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Bob Lutz: Be like Bill — don’t think about it

  • Published Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, at 10:55 p.m.

— Alabama lost Saturday. Kansas State won. I think you know what that means.

But in case you don’t: A spot in the national championship game in Miami come early January is more realistic for the Wildcats than it ever has been.

This is real. And if K-State can keep from doing in the next two weeks what you fans are probably doing this very second — going crazy with anticipation and experiencing tightness in the throat area — it’s going to happen.

K-State wasn’t at its best Saturday night during a 23-10 win over TCU. Check that, the Cats weren’t at their best offensively, but the defense played its most dominating game, leaving the Horned Frogs horn-less.

It was a good, old-fashioned defensive struggle. You remember what those look like, right?

Yards were at a premium. Possessions were important. Turnovers were magnified.

When K-State quarterback Collin Klein threw an interception on the first possession, there was an immediate reaction.

Is Klein OK? Or was the injury he suffered last week against Oklahoma State still an issue?

Klein straightened himself out, and contributed a big 34-yard touchdown run on the first K-State possession of the second half, but for once he wasn’t the difference.

This one belonged to the defense, one that allowed 33.3 points in Big 12 games last season but has lowered that average to 19.1 points.

Every facet of K-State’s game is so much better than it was last season that it’s hard to comprehend that the Wildcats were 10-3 in 2011. That’s pretty good. So what is this?

K-State is 10-0 with an offense that usually rolls, special teams that click and a defense that hits.

About the only bad news Saturday came in the form of injuries to junior free safety Ty Zimmerman and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett, both of whom had to be helped off the field with apparent leg or ankle injuries.

Lockett’s injury came in the final 90 seconds, after the game had been decided. He shouldn’t have been out there and if he’s lost for an extended period of time — word from the sideline was that he was walking well — it’ll be hard to defend the decision to have him out there.

Other than that, it was another hunky-dory night for the Wildcats, especially in the wake of Alabama’s loss.

Of course, when K-State coach Bill Snyder was asked about the Tide’s defeat at the hands of Texas A&M, the team that ruined K-State’s only other serious run at a national championship in 1998 by knocking off the Cats in the Big 12 championship game, Snyder pleaded ignorance.

He did admit to hearing about Alabama’s loss in the locker room after the win over TCU. But he was not about to bite on a question about his reaction to the turn of events.

“I have no thoughts about it whatsoever,” Snyder said. “I’m going to ask our guys, like I always do, to try and practice better on Monday. Then we’ll work on Tuesday and go from there.”

What, you expected him to pop open a bottle of champagne and scream a whoop-whoop chant?

Snyder is the king of the downplay, the master of de-emphasis.

And it’s when you want him to share his feelings the most that he closes ranks even more.

Snyder also withheld Klein, who is in the middle of a Heisman Trophy race, from talking to the media after the game. Klein is a pretty popular guy at the moment and being friendly with the media probably can’t hurt his Heisman chances.

Those of us who know Snyder aren’t surprised at his refusal to join in the jubilation. But the growing horde of national media members who are looking for their two cents worth is left speechless by Snyder’s speechlessness.

It’s just his way. He’s steadfast in repetition and consistency and nothing, not even a chase for a national championship, is going to throw him off his game.

Snyder devotes as little time as possible to hyperbole, opting to spend his energy on turning a football team into something as close to a machine as possible.

The numbers this season bear out his success.

K-State is averaging more than 40 points (42.2) for the third time in history and the first time since 2003.

The Wildcats have rushed for 2,136 yards and passed for 2,075. They cannot be pigeon-holed.

In 10 games, K-State has scored a touchdown on its first possession of the second half eight times. The Wildcats have outscored opponents 115-28 in the third quarter.

K-State has turned the turnovers of its opponents, which grew to 26 Saturday night, into 114 points. Meanwhile, TCU became the first team to turn a K-State turnover into points, scoring a touchdown late after an Angele Pease fumble. Makes sense — K-State has turned it over six times this season.

If you’re playing K-State, you never have time to breathe. The Wildcats are always doing something, whether on offense, defense or special teams.

TCU did as well defensively as any team has done against K-State this season. But the Wildcats still found ways to score 23 points. It wasn’t a good night offensively for K-State, but it didn’t need to be. This game belonged to the defense.

And it gets the Wildcats one step closer to an unimaginable scenario.

Or, as Snyder says, something he has given no thought to whatsoever.

Check Bob Lutz’s blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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