MANHATTAN — Lopsided victories over West Virginia and Iowa State boosted bowl hopes and confidence levels for everyone associated with the Kansas State football team, but it might take a few more wins before those outside the program view the Wildcats as a team on the upswing.
For that reason, sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams thinks K-State will have something extra to prove when it heads to No. 25 Texas Tech on Saturday.
It is a statement game for us, Sams said. I heard a lot of people say Iowa State and West Virginia arent what they used to be. Its a statement game, not just to prove something to everyone else but to prove something to ourselves, that we can win on the road. Its really a big test.
A victory over Texas Tech would certainly help K-State put the first half of the season and a 2-4 start in its rear-view mirror. The Wildcats havent been above .500 since mid-September, and they havent won three in a row, tasted victory away from Snyder Family Stadium or beaten a ranked opponent all season.
This is more than an opportunity for K-State to boost its resume.
This is a game we really want to win, kicker Jack Cantele said. I dont know if I would label it a must-win game, but its close. We know Texas Tech is a good team. This is a chance for us to get our first road win. Its one we need to get under our belts. It could determine our bowl outcome, like all the games at this point could. If we can win this game people will start to realize we are as good as we know we are.
Adding intrigue to Saturdays matchup is the fact that Texas Tech will be motivated by many of the same factors.
The Red Raiders got off to a surprising 7-0 start, but they were quickly labeled overrated. Why? Their first four conference victories came against teams in the lower half of the the Big 12 standings. Some have questioned why they remain ranked after two straight losses; its unclear whether they are contenders for a league title or a notch below.
At the moment, they seem to be grouped with the Wildcats in the middle of the conference standings instead of with the leagues top four teams.
If Texas Tech wants to alter that image and stay in the mix for a trophy, beating K-State is essential.
We had a great chance of being undefeated at this point, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro said. Kansas State is a great team and this is going to be a very meaningful game. We have to get back on track. We have had a great run so far, but these last three games are going to tell whether we have a great season or just an average season.
On the flip side, if the Wildcats want to make a push for an established bowl game, and continue their recent hot streak, they will need to beat Texas Tech.
Texas Tech is a great team, junior receiver Tyler Lockett said. It could be a statement game. A lot of people still look down on us. I think we have found our rhythm and we are starting to figure out who we are. Now we just have to keep that up. Its about us. We need to understand what got us here and let that take us even further.