Skylar Thompson spent much of the offseason telling anyone that would listen about his high expectations for the Kansas State football team.
He scoffed when media members picked K-State to finish ninth in the Big 12 preseason poll and said the Wildcats had what it took to compete for a conference championship. That’s how confident he was.
Still, there was some doubt in the back of his mind. Sold as he was on his returning teammates and new coach Chris Klieman, they had never played together before. He knew there could be some bumps in the road.
Then they beat Mississippi State on the road to start 3-0 and climb to No. 25 in the USA Today coaches poll. Those doubts are now history.
“It has definitely opened my eyes to what we are capable of doing,” Thompson, a junior quarterback, said earlier this week. “Coming into the season, I knew we had a special thing coming on. I didn’t know how it was going to unfold, but having a start like this is a pretty good indicator of what we are doing.”
The Wildcats are off this weekend before starting Big 12 games on Sept. 28 at Oklahoma State, so they have some down time to dream about they can accomplish from here.
“We are really excited,” tight end Blaise Gammon said. “It gives us a great feeling going in (to Big 12 play) 3-0 rather than 2-1 or anything like that. We have a lot of confidence and a lot of excitement going into it. That’s a feeling we haven’t had for a little while. This is my fifth season, and we haven’t been 3-0 since my first season.”
Upcoming games against Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU will be difficult, but all three appear winnable given the games K-State has already won. Maybe this team will be 6-0 when Oklahoma comes to town in late October.
Few expected the Wildcats to beat the Bulldogs in front of the cowbells. Why not?
“The sky is the limit as long as we keep preparing and executing and stay together,” senior running back James Gilbert said. “Anything is possible for this team.”
The Wildcats want more, but they understand that extending their winning streak won’t be easy.
This is only the second time K-State has entered Big 12 play with an undefeated record since 2012, but the Wildcats also finished 6-7 the last time they were in this position. Back then, in 2015, they followed up their perfect start with six straight losses in conference play.
Much like now, they began that Big 12 schedule at Oklahoma State. No one wants to follow that path again.
“I’m happy, obviously, that we’re 3-0,” Klieman said. “But, big picture, we haven’t even started conference play yet. We know every game is going to be a dog fight. We know whatever we did last week has no bearing on the next week, so you better just put your head down, go to work and make sure you are preparing every day to be successful on Saturday. I’m thrilled that we’re 3-0, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Klieman said the Wildcats planned to devote extra time during their off week to improve special teams miscues and to improve depth by showcasing young players in scrimmages. K-State could also strengthen its secondary before Big 12 games begin. Mississippi State had opportunities to gain big yardage through the air last week, but bad throws and drops prevented the Bulldogs from cashing in.
K-State might not be so fortunate against Oklahoma State’s high-octane attack, which is currently averaging 49.3 points per game.
Things are only going to get harder from here. K-State understands the situation, even at 3-0.
“Having a 3-0 start and getting a national ranking is special,” Thompson said. “But, at the same time, that is just one of the many goals that we set for ourselves this year. We need to remain humble and focus on the little things and grow as a team.”