MANHATTAN — Maybe the credit goes to the upperclassmen, a group that includes the first three-time captain on offense in Kansas State’s 117-year football history, Collin Klein.
Maybe it goes to Bill Snyder and his coaching staff, who leave little to the imagination when it comes to what’s expected of the Wildcats.
Either way, North Texas has No. 15 K-State’s full attention headed into Saturday’s game at Snyder Family Stadium. Even coming off a 52-13 rout of Miami. Even with the Mean Green as 28-point underdogs. Even with No. 5 Oklahoma looming for a showdown next Saturday in Norman, Okla.
“As I’ve said to our players, it’s not about Miami, it’s not about North Texas,” Snyder said. “It’s about our youngsters, our coaches, our team and what we do day in and day out and nothing more than that.”
The Wildcats have already shown marked improvement from one year ago in how they’ve handled their first two opponents — blowout wins over Missouri State and Miami. In 2011, K-State needed late-game heroics to beat Eastern Kentucky and Miami in the first three weeks last season.
“It’s always a challenge to stay focused on where you’re at and not to think about what might be in the future,” Klein said. “Coach does a good job of making the issues focus on where we’re at and trying to improve in as many areas as we can.”
The offensive line has been an improved area despite dealing with some adversity.
Senior left guard Nick Puetz suffered an injury in the first game and his return is unknown. Sophomore center B.J. Finney played through pain against Miami, but was able to sit out the fourth quarter when the game got out of hand.
Redshirt freshman Cody Whitehair, an Abilene product, moved into Puetz’s starting spot at guard against Miami after starting at right tackle against Missouri State. Junior-college transfer Tavon Rooks moved into right tackle.
“We had two penalties in the first week and zero (against Miami),” Snyder said. “They’re doing well in that respect. That defines a prominent amount of discipline. They’re still a work in progress but they’ve made headway.
“I like their work habits, their camaraderie and their passion for the game.”
Sophomore wide receiver Curry Sexton, another Abilene product, said he wasn’t surprised that Whitehair was able to make the position switch with such ease.
“Growing up, Cody was always a little bit bigger, a little bit more athletic than everybody else, so he was able to push people around on the field,” Sexton said. “I’ve always looked forward to the day where he was challenged and would get to this point. Nothing he does surprises me because he is so talented.”
Sexton scored the first touchdown of his career against Miami last Saturday, on a 27-yard pass from Klein in the second quarter. Two years ago, while not on scholarship, he drove to Denton, Texas, to watch K-State’s 49-41 win over North Texas.
“A lot changes in two years, but we don’t expect them to bow down to us,” Sexton said. “They’re not going to give us an inch.”