Chris Klieman: proving progress can be made in year one
MANHATTAN, Kan. — With several Power Five programs struggling to rebuild, it’s hard to find coaches with instant success.
After Kansas State’s 27-17 victory over Iowa State on Senior Day, Chris Klieman became one of those individuals. No one expected much out of the Wildcats to start the season, considering the team was coming off a five-win campaign. Not to mention Klieman was coming from the FCS ranks into the Big 12.
However, the Wildcats rebounded and finished this season with at least eight wins for the third time in four years. Klieman has established his brand of football with the program and it’s showing on the field. He showed he could be a great game motivator and made halftime adjustments in the win over the Cyclones.
Klieman’s team loves to play for him and they all rallied behind their coach in horrible weather for the regular season finale.
“So happy for our seniors that put in the blood, sweat and tears for along time and a lot of years here,” Klieman said. “After the big win down in Texas Tech we challenged underclassmen, freshman, sophomores and juniors to lay it on the line today for our seniors and what they meant to our program.”
The Wildcats felt like the underdog and played with a chip on their should because of no respect from the polls. The team had their bumps and bruises throughout the season, but persevered and won five of their last seven conference games, which solidified Klieman has transitioned well into Power Five competition.
Slowing down a high-octane Iowa State offense equipped with arguably the best quarterback in the league was an impressive feat for Kansas State. After all, the Wildcats’ defense struggled during the previous three games, but the unit held the Cyclones to just one third down conversion the entire night.
The offensive line got it done in the trenches against one of the better defenses in the Big 12 and opened nice holes for the running backs. The offense ran for nearly 300 yards and Kleiman couldn’t me more proud of his teams’ performance. It’s a testament to what lies ahead for the Wildcats and the success Klieman could potentially bring with his physical brand of football that won him multiple National Championships at North Dakota State.
“I told the guys in the locker room don’t ever underestimate the power of belief or the power of love,” he said. “Those guys believe in each other, love each other and when have those two things going you have a great chance to be successful.”
Besides Ryan Day’s success with Ohio State, Klieman is the only other Power Five hire from a year ago who has made a instant splash with his team. Finishing in the top-three of the Big 12 standings speaks volumes and Klieman doesn’t take any of it for granted, nor does he let his players.
“Our backs were against the wall before the season started, not very many people thought an awful lot of this football team except for the guys in the room,” Klieman said. “Then we were 3-2 and I told them to block out all the outside noise and because they weren’t believing we were a good football team and then we won three games in a row.”
Kansas State has a chance to win nine games for the first time since 2016 and will likely be a top-25 team coming into the 2020 season. It’s always tough replacing a legend, especially what Bill Snyder means in Manhattan, but Klieman has bought life back into the program and has the Wildcats a year ahead of schedule.