I made Bill Snyder laugh this past Tuesday.
The 76-year-old head coach, wearing a pinstripe suit with a white shirt, pale daffodil-colored tie and an American flag pin on his lapel, had his eyes light up when I asked if he felt that K-State’s red zone offensive production was starting to feel “nearly automatic.”
The Wildcats so far this season are perfect when they get inside the 20-yard line, converting on all 16 attempts over the 10 quarters they’ve played this season, putting them at the top of Big 12 and in the country.
Fourteen red zone touchdowns, 10 rushing, four passing and two field goals make up the bulk of the Wildcats’ scoring production. K-State only has one score that wasn’t in the red zone and that was a punt return for a touchdown versus Florida Atlantic two Saturdays ago.
Thus my question.
Snyder began to answer and then became overcome with laughter at the notion my question presented.
“I can’t believe you asked me that,” Snyder said, filling the team theater where press conferences are held with his mirthful grin and laughter. “There is nothing in your life or mine that is automatic, I want to assure you that.”
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting but in hindsight, the response was inevitable. Why would a man who lives by his 16 goals that preach qualities (among other things) such as toughness, eliminating self-limitations, self-discipline and exerting great effort, believe that any success that comes not only on the football field but in life, is a direct result of anything but the work that was put in to get there?
Automatic is easy and Snyder doesn’t do easy. The 25-year veteran coach went on to explain that his standards far exceed the perfect start that the Wildcats have inside the 20-yard line.
“I was just telling our players the other day that we were five for five in the NCAA quote-unquote red zone,” Snyder said. “My red zone starts a heck of a lot earlier.”
And according to Snyder and his red zone, the Wildcats haven’t been perfect.
Last week as the clock winded down in the second quarter, and what ended up being the game due to severe weather, junior kicker Matthew McCrane missed a 42-yard field goal, a play that Snyder considers to fall in his red zone.
It’s miscues like that where Snyder, the master of finding even the smallest mistakes in order to help his team improve, has found fault in his team’s perfect red zone record.
“I’m pleased that we have had the success that we’ve had up to this point in time,” Snyder said. “Defenses are going to get tougher and we’ve got to be better than what we are. Not in our conversion ratio but in our performance snap after snap.”
Defenses like West Virginia, who are second in the conference in red zone defense, won’t be as easy for sophomore fullback Winston Dimel, who has the majority of the Wildcats’ red zone score, to run over or for junior quarterback Jesse Ertz to squeeze a touchdown pass through several defenders.
What’s happened so far has been good in Snyder’s eyes but it in no way means anything more than it is.
“It’s just that I’m saying, ‘Yes, you’ve done this and you’ve earned that recognition regardless of who you’ve lined up and played against,'” Snyder said. “The key element now is that, ‘okay you’ve set the standard, let’s be that good this week and the following weeks to come.'”
Nothing in Snyder’s eyes is automatic, but as long as the job gets done, manual will work just fine.