Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder has a message for anyone treating the Wildcats’ upcoming game against No. 5 Auburn like the Super Bowl.
It’s one of 12 games on the schedule.
“Thursday night is a not a season,” Snyder said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “Thursday night is another game and it is the most valuable game that we will play so far this season. The following week will be the most valuable game we play in the season. It’s one step at a time.”
Snyder understandably wants to downplay the importance of a rare midweek game against a nonconference power. He has built a career on taking things one day at a time, striving to be 1-0 each week, and he wants his players to do the same.
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They can’t do that if they view a nationally televised showdown against Auburn as a more important test than Texas-El Paso, which will play No. 20 K-State on Sept. 27.
Sure, it’s fun for fans to talk about the Tigers being the highest ranked nonconference team to visit Manhattan since No. 2 Penn State in 1969, and it’s neat to think about the wild tailgate scene that is sure to precede Thursday’s kickoff. But Snyder wants the Wildcats to shut that out and prepare for Auburn the same as every opponent.
“To me, things get blown out of proportion,” Snyder said. “What’s important for us is we get better and prepare ourselves as well as we can.”
Hype surrounding the game has led to high-energy practices, and a general sense that K-State is “anxious” and “ready” to play on Thursday. That’s the benefit of preparing for a big game. Players don’t need require motivation. But there is a delicate balance. Excitement can only take a team so far.
“I still approach it the same way I would every game,” offensive lineman Drew Liddle said. “Knowing our game plan from top to bottom and what we are going to do gives me a bigger edge than emotions. Emotions play a lot into it, too, but you can have all the emotion in the world and unless you are mentally and physically prepared, it’s not going to make any difference.”
Added junior cornerback Morgan Burns: “It can help build a fire under you, but I’ve been telling people to keep their blinders up, as well. There is a lot going on on campus, with people making it into this huge thing. It is going to be a fun environment and a great game, but as a player you don’t want to get caught up in the extra things. If you get caught up in those other things, you can really lose your focus.”
Ignoring the outside world has been difficult since the Iowa State game.
“What makes it rough is everyone knows it is a big, nationally televised game,” receiver Deante Burton said. “I think we are the only game on that day. A lot of people are going to be watching. The community has made it out to be a really big game. It is hard to keep it in the scale that it is, but you just have to think it’s another football game. It’s four quarters on a football field that you have been playing on since you were a kid.”
Snyder has helped K-State players stay focused, allowing them to embrace the build-up of a big game when necessary and to ignore it when that is the better option.
So far, they have found a good balance.
“We win Thursday if we play our game,” Burton said. “I think that is all we need to do to win. We need to play our game and we need to focus on the field and not on the crowd and what goes on with the guys in front of us or anything outside the white lines.”
Junior-college transfers A.J. Allen, D’Vonta Derricott, Terrell Clinkscales and Isaiah Riddle haven’t played this season, but that doesn’t mean they will redshirt. Not yet, anyway.
Snyder said all four are potential redshirt candidates, but he also thinks they are playing well enough to be considered for action.
Lockett on returns
Lockett is listed as the top receiver, kick returner and punt returner on K-State’s depth chart, but he has only been used as a receiver this season. Snyder said Lockett will resume his return duties at some point, but wouldn’t elaborate on when.