So. That happened. Kansas State came out flat but scored right away. Then the team appeared to rest on its laurels, only to give up a huge play at the worst possible time and lose 24-20 to West Virginia. The Wildcats are now 6-4 and possibly staring down the barrel of a six-loss season.
That’s a far cry from where Kansas State found itself just weeks ago, and it’s entirely appropriate to be disappointed. But it’s also worth noting that the Wildcats are maybe just two plays from being 8-2. There’s often little to separate a great team from merely an average one, and Kansas State is on the wrong side of this equation.
The question then is this: why? Why are the Wildcats struggling to finish games that start so well? To answer this, I started to think about teams of the past, and specifically, one game from the past.
Way back in 2012, Kansas State beat Oklahoma 24-19, launching the best football season of recent memory. The Wildcats didn’t win by out-scheming the Sooners, they didn’t win by overwhelming Oklahoma at the line of scrimmage. They won simply by doing everything a little better than their opponents: the offense moved the sticks methodically without any turnovers, the defense wrapped up at the point of contact and flew to the ball when the Sooners fumbled, and the team only had 24 yards in penalties. This was classic Snyder 2.0, and it was such a thing of beauty that I return often to this game on YouTube.
These past two weeks though, Kansas State has started strong, fallen into a hole, and then adjusted to claw out of it, only to somehow lose in the final minutes of the game. The problem is not one of talent, because it’s clear our starters at least are on par with the rest of the Big 12. The problem is not one of coaching, because the offensive and defensive game plans don’t seem that far off the mark. In the end then, the only thing that separates this okay Kansas State team from the great Kansas State team of 2012 is execution. This team, for whatever reason, isn’t playing with the consistency and discipline of a great team.
But there’s a silver lining here. Consistency and discipline are fixable problems. If this coaching culture, this process-oriented philosophy Chris Klieman is trying to install in Manhattan, actually works, these problems will get fixed.
At the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in Stillwater, Ethan Powell finished 26th in the 10K race with a time of 31:35.0. This is the highest finish for any Wildcat on the men’s team in 15 years. Thanks to Powell’s race, the men’s team finished 12th in the standings.
The highest Wildcat on the women’s team was Jaybe Shufelberger who finished in 53rd place.
This was the final event of the 2019 season for the cross country teams.
If the football loss wasn’t quite enough to sour the weekend, there was also a 3-1 (18-25, 25-23, 23-25, 24-26) volleyball loss to Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown.
The VolleyCats started poorly, but rallied to take the second game, and kept things close in the next two stanzas. Unfortunately, it was not Kansas State’s day. Held to just .215 hitting, the team was thoroughly outplayed by the Jayhawks.
Up next, Kansas State hosts Oklahoma at Ahearn Field House on Wednesday night. First serve is set for 6:30 PM CST and can be seen on ESPN+.