Kansas State University

K-State Wildcats hope to salvage disappointing season with bowl eligibility

K-State players "high five" fans after the Cactus Bowl Tuesday. (December 26, 2017)
K-State players "high five" fans after the Cactus Bowl Tuesday. (December 26, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

Playing in a lower-tier bowl game didn’t rank high on Kansas State’s list of goals at the start of the football season, but it’s certainly at the top right now.

The Wildcats have been to eight straight bowls, and no one associated with the team, especially its seniors, want that streak to end on their watch.

“I don’t care if we can only go 6-6 and make a bowl game and maybe win and go 7-6,” senior right tackle Dalton Risner said last week. “To me, that is still a huge success in terms of where we are.”

The math is simple. K-State (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) needs to win its two remaining games against Texas Tech and at Iowa State to reach six victories and become bowl eligible.

The Wildcats kept their bowl hopes alive by defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 21-17 last week. Now, if they back that up with wins over the Red Raiders and the Cyclones their season will continue. If not, K-State players can make holiday plans for the first time since 2009.

“A bowl game can definitely be a motivating factor,” senior receiver Zach Reuter said. “Our mindset has to be in the here and now and being able to improve. If you look too far down the road, you can get distracted. So, each day we try and bring some positive energy and have the best practice we can.”

There is a slim chance the Wildcats could be in the bowl mix with just five wins, as 80 teams will be needed to fill 40 bowl slots, but 65 teams across college football have already reached six victories and 23 more are knocking on the door with five. And it remains to be seen how athletic director Gene Taylor would feel about pushing for a bowl invite at 5-7.

Closing out the season with three straight wins is the only goal.

Some teams might not fight for a 6-6 record, but K-State is prepared to do exactly that.

“I think it’s very significant,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t want to do that or aspire to achieve it. I would imagine it’s probably part of the goal process for every team. This time of year being in the position where you have to win two to get there makes it a touchy situation, but I can’t remember when we haven’t gone to one. It’s been a while. It’s something that’s hopefully highly motivational to young people in our program.”

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