Although it has been a full calendar year, the Wildcats are back in the AP Poll after upsetting the No. 6 team in the country.
Kansas State raised several eyebrows when it beat Oklahoma on the road Saturday night. Not only was the victory Coach Chris Klieman’s second-straight in Norman, but his squad also showed last week’s home loss to Tulane was a fluke.
There’s no denying the performance was a statement in itself. So much so that the Wildcats emerged from the shadows and landed at No. 25 in the AP Poll. Kansas State was last ranked in the AP Poll in September of 2021. So it’s all national recognition that’s been long overdue for Klieman’s boys.
However, it’s a friendly reminder of all the hard work the team has put in. Kansas State’s journey leading up to this point has been all about perseverance and patience. The success didn’t happen overnight. The process has been a marathon to national credibility instead of a 100-yard dash.
Former Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez has made an immediate splash on offense. He didn’t display much with his arm through the first three games, but made several clutch throws against the Sooners’ defense. It was sort of a head-scratcher because fans never got to see Martinez do that on a consistent basis in Lincoln. And he’s been vital in the Wildcats’ rushing attack with his dangerous mobility.
There’s nothing like having a dual-threat gunslinger that can compliment All-American rusher Deuce Vaughn. After all, Vaughn went over the century mark in rushing for the third time this season. Not to mention the Wildcats currently lead the Big 12 in rushing offense, plus they’re No. 7 in the FBS.
The numbers don’t lie, and Kansas State averages nearly 250 rushing yards per game. That’s proof the big boys up front are mauling defenders in the trenches, and opening up gaping holes for Vaughn and Martinez to run through.
Klieman’s game plan worked to perfection against the Sooners too. The Wildcats controlled the clock and limited Oklahoma’s offensive possessions by constantly pounding the ball.
The Wildcats have been an active bunch on defense too, especially against the pass. Kansas State is No. 1 in the league in pass defense. And that’s going to be beneficial as the Wildcats navigate through the Big 12 meat grinder. It’s no mystery the conference is full of talented signal-callers too.
The biggest challenge for Klieman and his players now is handling success. It’s tough starting out the season unranked and then finally cracking the top-25, but it’s tougher to stay ranked. Now the Wildcats are one of four Big 12 teams that are ranked in week five’s AP Poll.
Kansas State only stayed ranked for one week last season, so Klieman is going to make it a priority that his team doesn’t have an early exit this time around. Regardless, there’s enough talent and leaders on the roster to keep everyone focused. Staying undefeated in conference play is ideal, but now the Wildcats will have a bullseye on their backs because of the recognition.
Going from being the hunters to being the hunted is never easy.
So every week Klieman should be expecting the best from the eight remaining opponents on Kansas State’s schedule.