MANHATTAN — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder liked what he saw when the Wildcats gathered for their first football practice of their off week on Monday.
“They were focused during the course of the practice,” Snyder said. “It was matter of fact and rather business-like. That is a positive sign.”
He wasn’t sure if that would be the case coming off the teams’ first loss, a 52-24 defeat at Baylor that all but knocked K-State out of the national championship mix. All teams react to setbacks differently.
A year ago, K-State responded from its first loss by winning three of their final four games, the only defeat coming in the final moments at No. 3 Oklahoma State. So far, Snyder thinks the Wildcats are on a similar path to redemption.
Their disappointment has all but faded. Anger and the desire to finish strong now drive them.
They will need plenty of both to fix everything that went wrong against the Bears.
“From an offensive standpoint, we just struggled staying on blocks,” Snyder said. “We had some difficulty with our pass protection, we had difficulty with assignments in our pass protection, a couple dropped balls and a lack of consistency moving the ball.
“We gave up big plays that hurt us. … We struggled in terms of tackling. We missed a lot of assignments – double digits. We were obviously not very good against the running game. That was the most rushing yards Baylor has accumulated the entire season.”
After watching replays of the game, players attributed those faults to poor preparation and poor execution, combined with brilliant Baylor strategy.
“There were definitely miscues,” senior tight end Travis Tannahill said. “We all had our moments out there.”
Baylor was most effective at the line of scrimmage, rushing for big yardage on straightforward runs and pressuring quarterback Collin Klein with blitzes. K-State also failed to run the ball, gaining 76 yards.
Injuries contributed, too, but no one wants to use that as excuse. As Thanksgiving approaches, Tannahill will remind himself that better preparation and quicker adjustments could have helped.
“I’m going to enjoy the time off and let the loss boil up a little bit more. I would love to get it out my system,” Tannahill said. “But it’s going to boil up a little longer. Hopefully that will make us come out and play with even more energy, more anger and more passion.”
In some ways, K-State’s off week comes at a good time. Players attended meetings on Sunday and practiced Monday and Tuesday. They will practice again Wednesday morning, then have the rest of the week off. A rested team will begin fully preparing for the Dec. 1 Texas game on Sunday evening.
“We don’t want to let Baylor beat us twice,” quarterback Collin Klein said. “… We had a pretty long stretch there with a long run. We weren’t able to finish it out like we would have liked. But we will rest up, fix some things here and there and get ready to go again.”
The Texas game has plenty of importance. The Wildcats can clinch at least a share of the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl with a victory. A win, combined with an Oklahoma loss, would give them an outright league title.
But the Longhorns, who have won four straight, can also share a conference title and possibly earn a BCS bowl berth with a win and an Oklahoma loss.
Though their chances of playing for a national championship are likely gone, players realize how special it would be to win the program’s first Big 12 title since 2003 and play in a BCS bowl game. Before the season began, those were two of their biggest goals.
One loss, no matter how frustrating, can’t change that.
“We just have to accept it,” linebacker Arthur Brown said, “and do what we need to do to fix it moving forward … We just have to take that in perspective and continue to do what we need to do to stay successful.”
2013 schedule — K-State’s 2013 schedule will feature eight home games and a season-finale against a rival. The Wildcats will open next season with three home games, starting Aug. 31 against North Dakota State. The opener will be followed by games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Massachusetts. Their Big 12 schedule will begin the following week with road games against Texas and Oklahoma State sandwiched around an off week. K-State will return home on Oct. 12 against Baylor, then take another week off.
From there, it will host West Virginia and Iowa State before hitting the road to play Texas Tech. Then come home games against TCU and Oklahoma, followed by the season’s final game at Kansas on Nov. 30.
The Sunflower Showdown will be a new twist at the end of K-State’s season. K-State and KU have met in the regular-season finale twice since 1945.