It was not too long ago when K-State Athletics announced that Chris Klieman would take over for Bill Snyder as head football coach. He is only the second coach in 30 years not named Bill Snyder.
After a roller coaster of a season, K-State will head to a bowl game in the first year of the Klieman era. He finished the regular season as the second-winningest first-year coach this season behind Ohio State head coach Ryan Day.
There was a level of uncertainty heading into the 2019 season — the preseason poll predicted a ninth-place finish for K-State.
The Wildcats opened the season with a three-game win streak with two dominating victories over Nicholls State and Bowling Green and a gutsy win over Mississippi State.
K-State sat at 3-2 after two losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor, and suddenly, it felt like the sky was falling. Klieman showed composure despite the rocky start, focusing instead on daily improvement.
“I think success is defined by each day just getting better and not worrying about Saturday,” Klieman said. “We can’t worry about Saturday today or on Thursday. We have to handle it each day.
“That’s kind of been the whole message throughout the entire season. Even when we had a couple of losses in a row, I felt we were improving as a football team,” Klieman continued. “That’s all you can ask for is just continuing to get better on a daily basis.”
Klieman’s poise filtered down to the players after opening conference play with two losses.
“People think that the demeanor is not good, but we lost two games,” senior defensive tackle Trey Dishon said following the second bye week. “We are not 0-5, we are 3-2.”
K-State went on to a three-game win streak with wins over fifth-ranked Oklahoma and a dominating 38-10 win over Kansas.
Klieman made it evident that there is a focus on one game at a time, and junior quarterback Skylar Thompson displayed that in the press conference after the win over Oklahoma.
“Coming off of a big win, it’s important that we put last week behind us and focus on this week ahead,” Thompson said.
Led by a large senior class of Snyder recruits, the underclassman provided crucial sparks for the Wildcats, most of which Klieman helped recruit.
Freshman wide receiver Joshua Youngblood was the most influential of the true freshmen this season, but others also played significant roles in conference play like freshman linebacker Khalid Duke who has four tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery this season.
On a side note, Christmas came early for Klieman in the form of $100,000 negotiated in his contract — $50,000 for a third-place finish and another $50,000 for six wins and a bowl game.
The Wildcats will find out the matchup for their bowl game on Sunday.