg Finnegan brought up yesterday that 49 weeks ago we started our offseason work. You're three weeks away from starting your offseason. But if you take care of things, you get to play in another game and you don't start the offseason until everybody gets back in January.
I think there's that constant reminder. We're so young, we've got a lot of guys who've never been to a bowl. It's only been one season since we went to our last bowl game. But we don't have a lot of guys to stand up and say here's what it's like. Especially, since the last bowl game we were in, we were in a game that we felt like we finished second in the conference but we ended up in a fourth-place bowl. So there was a lot of uneasiness around that going into that bowl game. It was really hard to get our guys prepared for that game.
Still, there are some guys and they need to step up and say here's what it's like not going, and here's what it's like going.
But nothing works for us unless we find a way to beat K-State. No one talks about (a bowl). I haven't even heard a conversation.
Q: Vs. Texas A&M we saw a big opening up in the CU offensive playbook. Will we see more opening up like that Saturday?
GB: The only opening you saw was we used one new formation that we used three times on 3rd and 1. And a two-point play. All that stuff gets over exaggerated. We didn't do a whole lot different.
At the same time, we're in a do-or-die game for us. We've got to pull it all out. We've got to do everything we can do to win this game. At the same time, you don't do it just to do it. You do the things that as you watch K-State you think you have a chance to execute against them. Those are the things you do.
On if the way last year's game ended will affect this year's game (Last season, QB Ell Roberson ran a play at the very end rather than take a knee. The play resulted in a touchdown after the game was already won by KSU. Bill Snyder said he told Roberson to take a knee.)
GB: I don't know. I don't know that there was enough of our guys that played in that game to have that have an impact. It will some, no question. It always does with coaches. But you get beyond that.
I was really smoked after the game. Even though Bill told me he had told the young man to take a knee and he didn't. But you get over it in 24 or 48 hours. So I haven't thought about it. I haven't heard anybody mention it on our team. Not that it won't get mentioned.
Q: Coming off their Big 12 title, are you surprised they've struggled as much as they have this year?
GB: A little bit. But it just shows you how you can cycle in and out. It's going to be like this more and more. People need to accept it. A school that has played as many junior college players (as KSU) I think is susceptible to this. We all are, but I think they are even more at times.
But Bill hasn't had a year that I can remember that's been quite like this. But he's still in the position to play for the Big 12 North. This is a team with a tradition over the past 15 years that's almost unmatched. You don't ever discount them.
Like I said, they're playing a lot of different guys now than they did the first four games. They've made a lot of personnel changes. It's almost a completely different defense.
Q: You could see the competition in the North coming, but could you see things being the way they are?
GB: I wouldn't have predicted Kansas State being quite where they are, or Nebraska being quite where they are, Missouri I predicted them being a little better than where they are. But not too far off — a game or two difference.
I think Okie State's play this year has been a factor against at least three teams in the North. A&M's made a difference.
Q: Did you see the ability Allen Webb has displayed on the field when you recruited him?
GB: Yeah, it's just the kind of player I saw.
Q: Do you have a special affinity for this CU team?
GB: The affinity I have for this team is not along the lines of football. It has to do with my role as a surrogate father for all of them. Our coaches role as many of (the players) are entering the maturity process. All the things I've gone through with the seniors, an all the things we're going through with the younger guys. That's may affinity.
It's more like a father of a kid that's just coming into his teens and is trying to figure everything out. This team is sort of like that. It's like you've got a family with a couple older brothers and a lot of younger siblings.
On top of that, dad almost losing his job. (laughter)
Q: At what point does it cease to be a "young team"?
GB: In theory, you'd like to say by Game 6 or 7 that you've grown up a lot. And I think we have. But when it's dominated by young guys, then sometimes the grind of the season and school of college life, and the grind of the pressure exposes a lot of guys. It exposes them for being young, and not everybody knows how to handle it.
There's a process of explaining how to handle things. But you can't explain it, you have to guide them through it and be there for them.
That's too nebulous and answer. I didn't mean to dance around that question, but that's sort of a feeling I have.
Q: I know there's not a timeline you can put on it and say ‘Now they're grown up.'
GB: No. And we lost a couple guys. Dusty Sprague was just coming into his own. There's a guy who was growing up fast. We lose him and he was starting to be a playmaker in the receiver corps, so you take a step backward a little bit.
Q: On this year's senior class. GB: This senior class has gone through so much.
To see Matt McChesney grow into the man that he has, and become almost the spiritual leader of our team. I got to tell you I sit back every once in a while and just smile thinking about him and what he's done.
Coaches, we go through things with these guys every once in a while that you never know about. All the ups and downs that nobody ever writes about. But every one of these guys I know the ins and outs of their lives, all the issues and struggles that they've had. Every single one of them have had them.
You try to be there for them. And sometimes you're there to knock them down a couple notches. Anytime they run out there on Senior Day, when they walk out there representing what they've done over a four or five year period — they deserve acknowledgment for what they've done.