Kansas State football coach Chris Klieman held his weekly news conference on Tuesday as the Wildcats enter their bye week before they embark on their first Big 12 game of the season on Sept. 28 at Oklahoma State.
Here are some of the most noteworthy things he said:
It’s been a while since the Wildcats entered Big 12 play with an undefeated record. They haven’t started 3-0 since 2015, and this is only the second time it’s happened since 2012.
That hot start has launched K-State into the top 25 of the USA Today coaches poll and given fans reason to dream about what might be possible the rest of the way.
K-State’s marching band, along with some fans, was even waiting on Klieman and his team when it returned to Manhattan following Saturday’s game at Mississippi State.
The Wildcats are off to a great start, but they aren’t celebrating just yet. They want more.
“I am happy, obviously, that we are 3-0,” Klieman said. “But, big picture, we haven’t started conference play yet. We know every game is going to be a dog fight. We know that whatever you did last week has no bearing on the next week. You better just put your head down and go to work and make sure that you are preparing everyday to be successful on Saturday. I’m thrilled that we are 3-0, but we have got a lot of work to do.”
Taking advantage of the bye week
Klieman thinks K-State’s first bye week of the season arrives at a good time for the Wildcats.
“I love to have it before you get into conference play,” Klieman said. “That is big. You play your nonconference (schedule) and you learn about your team, you learn about what you need to do in certain phases of the game.”
Klieman said the Wildcats will use this week to study Oklahoma State, give freshmen and veteran reserves extra opportunities to show off their skills in practice and recruit. K-State coaches will remain on campus for most of this week, but hit the road to evaluate prospects over the weekend.
K-State will play two games and get another off week in October. Klieman wishes that break in the schedule occurred later.
Room for improvement
After reviewing K-State’s 31-24 victory over Mississippi State, Klieman sounded relieved that the Wildcats didn’t play perfectly against the Bulldogs.
The Wildcats were good enough to win on the road in a difficult SEC environment, but they have plenty of room for improvement. He thinks it is easier to teach players after a victory than after a loss.
“Those guys see it,” Klieman said. “They watch film and realize they could really play a lot better.”
The areas he will focus on the most with K-State players this week include: perimeter blocking, third-down execution, tackling, sudden-change defense and punt returns.
Klieman said the most disappointing part of Saturday’s game occurred when A.J. Paker lost a fumble on an interception return, and the Wildcats allowed Mississippi State to march 79 yards down field for a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead.
Of course, he was also displeased about losing two fumbles on punt returns.
“We will clean those errors up,” Klieman said. “We have this week and we will work a lot on ourselves.”
Klieman is “very hopeful” the Wildcats will get defensive end Wyatt Hubert and defensive back Walter Neil back in the lineup when they open Big 12 play against Oklahoma State.
Both players participated in practice on Monday and are on track to do more as the week progresses.
K-State was without both over the weekend. Both players made the trip, but neither played in the game. Hubert sat out after taking a knee to the helmet against Bowling Green. Klieman said he was ruled out Thursday night. Neil was closer to playing through an upper-body injury. He dressed and went through warm-ups, but K-State coaches decided not to play him at game time.
Thoughts on ESPN+
K-State’s next game won’t be broadcast on traditional TV. Fans will need a ESPN+ subscription to stream the action when the Wildcats take on the Cowboys in two weeks.
That has been a hot topic among K-State fans, and Klieman was asked about it on Tuesday.
He said the decision to stream the game was over his head, before adding “it is what it is.” Klieman doesn’t think playing a game in front of a streaming audience will negatively impact the Wildcats on the recruiting front or in terms of exposure, because most fans will still have access to the game.