Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder doesn’t have to worry about motivating his team as it prepares for its second game.
With a road trip against Iowa State up next instead of a home clash against an overmatched opponent, the Wildcats don’t need a reminder of what is at stake in the first Big 12 matchup of the season.
“When you play one as early as we are,” Snyder said, “the end result is: you are either going to be in first or you are going to be in last. So it carries its own weight in that respect.”
The early conference game will be a new experience for both. K-State hasn’t played a league game this quickly into a season since it opened against Texas Tech in the Big 12’s inaugural game in 1996. Iowa State hasn’t faced a conference foe this early since 2002, when it shredded Kansas 45-3 in Week 2.
Snyder would prefer to wait to play conference games, citing the value of giving young players and backups the opportunities to get on the field during nonconference home games before embarking on league play. Still, he says he won’t approach this game any differently than he will, say, a home bout with Texas-El Paso later this month.
“I can’t tell you there is any significant difference in preparation,” Snyder said.
The game was originally planned for midseason, but both teams agreed to move it up to spread out their off weeks. K-State wanted to avoid back-to-back off weeks, while Iowa State liked the idea of a week off after its rivalry game at Iowa next week. Fox Sports 1 also wanted a Big 12 game it could televise nationally and promote before the season began.
K-State players are eager to make the trip. But not all of them know what to expect from a stadium where the Wildcats are 16-28-3.
Sophomore running back Charles Jones, for example, has never traveled for a road game. Senior back DeMarcus Robinson has been on a handful of trips, but he has never seen meaningful playing time outside Manhattan.
“I’ve been to Iowa State but I’ve never played,” Robinson said. “I think each and every game is going to be something new for me.”
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads is placing extra importance on the game. Coming off a 34-14 loss to North Dakota State, it is imperative that the Cyclones put up a better fight against against the Wildcats. Doing so won’t be easy, as the Wildcats are favored by 12 points, but Rhoads would rather play a conference game now than later.
“It gets your attention,” Rhoads said. “It keeps you focused and keeps the kids ready to go. For us, coming off a disappointing loss, I think it is really good for our focus and concentration. I am not against it at all.”
Iowa State linebacker Nigel Tribune agrees.
“This game just forces us to grow up a lot faster,” Tribune said. “No team is going to feel sorry for us. We just have to go out there and play our game, stay confident. We can play with anyone in the conference, and we need to prove that. Our confidence is getting back up. I feel like we learned from our first game and ready to go.”
No. 20 Kansas State at Iowa State
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
TV: Fox Sports 1
Other story lines
RETURN EFFICIENCY: K-State didn’t take a step back in the return department against Stephen F. Austin without star returner Tyler Lockett. Morgan Burns took his place and returned three kicks for 105 yards. The Wildcats rank ninth nationally in kickoff returns.
BIG CROWD? Iowa State sold a record number of season tickets leading up to the year, and it showed when 54,800 fans attended the opener against North Dakota State. With the stakes higher this week, could we see an even larger crowd?
COACHING REUNION: Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino makes his return to Big 12 coaching on Saturday against an opponent he used to work for. He served under Bill Snyder for many years before moving to Oklahoma and becoming the head coach at Kansas.