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By Kelly McHugh
K-State football has hit the season's halfway mark, and perhaps this bye week couldn't have come at a more perfect time.
With an extra week to regroup, refocus and set their minds on the remaining six games of the season, the Wildcats (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) know coming together and eliminating mistakes the remainder of this year is crucial if the team's wish to play in the postseason is to be accomplished.
"I think our rally cry is just to get better, because every single week we've gotten a little bit better and made improvements," wide receiver Kyle Klein said. "I think as a team we feel like we're really close to getting traction and moving forward. So hopefully with this bye week we'll really be able to start off strong against West Virginia and really gain momentum for the second half of the season."
Despite losing three games in a row, head coach Bill Snyder said his team has seen improvement in each and every game this season. He said he saw the most improvement with his offensive line that helped K-State tally 327 rushing yards in its game against Baylor, and in his defense that held the Bears to a total of 446 offense yards, which was 334 yards below their season average.
"Our effort, collectively, has improved," Snyder said. "Although it wasn't 100 percent, it was better. I think that we are beginning to practice better, which is most significant with me, and I think the result of the areas that I talked about where there was improvement was a result of their practice effort during the course of the week."
In its second bye weekend in four weeks, K-State football has spent the past seven days focusing solely on itself and its own mistakes before preparation for West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) next Saturday afternoon.
"The focus on this week is getting better as a team and then concentrate on West Virginia when West Virginia gets here," sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams said. "As far as my mindset, we've got to win out from here on. Coach doesn't like us to look ahead, but it's just the reality. I feel like we're too good of a team to be 2-4 right now."
Sophomore defensive back Dante Barnett has no doubt that K-State will come out strong the second half of the season.
"It's the Big 12, anyone can beat anyone," Barnett explained. "Every team is going to give you a game week in and week out, but I feel like playing these teams we learn to correct our mistakes, and I feel that we've learned from those mistakes. We can do better in our upcoming games."
When it comes to competition in the Big 12, every game really is anybody's game. K-State has held the lead in the final quarter of each of its last three conference losses. Its costly mistakes combined with its inability to finish each competition has been the only thing holding it back from a 3-0 Big 12 record. The talent is there, the team says, what counts now is eliminating its own mistakes.
"We've got plenty of guys with plenty of talent and plenty of skill," junior defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "Obviously we wouldn't be here on this level (if we didn't). I believe in my guys here. I know we've got the talent to win and beat good teams and be competitive in this conference. I think it's coming, slowly but surely, definitely not in the fashion we were hoping it would come in, but I feel like everybody is getting more confident. We've just got to put four quarters together. We've had a hard time doing that."
So while the first half of the season may not have turned out the way Snyder and his team had hoped, the first six games are now a thing of the past and focus has been set on the remaining six opponents.
"2-4 is never easy. How you respond to it and how you feel about it is not easy," Snyder said. "It's difficult for young players, it's difficult for the coaching staff and other people that are invested in the program, but the important thing for us is not what could have been, but what are we going to do?"
The West Virginia Mountaineers will travel to Manhattan for the first time ever next Saturday, Oct. 26. Kickoff is set for 2:45 p.m., in Bill Snyder Family Stadium and the game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports 1.