Chris Klieman entered Kansas State’s first off week of the season riding high with an undefeated record. The Wildcats were ranked and dreaming big about what they could accomplish in the Big 12.
Less than a month later, Klieman and his team are at the opposite end of spectrum as they enter their second off week together. The Wildcats are 3-2, coming off back-to-back losses, and morale has dipped as they continue searching for their first conference victory.
One might think Klieman’s mindset or approach has changed during that time, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
“Forget wins and losses,” Klieman said. “We’re progressing like I would hope.”
That is a surprising statement, considering the way K-State played during recent losses against Oklahoma State (26-13) and Baylor (31-12). The Wildcats sputtered on offense and missed tackles that led to big plays for the Cowboys and Bears, raising questions about this team’s ability to compete in the Big 12.
But Klieman thinks the Wildcats are closer to winning than the past two games have indicated.
“I really believe, and the players believe, we did get better last week in practice as far as how we went about our business,” Klieman said. “I thought our scout-team look was better, I thought we played faster and understood where we were in our system better last week. It doesn’t always mean it’s always going to be successful on Saturday. You sure as heck hope it does. I’m pleased with the progress we’re making. Obviously, you’d like to be 5-0 but we’re not 0-5, either. It’s a daily grind and we have to keep working.”
The Wildcats will do exactly that over the next two weeks as they prepare for their next game against TCU on Oct. 19.
Both teams are 3-2. Both teams are off this week. Both teams will be looking to prove themselves. It should be an important game.
With that in mind, Klieman plans to have K-State starters scrimmage against each other over the next few days. He will also look try and develop young and unproven players so they might be able to help during the team’s final seven games.
Joshua Youngblood, Chris Herron and Joe Ervin all played significant roles against Baylor as true freshmen. It seems like that won’t change moving forward.
Klieman liked the way they played against the Bears. In fact, he was encouraged by most of what he saw after watching replays of the Baylor game.
“That we’re close, that we’re making some plays, we’re just not sustaining those plays on both sides of the ball,” Klieman said. “Offensively, we played better than we did against Oklahoma State, we just maybe stubbed our foot or didn’t convert on a situation here or there, but it’s coming along and it’s getting better. On defense, we made some big-time plays and made some really good plays out there, we just have to shore up our tackling.”
One thing Klieman will definitely address this week: second-down execution. Too often over the past two weeks, K-State has gained more than five yards on first down but squandered those plays by losing yardage on second-and-short.
He is also looking for more touchdowns in the red zone. K-State has scored a total of 25 points in its first two Big 12 games. That’s not nearly enough to win games in this conference.
Still, Klieman thinks the Wildcats aren’t far away from reaching their potential. They could change a lot with two good weeks of practice.
“We’re going to get this thing turned,” Klieman said. “I told them that and I firmly believe we’re going to get this turned in the right direction.”