A streak of playing in bowl games for 11 consecutive years ended last season, and the Wildcats don't anticipate going another season without postseason play. With Saturday's loss to Texas A&M, K-State no longer controls its own destiny in terms of a Big 12 North title, but the Cats are remaining focused on getting to the postseason. Coach Bill Snyder said the players know what they're playing for, and hope it provides motivation to his players. "I hope it's a strong rallying point," Snyder said. "There's not much left to rally around."
Snyder said their North title hopes are now out of their hands, but the team knows it still controls its postseason destiny. "I'd like to think that it lends itself to individual and collective motivation for all of our players."
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson said the team feels a sense of urgency with the season winding down. "We've lost two games in a row, which is not great," Nelson said. "We definitely need to get back on the winning side."
Defensive tackle Quentin Echols said the sudden urgency of needing victories and the drive to get a bowl bid has been noticeable in practice. "I've seen a lot of guys out there who usually don't speak up and talk about spirit and guys that don't usually do things as hard, they did it Monday," Echols said. "I think everybody realized that it's time, basically it's time to put up or shut up right now."
Not only would a bowl game signify improvement by putting the Wildcats in the postseason, but it could also help the Wildcats improve even more. Typically, a bowl team gets to practice about a month longer than teams that fail to receive bowl bids. A month more of practice could work wonders for a young team such as this one.
Clary said many bowl preparation practices are focused on getting younger players more repetitions. "It definitely helps out a lot to go to bowl games," Clary said. Granted, many of K-State's younger players are currently on the two-deep, but a month of extra practices could work wonders in the continued meshing of the offensive line and continued development of quarterback Allan Evridge.
Nelson said the extra month of practices would be key in the continued development of team chemistry and the talents of the young players. "(Young players) get more reps with our offense and our defense, which really helps out for the oncoming year," Nelson said.
Four more games. With a sweep, the Cats are 8-3, and in great position for another nine-win season, matching those in 1996, 1994 and 1993. If the K-State folds, that means a second 4-7 season, along with a number of questions regarding the direction of the team.
Echols said this season's squad is nothing like that of last year. "Even though we are losing right now, we've got a little losing streak going, you see guys still enthusiastic, and guys still want to be out there," Echols said. "Last year, you heard a lot of people saying that guys quit. I'm not saying that guys did or didn't, but this year you look out there in practice and no one is quitting."
It's easy to get ahead of yourself, and try to predict how the Wildcats will fare in each game, to determine their final record, but such a method does not fly around KSU Stadium. "You don't look at all four of them," Snyder said, "you just look at Colorado and take them one game at a time."
In fact, some players a taking a rather simplistic approach, avoiding postseason talk completely. "I'm not trying to worry about (making a bowl,)" Clary said. "I'm just trying to worry about winning. If we win, we won't have any problems."
"Playoff time" as Echols referred to it, begins Saturday against Big 12 North leading Colorado. If the Cats can get a victory, a little luck down the road could see K-State in the Big 12 Championship game again.
"You never know what will happen" Nelson said. "Hopefully a couple more Big 12 North teams can beat Colorado and give us a second chance for the Big 12 North. We just have to go out and prepare, because you never know what will happen."