Two months have passed since Kansas State won its last football game, an amount of time that feels like an eternity to everyone involved.
“It’s incredibly heartbreaking,” junior quarterback Joe Hubener said. “That is tough on anybody.”
Sophomore linebacker Elijah Lee feels the same way. He can hardly remember what a victory celebration feels like.
“It will be a lot of relief when it happens,” Lee said. “A lot of guys are stressed we are on this losing streak. We are all trying to get these wins so bad, but whenever the clock strikes zero in the fourth quarter we are losing these games we are capable of winning. A win would get us back on our feet.”
A Saturday home game against Iowa State, which K-State is favored to win — that hasn’t happened in two months, either — provides an opportunity for the Wildcats to do exactly that. They can stop the free fall of a six-game losing streak and start feeling good about themselves again.
They can also keep their bowl hopes alive.
K-State, 3-6 overall and 0-6 in the Big 12, needs to win its final three games to clinch a bowl berth. There is an outside chance they could reach a bowl with five victories, as there may not be enough traditional bowl-eligible teams to compete in a record number of bowl games this season. Either way, the Wildcats need to start winning.
Their backs are against the metaphorical wall, and they want to play with that attitude against the Cyclones, 3-7 and 2-5. There are no more second chances.
“We have kind of had that mentality for a week or two now, but it really has set in with a lot of guys,” linebacker Will Davis said. “Now, you look up and realize you have to win these last three games. There aren’t many other options. You either win or you stay home.
“I think maybe it has just finally clicked with some guys when it didn’t at first. They thought it would just click and happen. Now we realize we have to go make it happen.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder reinforced that point following a loss at Texas Tech. He told his team it had the ability to end the season on a winning streak, but only if everyone on the roster stayed committed to the cause.
Any player toying with the thought of giving up was told not to attend practice on Monday. The result was a spirited practice at the beginning of the week.
“When you have gone through the experiences we have been through there is a lot more to fight for,” Snyder said. “I’m not big on pride, but I think the pride word is a main element for their motivation. I don’t think the extreme vast majority of our team want anything less than going to a bowl game. The vast, vast majority of our guys do care.”
K-State can prove how much a late rally means to them on Saturday.
Iowa State has little to play for. It has been mathematically eliminated from traditional bowl consideration and can’t finish with a winning record. And it is coming off a heartbreaking loss of its own against Oklahoma State. The biggest question surrounding the Cyclones is whether Paul Rhoads will be back for an eighth season.
By all measures, K-State should want this game more than Iowa State.
“It’s either go big or go home,” Lee said. “It is either we get these three wins or we don’t meet the expectations we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year. ”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett