MANHATTAN — In case the frustrations of surrendering 2,749 rushing yards this season dissipated when Kansas State accepted an invitation to play in the Pinstripe Bowl, Bill Snyder is using an age-old method to keep his defense motivated in practice.
Every time a defender misses a tackle, the Wildcats' football coach orders him to drop to the ground and do five push-ups.
"I had to do some yesterday," said junior safety Tysyn Hartman. "It's something the coaches have used to add accountability to practice. You miss a tackle in practice, it doesn't feel as bad as missing a tackle in a game and the guy runs for 10 extra yards. We're really searching for that team accountability and that responsibility that goes along with it."
Fixing a woeful run defense by the time K-State heads to Yankee Stadium to play Syracuse on Dec. 30 won't be easy. The Wildcats allowed 229 yards per game — worst in the Big 12.
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The Orange features leading rusher Delone Carter, who gained more than 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Antwon Bailey has rushed for 504 yards.
On offense, they are comparable to the Wildcats' backfield duo of Daniel Thomas and the injured William Powell.
"They want to move the football by running the football just like we do," Hartman said. "It's their bread and butter."
Syracuse's offensive style remind Snyder of his own.
"They play an aggressive style of offense like their defense, with a very physical offensive line," Snyder said. "Their quarterback manages the ballgame well. They do not put themselves in harm's way very often in regards to penalties, turnovers and loss-of-yard plays."
In order to contain Carter, a senior power back, and Bailey, a faster junior, K-State players will need to tackle better than they did throughout the season.
A few push-ups certainly won't hurt that cause.
"Tackling, that's been one of our struggles," senior defensive end Antonio Felder said. "Tackling and being in the right place. Those are two of the main things that have stopped us the whole season. I think if we just make those tackles or be in place to make those tackles we'll do pretty good."
So far, players say they are progressing in that area. The Wildcats are using their extra practice time to get away from the way they drilled during the grind of the regular season and are focusing on individual and positional work the way they did during spring and fall practices.
The fundamentals are getting more attention than ever.
K-State hopes that makes a difference in two weeks.
"We've still got a lot of practices left," Felder said. "I mean, 15 practices, that's more than enough practices to get something fixed that we have wrong on our defense."
Snyder said he doesn't expect any injured players who didn't see action in the regular-season finale against North Texas to be available against Syracuse. But kick returner William Powell, who has not taken the field since scoring a late touchdown against Texas and made an appearance at K-State's weekly news conference with a boot on his left foot, did not rule out the possibility of playing in the Pinstripe Bowl. Wide receiver Tramaine Thompson, who was on crutches after suffering an injury against Baylor, was seen jogging to and from his car before practice and could also return.
Several K-State players have been honored as All-Americans by various media outlets this week. Longsnapper Corey Adams was named first team by Phil Steele, while Powell was a fourth team kick returner. Daniel Thomas was an honorable mention choice by Sports Illustrated. Safety Ty Zimmerman and linebacker Tre Walker each earned recognition on freshman teams.