"Must win" is a most over used phrase in the world of sports. Coaches? For sure, they seldom use the two-word phrase.
Calling it probably an inappropriate metaphor, Prince said of the game, "I told the players that this was a hill that we would be willing to die on. I told them to dig in and our season hinged on this game. We were going to play with everything we've got."
Prince added, "For us to be in the mix, we couldn't expect to lose two in a row at home and then go on the road and think we would have a shot at this thing (Big 12 North title)."
Kansas State now stands just one-half game behind KU in the Big 12 North with five league games to play, rather than a game-and-a-half back with five to play.
"Coach wanted us to go out and lay it on the line," said quarterback Josh Freeman. "We're trying to compete for the North title and 1-2 was not the direction we wanted to be headed. We weren't going to accept anything but winning, and we responded."
Ian Campbell added, "This team has a never say die attitude. You never want to lose one, but for sure we didn't want to drop two in a row."
For the Wildcats, it was an eight-day period where it showed some moxie.
On Saturday, K-State lost to Kansas, 30-24; on Monday, a couple players were rear-ended in a non-injury car accident in front of the stadium; on Tuesday, an NCAA investigation was announced regarding the football program; and on Saturday morning, offensive coordinator James Franklin learned that his mother had finally lost her fight against cancer.
While Prince said there was some talk about Franklin immediately leaving for Philadelphia, he instead stayed and called a game that produced more points (47) than K-State had put up in any Big 12 game since 2003.
"He's a real professional," Prince said. While some Wildcats said that the news of the death filtered through the team, Freeman said after the game, "I didn't know until a few seconds ago. That's the type of man he is. This team mans that much to him that he would stay and call such a good game."
With five Big 12 games remaining, Kansas State is positioned to be where Prince wants his team to be every season. That's entering the month of November in position to compete for the league title.
As Jordy Nelson said after the Colorado win, "This puts us right back in the Big 12 hunt."