MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Kansas State has plenty of reasons to be wary about Missouri State rolling into town.
Sure, the Football Championship Subdivision program is coming off a lackluster one-win season, and at first blush it looks like a total mismatch. But it was just four years ago that the Bears were tied with the Wildcats in the third quarter before things devolved into a 51-9 blowout.
It was also just last week North Dakota State, which like the Bears (2-0) plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, sent a jolt through the Top 25 with its upset of then-No. 13 Iowa .
In other words, don't expect the Wildcats (1-1) to be looking ahead to their Big 12 opener.
''People keep talking to me about North Dakota State. Yeah, we can beat them,'' Missouri State coach Dave Steckel said. ''But we're going up against a very, very physical team.''
The Wildcats showcased that in last week's 63-7 romp over Florida Atlantic. Winston Dimel ran for four touchdowns on just five carries, and the big fullback joined a cadre of running backs and a trio of elusive quarterbacks in piling up 336 yards rushing and seven scores.
Not that Bill Snyder wanted to talk positives afterward.
Instead, what jabbed their longtime coach in the side like a sharp stick were the penalties, an uncharacteristic 13 of them for 131 yards. The flags repeatedly put Kansas State in a hole on offense, and several times they wiped out what should have been significant gains.
They were the kind of mistakes the Wildcats could afford against Florida Atlantic. Maybe even against Missouri State. But not when league play starts at West Virginia.
''It is a discipline element,'' Snyder said, ''and that requires accountability and coaches are responsible for implementing the accountability. It is not after the fact on game day. It is during the course of the week. We have to do a better job of holding players accountable.''
As the Bears prepare to visit Kansas State, here are some of the other story lines:
Missouri State is allowing just 11 points per game, third-best in its division, and just 51.5 yards on the ground. But there is a big difference between playing Southwestern (Kan.) and Murray State, and playing a Big 12 opponent on the road.
''No matter who you play, you respect them. You prepare for them,'' said Steckel, who faced Kansas State often as a longtime assistant at Missouri. ''There's no difference. This game is about us.''
SPEAKING OF D
The Wildcats limited Stanford and star running back Christian McCaffery in a 26-13 loss, then completely shut down the Owls last week. Florida Atlantic barely managed 200 yards of total offense and picked up one first down in the lopsided defeat.
BIG BOY DROUGHT
Missouri State has not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since Sept. 1, 1990, when it beat UNLV. That's 30 straight games. Among them was a 23-20 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in 1996, when current Kansas State co-offensive coordinator Del Miller was in his second year as head coach of the Bears.
Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz has been disappointed with hi play through two games as a starter, particularly in the passing game. But despite Joe Hubener's success against the Owls, and some flashy moves by fellow backup Alex Delton, don't expect the Wildcats to think twice about keeping the ball in Ertz's hands .
''He is still a work in progress,'' Snyder said. ''He is gaining more and more in the way of exposure, and as he does so, he gains greater confidence and execution, and decision- making becomes better. It is the nature of the game.''
The Wildcats already planned to use Charles Jones, Justin Silman and Dalvin Warmack at running back. But when redshirt freshman Alex Barnes got into the mix against the Owls, it gave Kansas State one of the deepest stables in the Big 12 .
''It doesn't change much at all,'' Barnes said. ''We're all friends in the locker room. We have lockers right next to each other, so it's not a competition that gets in the way of our friendship or our lives outside of football. We enjoy each other's company and we have a lot of fun.''