Some college football players label a season with nine victories as successful.
Kansas State senior defensive end Ryan Mueller calls it average. That’s simply not good enough for his standards.
“This is another opportunity to come away with a 10-3 season,” Mueller said of the Alamo Bowl. “That is definitely the goal here, to win this football game. We are going to do everything we can in our power to make that happen, because it makes a huge difference — 9-4, you can just show up and play and be 9-4. To me that is, like I said earlier, I think 9-4 is just average.
“If you want to be an excelling football program you have to get to double-digit wins. That is what we are going for.”
K-State has won 10 or more games in two of the past three seasons. It finished 8-5 last year, bouncing back from a 2-4 start to win its first bowl game since 2002.
There is certainly other motivation at stake this week for K-State.
Safety Dante Barnett has said simply playing a name opponent such as UCLA is enough to get him hyped for the game. Senior center B.J. Finney says finishing his career with a victory and winning back-to-back bowl games for the first time in a decade drives him.
Mueller, though, simply wants to avoid being average.
“There is a big difference between 9-4 and 10-3,” Mueller said, “and there is a big difference between holding up a trophy and ending your season with a loss.”
When asked about his memories from K-State’s previous trip to the Alamo Bowl in 1998, a 37-34 loss to Purdue, coach Bill Snyder focused on the negatives.
The Wildcats won their first 11 games that year and were in position to play for a national championship before a double overtime loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game sent them tumbling down to the Alamo Bowl. Recovering from that loss, Snyder said Sunday, was difficult.
K-State returns to San Antonio on much better terms this season. Still, Snyder said losing to Baylor in the regular-season finale creates comparisons between the trips.
“I can relate to the loss of the Baylor game, an opportunity to win a championship again,” Snyder said. “There are some similarities there again.”
UCLA football coach Jim Mora Jr. praised K-State receiver Tyler Lockett shortly after arriving on Sunday for the Alamo Bowl.
“You’re not going to stop him,” Mora said. “The key is to try and slow him down. The young man has 93 catches, he is an All-American and he is a great returner. We talk about him as a receiver a lot, but he leads the country with 19 yards per (punt) return. Anytime he gets the ball in his hands he is extremely dangerous.”
Lockett caught 93 passes for 1,351 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He tops the K-State record books in every major receiving statistic.
“A guy like Lockett, you’re not going to stop him,” Mora said. “He is too good. He is a special player.”
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