The K-State Wildcats are coming off of their first Big 12 Conference win of the season. It had been roughly six weeks since the Wildcats tasted a victory, but now they have some momentum to build off of.
“I would say that we are working hard, and the improvement has shown week to week,” junior center BJ Finney said. “I wouldn’t so much say it’s finding your groove. We are still making a lot of mistakes that we can correct, and we can always perform better.”
K-State will take on Iowa State this weekend as they conclude their three game home stand. No matter the rankings of the two teams, it has always been a competitive matchup when the Wildcats take on the Cyclones.
“[Iowa State’s] program is a lot like ours,” Finney said. “Blue collar, tough nosed, physical football players. When you match two teams up like that, it’s always a good game. Whoever makes the least amount of mistakes and executes better is going to win that game.”
When K-State first experimented with the two quarterback system, junior quarterback Jake Waters was often asked to come in on third down and make a play. Earlier on in the season, Waters struggled coming in cold. Against West Virginia, it was a different story.
“I think like any young person at any position, if you do not stay in the game no matter where you are situated, whether it’s on the sidelines or whether you are on the field, or whether you are sitting up in the stands and somebody calls you down—if you do not stay in the game, then when you get in there, it is a different experience,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “If you stay in it, play the game snap after snap no matter where you are located, then you have a much better chance to have some success when you step on the field. I think that for him and Daniel [Sams] both, it is when they are not in that they really play every snap even from the sidelines. If they do that, then it is almost like taking an on the field rep.”
K-State’s defense has faced some tough tests through the early part of this season. Their youth and inexperience has showed at times, but they have always put the offense in positions to win the game late. Snyder said he has noticed that the defense has improved, especially in the toughness that they have shown.
“I think we have made strides,” Snyder said. “I think the degree of toughness with which they play has been enhanced, not over just the last game and a half, but over the course of the season, I think it has gradually moved in that direction. I think we still have the discipline, and when I say discipline, I mean the self discipline of doing what you are assigned to do the right way every time.”
Iowa State finds themselves in a similar situation to what K-State faced last weekend as they search for their first conference win. The Wildcats have been ranked in the top-10 nationally the last two times they have played the Cyclones. Despite the lopsided difference in rankings, Iowa State has kept the contest close. A big reason for that is the culture that head coach Paul Rhoads brings to the program, and Snyder was quick to compliment the work of Rhoads.
“I do not know how much Paul [Rhoads] and I are alike,” Snyder said. “I think he is a better football coach than I am. He is an awful good person that works extremely hard. I think the similarities are somewhat like that. Their players are accustomed to a demanding program. They work extremely hard and they play hard. Our ballgames have been close for the last four years, and we have been fortunate to win each one, but we won by one, by six and by seven twice.”