Kansas State University

For K-State football players, Vanderbilt game just means more

K-State running back Alex Barnes busts through a hole against Charlotte (September 9, 2017)
K-State running back Alex Barnes busts through a hole against Charlotte (September 9, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

No offense to Central Arkansas and Charlotte, but this is the game Kansas State football players have been looking forward to since their first summer practice together.

You could say they agree with the slogan the SEC uses at the end of its TV commercials. For the Wildcats, a road game against Vanderbilt just means more.

Highlights of K-State's dominating win over the Charlotte 49ers Saturday in Manhattan. Final score 55-7

“A lot of us have circled the game on the calendar, because Vanderbilt is a SEC opponent,” K-State center Adam Holtorf said, “and it is our last nonconference game. We are kind of using it as our last game to prepare before we enter Big 12 play. A lot of guys are excited.”

A 6:30 p.m. clash between K-State and Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville will serve as a litmus test for both teams. The No. 18 Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start that features blowout victories over soft competition. So are the Commodores, coming off wins over Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M.

Another victory would mean a great deal for both sides.

K-State players know the stakes. So much so, that they found themselves looking ahead to Vanderbilt as they were preparing for their first two games.

“It is definitely hard to take it one game at a time when you know you get an opportunity to go play in Nashville against a SEC school like Vanderbilt,” K-State defensive back Brogan Barry said. “They have improved over the last couple years. It is definitely circled, and it is one of those games you kind of look forward to.”

K-State football coach Bill Snyder respects Vanderbilt, and went out of his way this week to mention how close the Commodores came to winning 11 games last season, despite finishing 6-7.

After watching them on video, K-State players are equally impressed. But they have known all along that Vanderbilt would pose a challenge. Games against SEC teams always do.

“Just getting a SEC opponent, somebody who has played some big dogs, is exciting” K-State running back Alex Barnes said. “They have got a lot of experience playing some of the top teams in the country. We want to be one of those big dogs. We want to give them what they are used to.”

It’s been a long time since K-State traveled to play a SEC opponent. The Wildcats lost at Auburn 23-13 in 2007 under former coach Ron Prince. Snyder has never coached inside a SEC venue.

But K-State did defeat Texas A&M 33-28 in the Texas Bowl last season. It also has recent experience against power-conference teams, playing regular-season games against Stanford, Auburn, Miami and UCLA in the past seven years.

Victories in those games have served as good omens -- such as in 2011 when K-State beat Miami on the road and went 10-3, and the following year when K-State clobbered Miami at home and went 11-2.

The Wildcats are hoping to repeat that history on Saturday at Vanderbilt. Motivation won’t be an issue.

“We are really excited to go out there and play another Power 5 conference, especially them being a SEC school,” K-State tight end Dayton Valentine said. “That conference is always near the top. Last year, we started out on the road and lost that opening Power 5 game (26-13 at Stanford). This year, we want to come out and get our first road win. That would be huge. We could build on that each week.”

K-State head Coach Bill Snyder talks about the Wildcats domination of the Charlotte 49ers Saturday afternoon in Manhattan.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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