Scouting The Wildcats

You know for the most part what you are going to get with Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. The veteran coach has accomplished the greatest feat in college coaching with the success in his two stints at Kansas State.

First, Snyder proved that Kansas State, the all-time losingest program in the NCAA at the time, could succeed big in Division I football. Now, he's come back a second time to rebuild what he once built that was torn down by shoddy organization and coaching by Ron Prince.

Snyder is going to be extremely humble about his players and his program. He is going to tell you they focus on the next practice, next meeting, and next game. He is going to prop up his opponent. He is going to bring the game and the way he runs his program down to the most simple of terms and keep it compact.

You don't want to say players are brainwashed in the Kansas State program, or that it's a case of the "Stepford Players," but you can read the quotes as the players take on the thoughts and wishes of the head coach.

"There is no easy game and we still have four huge tests," said wide receiver Curry Sexton, a player who was also recruited by Oklahoma State to walk-on.

"We are also worried about the meetings that start here at 2 p.m., and we also have practice today. We have to practice better before we can worry about anything. I think that is what is special about this team – we do not have a bunch of guys that are talking about that. You really do not hear that a whole lot in our locker room because we realize that we have a long way to go.

"We have four tough games left, starting with Oklahoma State this week. We cannot overlook anyone or else we will slip up and lose a game."

Sexton's words sound like those of his head coach. Snyder is a competitor, and he has a level of competition inside that burns like a comet. He doesn't accept mediocrity and failure, so that is a huge reason his teams don't feature those results very often.

Snyder downplayed the game in Stillwater last season, but those close to him in the program have told me that the 52-45 win by the Cowboys after K-State failed to score on the game's final drive inside the Cowboys 5-yard line really ate at him. He wanted to win that game badly.

Now the roles are reversed with unbeaten Kansas State (8-0) sitting at No. 2 in the nation. Oklahoma State is 5-2, still a threat to win the Big 12 and still in control of its destiny, but in this game the underdog looking to spoil the Wildcats season.

"I do not subscribe to the underdog role," said the 73-year-old coach of a role his team has often embraced. "Maybe it has been utilized, as many teams use it as a motivational element. Again, if you look across this conference, there are no real underdogs.

"Everybody has a quality football team. Oklahoma State is as good as anybody. The point is we see them (Oklahoma State) and we know what kind of football team they are. Everybody that plays them knows what kind of football team they are. Everybody we play, we know what kind of football team they are.

"The quality in this conference is absolutely amazing. There are no underdogs, in my estimation, of the conference. Again, it is not getting caught up in all that. It is being who you are, preparing the way you prepare and play the way you are supposed to play. That is all you have control over anyway. We do not have control over any of that other stuff. We are wasting our time, effort and thoughts getting involved in it."

Snyder talked about how his team has not always been a fast starter this season but they have been an impressive finisher. They have dominated the last two quarters of games, much like they did against Kansas earlier this season and last week against Texas Tech. The Wildcats are outscoring opponents 216-67 in the last two quarters of games.

Could it have something to do with the poor finish on that final drive last season at Boone Pickens Stadium?

"Collectively, in the past, I think we have been better finishers and still not as good as we have liked," said Snyder, likely thinking about that OSU finish. "Nevertheless, I do not want to say we are late bloomers, but we have been a little more efficient as the game has progressed.

"Not that it is all in the second half of the games – it might start a little earlier than that. I guess the way I can put my arms around it is we have progressed as games have gone on, whether that is getting acclimated to the opponent and what they do schematically or how they play physically. It is probably a combination of both as much as anything."

Snyder respects the Cowboys. He is serious when he talks of what Oklahoma State has done under Mike Gundy's direction to become a top-flight program.

"I think it is kind of a collective improvement. I just look at being able to assess them, and our assessment is that they are a physical and rangy group up front," said Snyder in describing how the defense has improved. "They have good quickness and lateral movement with their linebackers. They are an aggressive front seven and have tremendous experience and speed in the back end. They have been good against the run and pass.

"The thing about Oklahoma State is they are a tremendously balanced football team. They are up in the rankings in our conference in defense. Their specialists are as good as you can get. They rank high nationally in some facets of the kicking team. They rank high nationally in all aspects of offense. They have tremendous balance, and that has been brought upon, perhaps by, the improvement in each of those areas of their defense."

Snyder wants this one badly on Saturday. You can bank on that, and star quarterback Collin Klein knows it too. He is punching the right buttons with his teammates, like fullback Braden Wilson, to get the motivation going.

"Collin (Klein) said that no one on the team that is here right now has beat Oklahoma State," said Wilson. "That is a big deal, especially after the heartbreaker last year. This is a game that we really want."

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