The list of regrets was long, but for Tramaine Thompson one mistake seemed larger than the others.
Kansas State had just lost its first road game of the season at Texas, and the senior wide receiver was trying to explain what went wrong. He could have blamed the Wildcats’ inability to stop the run. He could have pointed to their inconsistencies on offense or turnovers. Instead, he wondered why K-State was unable to match Texas in the first half.
That’s not the sign of a team that is mentally strong or well prepared.
"We kind of took too long to get accustomed to the game and the atmosphere," Thompson said immediately following the loss. "We didn’t bring the fight to Texas. They definitely hit us first."
That much was obvious from the opening kickoff. Texas jumped out to a 17-0 lead and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
It was a disappointing start for the Wildcats, particularly because they were confident in their game strategy. Looking back, several players admitted the environment got the best of them.
It was K-State’s first road trip of the year. With a young roster, many players’ first taste of a road venue was the Big 12’s largest stadium. It was an intimidating setting. More than 90,000 fans were rooting for them to fail and a massive videoboard towered above them in the south end zone. Austin didn’t feel much like home.
For some, that was distracting.
"When we’re on the sideline we have to stay into it," linebacker Mike Moore said. "Two weeks ago at Texas we were just kind of watching the game. We weren’t in it as much as we should have been … It was a new experience. For some of us it was just a shock."
K-State gets the chance to learn from that road trip Saturday with a game at Oklahoma State. Pickens Stadium, with a capacity of 60,218, doesn’t have the same awe factor as Texas, but narrow sidelines bring fans much closer to the field and an enclosed setting magnifies noise.
The Wildcats haven’t won in Stillwater since 1999.
"The sidelines are right next to you," K-State coach Bill Snyder said at his weekly news conference. "I’m as close to that wall as I will be to the fans during the course of the ballgame. Aside from that, a lot of fans, big stadium and it’s closed in."
Snyder expects his players to handle this road trip better than the first.
"It is like anything else in life," Snyder said. "You experience something on a given occasion and you have a much greater awareness of what that environment is all about when you repeat the action. Even our guys who have been in the program, played and traveled numerous times, it has been quite some time since we have traveled. That takes some acclamation on their part getting readjusted to it."
Marquel Bryant, a sophomore defensive end, can’t wait to hit the road again.
He enjoyed playing at Texas, and soaked up the atmosphere, but walked away from the game without recording a defensive statistic. He wants more against Oklahoma State.
"You learn a lot about yourself on the road," Bryant said. "You have more going against you. The area and the crowd, they are screaming. The fans are calling you out, saying your number and little jokes and things. I thought it was hilarious if you ask me. It makes you want to go out there and play harder."
K-State played hard at times against Texas. If not for three turnovers in the second half, the Wildcats might have made things much more interesting – even after a lousy start.
They don’t want to hold anything back against Oklahoma State.
"We have to come out with the same passion that we did in the second half," safety Dante Barnett said. "We learned that we can’t really start slow in Big 12 play, because Big 12 teams won’t give up. We have to come out and play 100 percent the whole game."