The list of regrets was long, but, for Kansas State senior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson, one mistake seemed larger than the others.
Kansas State had just lost its first road game of the season at Texas, and he was trying to explain what went wrong. He could have blamed the Wildcats’ inability to stop the run. He could have pointed to their inconsistencies on offense or turnovers. Instead, he wondered why K-State was unable to match Texas in the first half.
“We kind of took too long to get accustomed to the game and the atmosphere,” Thompson said immediately following the loss. “We didn’t bring the fight to Texas. They definitely hit us first.”
That much was obvious from the opening kickoff. Texas jumped out to a 17-0 lead and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way in a 31-21 win.
It was a disappointing start for the Wildcats, particularly because they were confident in their game strategy. Looking back, several players admitted the environment got the best of them.
It was K-State’s first road trip of the year. More than 90,000 fans were rooting for them to fail and a massive video board towered above them in the south end zone. Austin didn’t feel much like home.
For some, that was distracting.
“When we’re on the sideline we have to stay into it,” linebacker Mike Moore said. “Two weeks ago at Texas we were just kind of watching the game. We weren’t in it as much as we should have been … It was a new experience. For some of us it was just a shock.”
K-State gets the chance to learn from that road trip Saturday with a game at Oklahoma State. Boone Pickens Stadium, with a capacity of 60,218, doesn’t have the same awe factor as Texas, but narrow sidelines bring fans much closer to the field, which is enclosed on all sides.
The Wildcats haven’t won in Stillwater since 1999.
“The sidelines are right next to you,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said at his weekly news conference. “I’m as close to that wall as I will be to the fans during the course of the ballgame.”
But Snyder expects his players to handle this road trip better than the first.
“It is like anything else in life,” Snyder said. “You experience something on a given occasion and you have a much greater awareness of what that environment is all about when you repeat the action. Even our guys who have been in the program, played and traveled numerous times, it has been quite some time since we have traveled. That takes some acclamation on their part getting readjusted to it.”
Sophomore defensive end Marquel Bryant can’t wait to hit the road again.
“You learn a lot about yourself on the road,” Bryant said. “You have more going against you. The area and the crowd, they are screaming. The fans are calling you out, saying your number and little jokes and things. I thought it was hilarious if you ask me. It makes you want to go out there and play harder.”