MANHATTAN — At about this time every year, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder starts cutting back on practice time.
The Wildcats are 10 weeks into the season and have grown accustomed to their weekly routine. They no longer need extensive work on fundamentals. Snyder figures they can accomplish more in less time, so why ask them to do more than necessary?
He realizes they can use some time off their feet. After dealing with the demands and injuries that come with playing nine football games, it takes players longer to recharge their metaphorical batteries between games than it did at the beginning of September. Especially given K-State's physical style.
"The wounds that you get are a little bit worse than guys that like to spread it out and pass," said freshman center B.J. Finney. "But that comes with part of the game. In order to do that you have to be mentally tough, and in order to be mentally tough, you have to be able to roll with the punches you get."
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Those punches sting more than usual this week. K-State is coming off a physically draining 52-45 loss at Oklahoma State. Junior quarterback Collin Klein and freshman receiver Tyler Lockett handled heavy workloads and endured some big hits.
"Everybody is in that arena and everybody has virtually played the same number of games," Snyder said. "The same tolls are taken on any other team as they are on ours. Probably the one thing that is a little bit different for us is depth.
"We've talked about that. Initially, we thought we were a little bit better in terms of depth, but as the season wears on you lose some of that. I was talking about depth early in the season in terms of a two-deep. Most others are probably able to talk to depth in terms of three- and four- deep. We just can't do that right now. That has a bit of a wearing effect."
The Wildcats are lacking depth most on offense. Manase Foketi and Shaun Simon have both dealt with injuries on the offensive line, and Sheldon Smith and Brodrick Smith have both missed games at receiver.
They have been healthier on defense, but have not been able to develop backups with playing time, because all but two of their games have been close.
"It's the nature of the game," Snyder said. "Your ones are on the field all the time, so it's the same guys going over and over and over again."
Sad situation — Snyder has considered Penn State football coach Joe Paterno a friend for several years, and described the situation he is currently going through as sad.
Paterno has been criticized for his response to an allegation of sexual abuse of a child by a former assistant coach.
"I saw the newscast. I didn't necessarily garner the feeling that he was gone, and I don't know why he would be," Snyder said of Paterno. "I haven't spoken to Joe since this has taken place, and I'm really saddened by all of this.... I know Joe Paterno is an honest, forthright individual. I trust immensely that whatever his response is, I trust that it's accurate. But I know it has to be a sad day there and I feel badly for all involved."
Searching for consistency — After starting the season with seven consecutive victories, and following that up with two losses, Snyder hopes his team learned the importance of preparing for each game with the same approach over the past two weeks.
"We might have lost sight of where we were and how we got there, and we certainly paid the price against Oklahoma," Snyder said. "I think we handled the Oklahoma loss in the appropriate way, under the circumstance, and I admire our players for that. Consequently, they came back and performed reasonably well against Oklahoma State."
Missing a running back — Texas A&M will be without leading rusher Christine Michael, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. That could change K-State's defensive strategy as it now focuses on Cyrus Gray on Saturday.