Bill Snyder hopes Kansas State’s seniors will play with a special purpose.
“I would think they wouldn’t want to leave here without a victory against any team they played,” said the Wildcat coach.
The fact is that K-State has lost to the Missouri Tigers in each of the last five years, and by an average margin of 18 points per loss.
While K-State is 4-0 and ranked No. 20 in the nation and Missouri is 2-2 and unranked, Wildcat senior Jordan Voelker said, “We are the underdogs because they have beaten us the last five years. We can’t let our guard down. Their two losses were to ranked teams and I think we will have a lot of motivation.”
After dramatic wins over Miami and Baylor, K-State does find itself in the polls for the first time since 2004.
To that, however, Snyder says, “You have to prove yourself every day. Whatever the polls say, that was yesterday. You start letting that prepare yourself on how to do things, you probably can get yourself in some serious trouble. We have to look at it as, ‘OK, let us move on.’ If we are thinking about that today, then we are taking time away from things that are really significant that will affect the way we play this weekend.”
Snyder added, “I just want our young guys to understand how they got where they are and not forget how we got to where we are, and then continue to improve on where we are. We can’t get sidetracked or deviate from that path because whatever is said externally.”
And for sure, K-State better play this weekend is better than the week before against a Tiger team that does have two losses, but to No. 21 Arizona State, 37-30 in overtime, and to No. 1 Oklahoma, 38-28.
It’s a Tiger team that rushes for 253 yards per game and passes for 264 yards per game. It’s a team that has scored nine rushing TDs and eight through the air.
“Obviously, Missouri is a very diverse and talented offensive team,” said Snyder. “James (Franklin, MU’s QB) is a very poised young guy and (Henry) Josey averages 12 yards per carry … who knows how that happens? Those are numbers that you cannot really fathom.”
Snyder also pointed out that three receivers on MU’s two-deep “ … stand at least 6-4 while our tallest guy is 3-foot-3, or something like that. They are not just tall guys, but guys that can run, jump and catch the ball.”
During Tuesday’s press conference, Snyder admitted that this year’s defense was playing much better than a year ago. He said, “We were better in the spring, and when we started in the fall, I thought we were making more progress. Gradually, we have become better in different areas.”
In part, it’s due to better team speed, and better team depth and better team experience, and better team discipline, and better fundamentals. All, Snyder said, are the “right things” to make a defense better.”
The defensive headliner has been linebacker Arthur Brown with 33 tackles, which includes 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage.
Snyder first talks of Brown being “a quality young person.” He then adds, “I’ve never had any complaints on the way he practices, the way he plays and the way he handles himself. His presence helps us be more successful doing the things we would like to do.”
According to the coach, what Brown does best is “… going to the football. He just has a nose for the football.”
Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh adds of Brown, “He goes from 0 to 60 faster than a Ferrari.”
But while Brown was this week’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, Snyder insists that it’s a team game and had lineman Ray Kibble not rushed Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Brown’s pivotal interception wouldn’t have been possible.
Behind Brown’s 33 tackles are David Garrett with 21, Ty Zimmerman with 19, Emmanuel Lamur with 18, Tre Walker with 17, plus six other Wildcats with at least 10 arrests.
Meshak Williams trails Brown’s 4.5 tackles for a loss with 4.0, while Jordan Voelker and Ray Kibble each have two and seven other ‘Cats have one.
Williams and Voelker each have three quarterback sacks, followed by Brown with two.
Nigel had three interceptions, while Brown, Garrett and Tysyn Hartman each have one. Garrett and Jonathan Truman each have fumble recoveries, while Hartman and Jared Loomis have forced fumbles.
“We had a feeling during fall camp that we were playing a lot harder than we did,” said Hartman. “You watch tape from last year and see how we were moving and the progress that we’ve made is a good feeling.”
While saying the overall defense is better than a year ago, Snyder warns, “It’s too early to judge how much better. I understand that our numbers are better than where we were a year ago at this time, but we still have a ways to go to find out how much better.”