Bill Snyder did something new Tuesday. At his weekly news conference, the longtime Kansas State football coach sipped on coffee out of a slim mug covered with horses instead of the plain Styrofoam cup he usually prefers.
The change was likely insignificant. Then again, the Wildcats are on a six-game losing streak and no one in the room had seen the mug before. So the question was asked, was Snyder searching for a change of luck?
“It just happened to be the one I brought to work a few days ago, that’s all,” Snyder said with a laugh. “Don’t try to read too much into my life. But it is a neat mug, you know. It’s got a picture of one of my daughter’s horses on it.”
Eventually, Snyder admitted he was looking for new ways to help his team finish the season strong. But his search had nothing to do with how he took his coffee.
Instead, he asked his players to search for inspiration in a familiar place, suggesting they study his 16 goals for success: commitment, unselfishness, unity, improve, be tough, self-discipline, great effort, enthusiasm, eliminate mistakes, never give up, don’t accept losing, no-self limitations, expect to win, consistency, leadership and responsibility.
“If you were to look down at those 16 goals, there is hardly a one that doesn’t apply to where we sit on this given day,” Snyder said. “My encouragement to them was that last evening they took 10 minutes out of their night before they went to bed and took their goals out and asked the question, ‘How how does that apply to me?’ ”
K-State, 3-6 overall and 0-6 in the Big 12, hopes to win its final three games and qualify for a bowl. The journey begins Saturday against Iowa State, 3-7 and 2-5. The Wildcats have been underdogs in their last six games, but they are favored by a touchdown against the Cyclones. With struggling Kansas following Iowa State, there is hope K-State can enter the season-finale against West Virginia on a winning streak.
But Snyder doesn’t want his players thinking that far ahead.
No team in the Big 12, outside of Kansas, has looked worse since October. The Wildcats will need to play well to beat the Cyclones. K-State has won seven straight against Iowa State, but Farmaggedon, as some call this rivalry, is always close.
K-State players understand that, and are trying to find new ways to use Snyder’s old goals.
“The biggest is don’t accept losing,” quarterback Joe Hubener said. “For this team, obviously, we have had a streak of losing. We can’t be complacent in that and say, ‘It is OK,’ because it is not OK. That is not something that you want to accept. You can’t accept that. As soon as you accept losing, it is going to pile on.”
Hubener also drew inspiration from Snyder’s postgame speech Saturday. After Texas Tech defeated K-State 59-44, Snyder told players he was proud of them for fighting back from deficits of 28-7 and 52-28 to make things interesting late.
“The vast majority of us that didn’t quit last weekend, he said those people are going to be successful in life,” Hubener said. “Life is going to show you situations where you are losing and you are down, but if you continue to fight you are going to be successful. We know if we keep working and keep putting in the effort things are going to pay off. It is just a matter of time.”
Freshman center Dalton Risner focused on a different goal.
“The one that popped out to me is no self-limitations,” Risner said. “I feel like I put limitations on myself going against some guys, being a younger guy who is not as strong as some. I definitely did what he said and it was good. It gave me a lot to work on.”
Snyder hopes all of his players can find inspiration from his 16 goals and discover new ways to challenge themselves over the next three weeks.
He wants to change the Wildcats’ fortunes, and so do they.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett