Freshman center Dalton Risner has only witnessed two K-State losses in his short time here on campus.
Sure, the losses were two of the more gut-wrenching games K-State players and fans have had to sit through, but three days after the TCU loss Risner’s message was clear.
“I don’t want to feel that feeling in the locker room again,” Risner said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’m done feeling that. I’m done feeling the feeling that I feel today and yesterday. It’s not a complaining feeling or a sad feeling, it’s just anger and just a pissed off attitude.”
That anger is directed mainly at K-State’s two losses by a combined nine points fueled by second-half collapses.
After K-State led by eight points at halftime in Stillwater and by almost 20 at the half last week in their seven-point loss to the number two ranked Horned Frogs, it’s become apparent that K-State has a closing problem.
It didn’t used to be like this.
Before the loss in Stillwater, K-State had won 49 straight games when leading at the half. At that point, you almost assume it’s automatic.
Yet here the Wildcats are with two straight losses; they have done the exact opposite of putting out a full and complete effort on the field, which they were once the best in the country at doing.
Some have pointed to the third quarter as the crux of K-State’s problem, but head coach Bill Snyder insisted that the problem is with the entire half rather than just the start of it.
“Well, we are just looking at second-half performance, not just looking at third quarter,” Snyder said at Tuesday’s press conference. “That is a major part of it – on how we start the second half. We have always looked at that. These past two ball games are not the only times that we have had some difficulties in the second half, for one reason or the other. We just are doing as much – not going to panic over it – but doing as much research as we possibly can. Is there anything that we should be doing different than what we are doing? Part of it is a matter of emphasis; part of it is a way we might approach any changes we make in the second half and a variety of different things.”
While the coaches are trying to find some kind of solution to the Wildcats’ peculiar problem, different players have different theories on what they need to do to keep a lead in the second half.
“I think it just comes down to discipline and focus,” junior quarterback Joe Hubener said at the press conference. “If you’re disciplined in your assignments throughout the game and you can stay focused on those assignments, that’d be a step in the right direction.”
It is a step that senior linebacker Will Davis said began Monday during the first practice of the week.
“It starts with preparation,” Davis said during the press conference. “Yesterday, in practice, it started. Everyone on the team putting their best effort out on Monday through Thursday came prepared for Saturday. If we could do that everyday and have good practices everyday and put complete practices together, we’ll put a complete game together on Saturday.”
Sophomore linebacker Elijah Lee also said he believes that the Wildcats’ second-half woes can be fixed from how they’ve practiced.
“It carries over from practice,” Lee said at the press conference. “Sometimes you get going through the motions at the end of practice. But in the end of practice you have to think of it like the end of a game, keep going and finish.”
Finishing, in the end, will be the key.
The road does not get any easier as the Wildcats welcome No. 19 Oklahoma, who are coming off a rough loss to Texas.
Even with the daunting task ahead, however, members of this K-State football team still hold hopes of making some noise in the final seven games of the season.
“This team could be something special,” Lee said. “And once we learn how to put everything together, I mean, the sky’s the limit for us.”