May 29, 2024

How Kansas State excels by flying under the radar

Kansas State Football

Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday November 30, 2019. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

For a third-straight year the Wildcats enters the season unranked in both major polls, but that’s the beauty of the process.

It’s nothing new to Kansas State fans. After all, the Wildcats usually emerge from the shadows to surprise the nation. Very few programs in the Power Five get more done with less like the purple nation. Kansas State doesn’t recruit like the powerhouse schools, but the player development has always been a team strength.

The Wildcats continue to carve out victories and managed to post eight winning seasons during the past decade. It wasn’t a surprise that several critics thought 2019 was going to be a rebuilding year. Considering the program was coming off a losing season and Hall of Fame Coach Bill Snyder retired.

Despite the fact that Klieman won three National Championships at North Dakota State, his hiring still didn’t move the needle nationally because he was from the FCS ranks. The 52-year old coach, his staff and players embraced the underdog role and used it all as motivation.

Kansas State didn’t raise any eyebrows until Klieman’s first signature win, which was an upset over Big 12 heavyweight Oklahoma. The Wildcats eventually finished with a winning record in conference play and Klieman was the only first-year Big 12 coach to cap off a winning campaign last season.

Fast forward to game week against Arkansas State and Klieman has one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the league. Not to mention the Wildcats have a two-time All-Big 12 performer, who happens to be the heart and soul of the defense. Add in a clutch placekicker, plus the most dangerous return man in the FBS and you have a team worthy of top-25 status.

Bill Snyder Family Stadium will only be at 25 percent capacity for Saturday’s clash. However, that won’t stop Wildcat fans from being all dialed in other ways to keep social distancing. Since the polls didn’t show the Wildcats respect, expect the team to again come in with a chip on their shoulders. It’s no mystery that the Wildcats do better when they are the hunters instead of the hunted.

This season will be no different despite Kansas State having to replace multiple starters on offense. The team showed unity and rallied behind one another during the offseason. That strong bond from the Wildcat players should lead to great chemistry on the field.

No one really expects the Red Wolves to pull off an upset on Saturday against a focused Wildcat team. Kansas State should be able to cruise to a comfortable victory without having to expose too much of the playbook. Oklahoma looms and out for revenge in game two and that’s going to be the ultimate measuring stick.

As for now, everything is going according to plan for the overlooked Wildcats. In a couple of weeks the College football world will know if the Wildcats are contenders or pretenders. Regardless of the matter, this Saturday’s matchup will start another journey for Kansas State’s pursuit of Big 12 glory.