Win over West Virginia first priority for K-State

Head coach Bill Snyder watches the field during the 113th annual Sunflower Showdown of the Wildcats' victory over Kansas Jayhawks 45-14 on Nov. 28, 2015, in Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Just over two weeks ago, K-State suffered their sixth-straight loss. This was the longest losing streak since 1989, which was head coach Bill Snyder’s first year with the team. That year, the Wildcats had three games left and needed each to be a win to gain bowl eligibility but then, some pretty wild stuff happened.

But then, some pretty wild stuff is happening this season too.

On Nov. 21, the video board claimed another consecutive sellout for the game against Iowa State – but the crowd in the stands failed to accurately reflect this claim. The Wildcats struggled in the first half, further emptying the stands.

Around the 1:31 minute mark in the fourth quarter, the Cyclones had possession of the ball and were attempting to run the clock out. Fans started to get up and vacate the premises. Sophomore defensive tackle Will Geary had other ideas, however, and forced Iowa State’s freshman tailback Mike Warren to fumble with sophomore linebacker Elijah Lee recovering.

The fans that were making their way to the exit stopped in their tracks. As goal No. 10 of Snyder’s 16 goals for success states, “never give up.”

The Wildcats did not, and went on to win the game in the final seconds thanks to a 42-yard field goal from senior place kicker Jack Cantele.

A week later, the Wildcats went to Lawrence for a 45-14 beat down of the Jayhawks to move to 5-6 on the season. The only thing standing between K-State and bowl eligibility is a 7-4 West Virginia team.

Snyder said he sees opportunity in bowl games. They offer an additional spring practice, which he said any team can benefit from. He also pointed out that a number of the players in his program have participated in a bowl game each year they’ve played.

“I think that would have some meaning to them that way,” Snyder said.

The NCAA announced on Tuesday that teams with the highest Academic Progress Rates and five wins at the end of the season will be selected to fill additional bowl slots. K-State is ranked second for five-win teams in APR, according to the NCAA.

But the Wildcats aren’t worrying about the possibility of making a bowl game at 5-7.

“None of us are even thinking about that,” freshman offensive lineman Dalton Risner said. “We want to beat West Virginia this weekend and earn ourselves a bowl game.”

The momentum has shifted for K-State after winning their last two games.

“We can do it now,” junior linebacker Will Davis said. “It gives the guys confidence. Guys definitely have more pep in their step.”

That confidence has been reflected in the Wildcats’ performances in the last two games.

Junior fullback Glenn Gronkowski made his first career rushing touchdown last weekend and threw his first touchdown against Iowa State. Senior defensive back Morgan Burns is on his third-straight week of being named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week. Burns also recorded an interception against Kansas, the only one for K-State’s defensive backfield this season.

K-State seems to finally be in control of their own destiny.

“We are in the situation where we can win this game and have the opportunity to win this game, and that is all we are focused on,” Lee said. “It would be special, and you always want to go out on a winning season.”