Unbeaten K-State goes back to school during bye week
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's notable 18-7 record after a bye week comes with one major caveat: He's not all that impressed by it.
''Well, we lost seven,'' Snyder said Tuesday as the Wildcats (3-0), off last week, prepared to visit No. 20 Oklahoma State on Saturday. ''So I'm not sure how much success we've really had.''
Since his return from a brief retirement in 2009, Kansas State is 7-3 coming off a bye. The extra week of preparation has regularly led to significant improvement, evident last season when the Wildcats went 2-1, falling only to No. 5 Auburn 20-14 early in the schedule.
This season's first bye seemed to come at an ideal time, too, between nonconference play and a grueling stretch that will see the Wildcats play four ranked opponents in their next five games.
''This bye week was so good in that we could sit back and watch what we were doing wrong and correct it,'' center Dalton Risner said. ''When you're in the heat of game week, you get to the next week and you're already watching that film, so it's kind of hard to sit back and correct a lot.''
Kansas State dedicated the off week to a number of areas, including the team's struggles inside the red zone. Last season, the Wildcats were successful on 56 of 62 trips. And while that success has carried over to 2015 - so far 17 of 18 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line have resulted in scores - only six times has Kansas State scored touchdowns.
The extra attention to detail has evidently led to some optimism heading into Big 12 play.
''We're making some headway as it relates to what's significant for us, that is improving on some of the things that we have really had difficulty with or have demonstrated we need improvement upon,'' Snyder said.
Facing the Cowboys will certainly be a test to that improvement, given Kansas State's track record at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Wildcats haven't won there since 1999, when Snyder led them to a 7-1 record in the Big 12 and an 11-1 overall mark in his first tenure as coach.
Kansas State is 0-4 in Stillwater since then, including a 33-29 loss two seasons ago.
The average margin in those four games? Just 4.5 points.
''It's tough if you don't play well,'' Snyder said. ''If you play well, it probably isn't all that hard. The only (trip) that is significant now is the one in 2013 because we have a few players who were here at that point in time.
''Remembering that ballgame, we were in the ballgame all the way to the end, but collectively I think we had three or four turnovers, which obviously hurt us a great deal.''
Turnovers will likely be a deciding factor on Saturday, too, which means it was a point of emphasis during the bye week. Kansas State has lost just two fumbles this season and quarterback Joe Hubener has yet to throw an interception. But defensively, the Wildcats have yet to come up with an interception and sit just plus-one in turnovers with three fumbles recovered.
''That's one of the big sticking points,'' linebacker Will Davis said. ''Coach Snyder has preached to us about attacking the ball more. If the ball is in the air, it's ours too. It's not just the offense's - we need to make a play, too.''
While a win Saturday would push Kansas State's record to 4-0 for the first time since 2012, and make Snyder's teams 19-7 after bye weeks, it probably won't do much to change his opinion of his current team. That much was evident in his assessment earlier this week.
''Still,'' Snyder said, ''a ways to go.''