Ryan Mueller knew the question was coming. Someone always asks it this time of year.
How badly does he want to end Kansas State’s losing streak in bowl games?
“Oh gosh, you have no idea,” Mueller emphatically replied. “I am so tired of it.”
So is everyone else associated with the Wildcats.
They have lost five straight bowl games dating back to 2002, when they beat Arizona State 34-27 in the Holiday Bowl. It’s a losing streak that has spanned 11 years, two coaches and countless players.
K-State won’t learn its bowl destination until Sunday evening — all signs point to the Holiday Bowl, while the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl remains a long-shot possibility — but players are already focused on winning their final game, wherever it may be.
“Nobody on our team has won a bowl game, with the exception of the coaches,” junior linebacker and former Kapaun Mount Carmel standout Jonathan Truman said. “We need it. We want it really bad.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder normally asks his players to stay in the moment and to focus on the task at hand. But he will not deter them from using this losing streak as motivation over the next month.
The seniors on this team helped get K-State back to the postseason in 2010 at the Pinstripe Bowl, and they have played in the Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl the past two years. If the thought of those three losses helps fire up players for their upcoming bowl game, Snyder is all for it. Even if he doesn’t think about the past when he prepares for games.
“This is really important for them,” Snyder said, “because they, in their tenure here, have not been successful in the last game of the season or the bowl games that they have participated in. I think it really is significant to them.”
If K-State receives an invitation to the Holiday Bowl, it will likely face Arizona State, Stanford or Oregon. All three Pac-12 teams are ranked in the top 15, so the Wildcats will likely be underdogs in the postseason.
Just don’t mention that to Mueller, a junior defensive end from Leawood. The thought of celebrating a bowl victory will keep him working hard until the end of December.
“I’m tired of that after-the-game feeling of we can’t make coach happy at the end of the season,” Mueller said. “This next bowl game is going to lead to another opportunity. Hopefully after the game we can celebrate a victory.
“I want to end the season on a positive note and feel what that locker room feels like versus losing a bowl game and the other team celebrating and pouring Gatorade on their coach and wearing those championship hats. I want to pour Gatorade on Coach Snyder. It would be great.”
Next season, the Wildcats will face Iowa State in Week 2, West Virginia on a Thursday and sit through three Saturdays with no game. The Big 12’s television partners are also considering moving K-State’s anticipated home game against Auburn to a Thursday. Snyder, though, hates that idea.
“It’s the last thing in the world I want to do,” Snyder said.
If the Auburn game is played mid-week, K-State will oddly not play on five Saturdays next season.
“It’s more than bizarre,” Snyder said. “I am adamantly opposed to the way money has taken over.”
Zimmerman suffered a similar injury late last season and recovered in time to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Snyder is hoping for a repeat. Snyder also said offensive lineman Keenan Taylor, who has been injured, may be able to play in the bowl game.