'Third chance' awaits the Wildcats


Bill Snyder calls it the Wildcats' "third chance."

And for that matter, Buffalo coach Gary Barnett can call it a "second chance."

Just two games into the Big 12 season, each team in the North Division has at least one loss, which includes Barnett's club, and Snyder's group is 0-2 looking up at the rest of the league.

Two games - Texas and Oklahoma State - and two losses have left Kansas State questioning its offense, its defense, its special teams, and more importantly, "I think some of the players on the team, if not the whole team, needs to find heart," defensive end Thomas Houchin said after the 38-34 loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday.

"I don't think the team camaraderie is there like it's been in the past," said KSU linebacker Josh Buhl.

Still, heading into Saturday's 1:10 kickoff at KSU Stadium against the University of Colorado, Snyder has tried to convince his team that the Big 12 North is there for the taking.

"We're a fortunate football team. We have been given a second chance and now we have been given a third chance," Snyder said of the consecutive losses. "We control our own destiny, so to speak, so we are addressing what needs to be done to take the next step forward."

So Snyder has approached the game between his 4-3 Wildcats and the 3-3 Buffaloes as "... initiating a new season," and refocusing on getting back to Kansas City for the Big 12 Championship game on Dec. 6.

"If you want to play in Kansas City, we can play in Kansas City," Snyder told his team. "If we win out, that's it. We'll be in Kansas City."

Of the early Big 12 race, Barnett says, "Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine how it's going to end up, so everybody sort of is in control of their own destiny."

In approaching a team like K-State, losers of three in a row, Barnett said, "We expect to see a team that is much like a wounded animal that is going to come out fighting."

K-State has a pair of pivotal area of concerns:

* The Wildcats have lost each of the first halves in losing to Marshall (16-10), Texas (17-3) and Oklahoma State (21-14).

* In the three losses, K-State has given up 10 turnovers - six interceptions and four fumbles - and forced just four.

Perhaps not so ironically, in CU's three losses they have committed 14 turnovers and forced just two, and trailed in two of the three games at the half.

"We're not doing the things we need to do as an offensive unit, and the quarterback's looked at first," KSU QB Ell Roberson said. "We're not winning. You have to adjust a lot of things."

But don't believe that Barnett will agree.

"Kansas State's offense is as powerful as it's ever been," Barnett said. "He (Roberson) and Darren (Sproles) ran for a ton of yards last year. Their whole backfield between the quarterback, tailback and the fullback, is an all-Big 12 backfield."

Of Roberson, Barnett said, "He's going to get his yards, you just have to, if you can, reduce the number of big plays that you give him. He's going to have some either running or throwing it, but you have to restrict or reduce them."

That Wildcat offense will be facing a Buffalo defense that just gave up 47 points and 586 yards to a Kansas team, which CU won in overtime, 50-47.

It's a defense that ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring (38.7), last in pass defense (323 yards per game) and in the basemen in total defense (473).

On the flip side, while CU has shown the ability to throw it for 319 yards per game with quarterback Joel Klatt, its rushing average of 101 yards per game ranks 12th of 12 in the Big 12.

Of CU's offense, Snyder says, "They have good-sized receivers and they spread the ball around. They formation you a lot. All the formations you can imagine will be there. They run some of the same plays that we had trouble with last week (at OSU), so that will be an issue for us."

As for the Buffs inability to run the ball, Snyder said he guessed that was due to more of an emphasis on the passing game, and getting behind games, which forced more passing.

But K-State is primarily concerned with K-State.

"We can't go out and expect to win just because of who we are," said KSU center Nick Leckey. "We know people aren't just going to bow down to us. We haven't been representative of a Kansas State football team. We have a lot to prove."

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