SE: Football Focuses on Future
Following last night’s 45-23 AutoZone Liberty Bowl loss to Arkansas, K-State football’s seniors had a message for their underclassmen teammates.
In a quiet locker room, the seniors told the returning players to never take anything for granted. They told them to remember the feeling of defeat and use it as momentum as they shift their focus to next season.
“We just told them to remember how this feels,” said senior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair after last night’s game. “There’s a lot you can learn from this season, we were 0-6 in the conference, we didn’t know where we were and we didn’t know what our identity was. But we set our identity of toughness and had a never give up attitude, that’s what we want them to take away form this season.”
While last night’s loss certainly stung, the future for this young team is bright.
“I think this is a setup for us to have success in the future,” said junior defensive end Jordan Willis who finished the game with five tackles and a game-high two sacks. “To go through what we went through and then to fight back from it, we obviously didn’t get what we wanted but we fought all year. We fought in this game to come back and it’s going to push us forward in the future.”
K-State bought in to Bill Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success this year, and overcame a challenging six-game losing streak. Regardless of what was thrown at this team, it never threw in the towel; it never gave up (Goal No. 10)
“The last few games give us momentum for next season because we lost six in a row, then we won those last three and came back strong,” explained redshirt freshman fullback Winston Dimel who finished last night’s game with both a rushing and receiving touchdown. “I think that just makes all the younger guys on this team eager to come back. We know that we just have to keep working.”
While the younger players now have their sites set on the future, the seniors hope to be remembered for more than just last night’s game. They hope to be remembered for the impact they have made in their time as Wildcats.
“I think for me personally, I want my legacy to be a guy who worked hard every day; a guy who showed heart and never gave up,” said All-American and 2015 Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year Morgan Burns. “That’s kind of the story of our season, to continue to persevere, show heart, I think me, personally, just want to be remembered for working hard and pouring my heart out for this team.”
While its story at K-State came to an end yesterday evening, overall, this year’s 18-man senior class went 34-18 overall, saw one Big 12 Championship (2012) and traveled to four straight bowl games.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, Coach Snyder and all the coaches that have helped me through this,” said Whitehair. “I want to say thank you to them, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Just like every year, as one era comes to an end, the torch must be passed on, and sophomore linebacker Elijah Lee believes this group is ready for the task.
“This loss hurts a lot, but we learned from this year,” said Lee. “We had a lot of young talent, and now we need to capitalize on that and be even more mature next season. It’s not just this game, but this season; we showed that we could fix the problems that we have, so now we have the offseason to focus on doing just that that.”
For a complete recap, game notes, photos, highlights and more from last night’s Liberty Bowl, please click here.