MANHATTAN — As difficult as it was for Kansas State football players to cope with a crushing loss to Baylor on Saturday, they realized it is necessary.
In many ways, their biggest challenge lies ahead.
“We still have a chance in two weeks to be able to win the Big 12 championship,” safety Jarard Milo said Saturday night. “We still have a lot at stake. It’s no time to put our heads down. It’s only one loss. It hurts, but we have to get over it. It’s about where we go from here.”
The Wildcats could go practically anywhere. Though their 52-24 setback to the Bears sent them from first to sixth in the BCS standings, and from No. 2 to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, they can clinch at least a share of their first conference championship since 2003 and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl by beating Texas on Dec. 1.
A victory over the Longhorns could also vault them back into the BCS championship mix, but they would need a string of losses from No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Oregon and possibly more for that occur.
On the flip side, ending the season with back-to-back losses could leave the Wildcats without a league title or a BCS bowl berth. Oklahoma can win the Big 12 outright with two wins and a K-State loss, while Oklahoma State and Texas can both share the Big 12 championship if they win out. Those scenarios could result in the Wildcats falling back to the Cotton Bowl or the Alamo Bowl three weeks after they were thinking national title.
Nobody on the roster wants to see this season end like that.
“It’s not finished,” linebacker Arthur Brown said. “It’s not over. We still have to continue to fight and play for one another and keep it focused on the team.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder understood the pain his players felt following their first defeat. But he had a message for them moving forward.
“We are going to be tremendously disappointed, and the sooner the better that will turn into anger and then it will be time to put this behind us,” Snyder said. “We still have some opportunities to do some special things.”
Intense preparation for the future might not begin until after Thanksgiving. K-State doesn’t have a game this week, and most players will get the chance to be with their families for Thanksgiving while they rest up for the season finale.
But when they return to campus, practices will be as strenuous as ever.
“This hurts. This hurts hard, but we’ve just got to come out and put this behind us,” running back John Hubert said. “We have two weeks to prepare for Texas. We have to go out and beat Texas and just finish.”
Their motivation has changed, but it is still there.
“We still have a lot on the line,” senior tight end Travis Tannahill said. “If we win next week it’s still a Big 12 championship, which hasn’t been done here in a long time. We will be motivated. It’s supposed to hurt. It hurts every single time. It hurt three times last year, six times the year before that and six times the year before that. Hopefully this is the last one this year, but we will be good. We will be fine.”