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November 28, 2013
Game Up Close: Circling in
Thinking and looking back at everything that has happened since Kansas State started its season, and it went by rather quickly, it's hard to fathom this chance even exists. Considering there once was a time when the offense, behind two quarterbacks playing their first significant minutes of FBS football while splitting snaps, couldn't stop turning the ball over in crucial moments and when the defense, with nine new starters, couldn't get off the field on third down, there's just no way. Yet, here the Wildcats are, vying to finish strong.
But while many spent the day in reflection, K-State, 6-5 overall and 4-4 in Big 12 play, used it to look at the great opportunity that lies ahead. Yes, the Wildcats held practice Thanksgiving morning, but it's game week and there is something special at stake come Saturday.
"It would be a great feeling knowing that we overcame some adversity early in the season," senior cornerback Kip Daily said. "To get through it, we came together. It was not the easiest, but we've been pushing through, sticking together and just working. It would mean a lot."
"To start the way we started and to hopefully finish 7-5, to finish the way we did, that's big for the type of growing we've done and how we matured," junior quarterback Jake Waters added. "We're really looking forward to getting there and we're going to work as hard as we can to get there."
Numerically, the difference between a 7-5 and 6-6 is slim, but mentally, it would mean a lot to these K-State players and, although he won't publically admit it, to Coach Bill Snyder. So as the Wildcats prepare to face Kansas, 3-8 and 1-7, on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium, they are mindful of the importance to take care of business heading into postseason play.
"It's big. It's the biggest game for us," Waters explained. "We want to finish out strong going into our bowl game. We don't want to come off two losses. We want to get back on the right track because everyone was feeling food when we were getting those wins like we should.
"We want to taste that again. We tasted a little bit, but now we want to keep it going and taste it again and again."
Luckily, K-State has feasted on Kansas in recent years and the Sunflower Showdown has lacked any sort of luster. And with a Wildcats' team fuming following a 41-31 loss to Oklahoma on Senior Day last weekend, it could be true once again.
"I wouldn't want to be them, but yes, we have a chip on our shoulder with the loss," sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams noted. "We want to have a lot of momentum going into the bowl game so we might just take advantage of them. I'm not being cocky or anything, it's just the truth."
With the Jayhawks struggling mightily across the board, there is some truth to Sams' straightforward comments.
"I have confidence that we can do it all, run or pass," he said. "KU, they're all right in coverage and they're good assignment wise, but I really feel like nobody in the country can matchup with Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. No matter what defensive you're running, if we make the right throws and right decisions, we can really have our way with them."
But for everything recent history and the numbers indicate, Snyder is quick to remind his players the regular-season finale is about taking care of their own business.
"It is about you and it is about your preparation regardless of who you play," the 74-year-old coach said. "The significant thing for us is to go back and make sure that we can review and adequately address the mistakes that we made in the previous ballgame or any mistakes that have been lingering over a period of time. You have to correct those because if you don't, it doesn't make a difference who you play, you are going to end up on the short end.
"That being said, it is a matter of preparation for the upcoming opponent. Whether it is the last game of the season or not, it is the next game. Therefore, it becomes the most significant one that you participate in and the preparation needs to be directed that way."
In the case of Kansas, its record doesn't paint the picture of their improvement, but by no means does K-State want this to even be close.
"Watching them on film, they have some good players," Waters said. "They can play with anyone. They beat West Virginia, they were up on Oklahoma midway through the game so we know they can play and they're going to play their best game against us. We got to come out and really be on our game to make it a game it shouldn't be."
K-State has come too far and overcome so much to let it slip right now. It's time push forward to bigger and better things.
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