K-State football head coach Bill Snyder is more than aware of the hype surrounding Thursday night’s matchup with No. 5 Auburn. That’s why he is reminding everyone that it’s only one game in an often grueling and lengthy season.
“Thursday night is a not a season,” Snyder said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “Thursday night is another game and it is the most valuable game that we will play so far this season. The following week will be the most valuable game we play in the season. It’s one step at a time.”
That aside, Snyder said he recognizes that his team is anxious to take the field against a high-profile, nonconference team in front of what is expected to be a record-breaking crowd and a national television audience. The tough part has been juggling that anticipation and the goal of daily improvement — number four on Bill Snyder’s famous list of 16 goals.
“Our message is continual — it’s today, it’s tomorrow, it’s the next day,” the 74-year-old said. “It is always the same. Not a day goes by that I’m not going to address our players about taking care of today. I have no issue with enthusiasm and excitement. I’m all in favor of that; I try to promote that and I try to get our leadership to step up and promote that. I want to see spirit on the practice field and spirit on the game field. I want to see them play with emotion.”
Though preparations for Thursday are ongoing, Snyder said he is pleased with his team’s focus thus far, given the irregular kickoff time and the significant media exposure. But there is still work to be done all the way up to 2 p.m. Thursday when the team meets and, of course, 6:30 p.m. when the game kicks off in front of more than 50,000 screaming fans in purple and orange.
“I think that our guys are seemingly focused on the tasked at hand,” Snyder said. “I think if you ask them, they probably would say that they are anxious to play. I would like to think that anxiousness is excitement to play. I hope that is indeed the case, and that it carries over to this afternoon and we practice with that excitement about playing the game while staying focused on the task at hand.”
Being the highest ranked nonconference opponent to come to Manhattan since No. 2 Penn State in 1969, Auburn has garnered a lot of respect in and around the K-State locker room.
The challenge for K-State has been approaching Auburn like any other opponent, something that’s much harder to do when you’re facing the reigning SEC champions and national runners-up.
“We definitely respect them, but we also know that they’re trying to smack us around and beat us so we have to have the same attitude,” senior quarterback Jake Waters said. “We have to have confidence that we can play with anyone in the country if we go out and prepare the way that we have been. We definitely respect them, but we’re not scared of them.”
Junior defensive back Morgan Burns approaches the situation by pointing out the similarities between Auburn and K-State’s other 11 opponents.
“We have to understand that they’re a football team too,” Burns said. “We’ve all played football since we were young. We all play Division I football and we’re all great athletes. That’s what it comes down to.”
The LED countdown clock inside the Vanier Football Complex continues to wind down. K-State still has business attend to before Thursday, but the “0:00:00” cannot come soon enough.
“Come Thursday I’m going to be excited, energetic and ready to play,” Burns said. “I’m really, really excited.”