MANHATTAN — Ten games into the season, coach Bill Snyder says the Kansas State football team is still searching for chemistry and an identity.
That is a troubling and telling statement for a team that has a 5-5 record.
“I think they are still trying to find themselves,” Snyder said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “When you win a ballgame, and because they are young and it all starts to pull a little bit closer, they know where they want to be and basically how to get there yet something needs to push them over the hump and they get a little closer. Then they have what happened to us this last week and there’s some uncertainty that goes along with it.”
A three-game losing streak was followed by two wins, including a fourth-quarter comeback overtime win at Texas Tech, before a 28-23 home loss to West Virginia last Saturday to keep K-State on a season-long roller coaster ride.
“Part of it is the fact that when we started the season, I’m not a big fan of taking anything for granted and I think we did,” Snyder said. “There was a lot of feeling that this was going to be a good football team for whatever reason and I think there was a little selfishness that entered into that that said, ‘I’m going to get mine.’ All of sudden we realized weren’t as good a football team as we thought.
“They were bouncing back and forth off the walls, which is not uncommon for young people that haven’t experienced anything like this before to the extent that they are right now. It’s a great learning experience for them and if anything good comes out of it, it is it will have great carryover value in their lives if they deal with it in the appropriate way.”
The Wildcats have shown flashes of being the team that began the season ranked No. 20 in the nation, but there have been more missteps than steps forward.
“We’re 5-5 and things haven’t gone the way we wanted as an offense, as a defense and as a special teams unit all trying to work together to win a football game,” offensive tackle Dalton Risner said. “Every game has a different story but there has yet to be a game where all three units were clicking the entire game. I know it’s an imperfect game but I have yet to see a game where we’re clicking on all three units and that’s something we need to do.”
Despite their disappointments, the Wildcats have shown no signs of giving up.
“The fight is there,” Risner said. “We’re not showing up on Monday with guys pouting or talking bad. There hasn’t been one play I’ve seen on film where a guy quit. I don’t think coach or anyone on this team would say the fight hasn’t been there all season.
“We know where we can be as a team and we all believe in each other so much. Not to say we’re perfect players and we have all this great talent and nothing is happening, the truth is we go out every week believing we’re going to win that football game. We’re just not executing what we need to do. Everyone has to execute on every single play.”
The Wildcats, 3-4 in the Big 12, need one victory to become bowl eligible as they prepare to go on the road to face No. 10 Oklahoma State (8-2, 5-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“When you’re a team that battles with injuries and you’ve got three different quarterbacks throughout the year, it is a little tough to find an identity when you’re adapting constantly,” said defensive back Brogan Barry. “For me, the identity of this team is that we’re never going to give up. We’re a hard-working team that’s going to put our nose to the grindstone. This has always been a program that has to work extremely hard to find success.”
Perhaps the Wildcats will feel more comfortable in their accustomed role as an underdog.
“No, it was a lot more fun when we were going into the year thinking it was going to be great,” Barry said. “Some things haven’t gone our way and now we find ourselves as the underdogs. It’s something you can embrace and we’ll take on that role the next two weeks and try to surprise some people. There’s probably people out there that have no faith in us but I believe in the guys in this program and maybe we can find a way to surprise some people.”
NOT A TRIPLE-THREAT — Cornerback D.J. Reed has shown his open-field moves on interception returns and bringing back kickoffs and punts, which would seem to make him a valuable asset — at least on a limited basis — as an offensive player.
“It runs through my mind virtually every day,” Snyder said. “I love his suddenness, but he has so much on his plate right now and we’re struggling against the pass so I don’t want to put him between a rock and a hard place in that respect in terms of snaps on the field.”
SCHOEN AILING — Snyder was vague when asked about the health of wide receiver Dalton Schoen, who left the West Virginia game with what appeared to be a shoulder or collarbone injury.
“It’s not as good as I would like for it to be,” Snyder said. “Where that takes us remains to be seen.”
Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.