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December 23, 2013
Kansas State looks to keep its momentum going
The day Bill Snyder returned to the sidelines in Manhattan, Kan., was a good day for Wildcats fans.
After he retired in 2005, Kansas State tumbled, going 17-20 in Ron Prince's three seasons. Snyder did not ride in on a white horse - some felt that at age 69 upon his return to coaching in 2009 he was too old and out of touch for today's game - but he was largely lauded as a savor of Kansas State football.
Following 6-6 and 7-6 campaigns, Snyder has delivered, going 10-3 in 2011 and 11-2 in 2012, including an 11-1 regular season that earned the Royal Purple their first BCS Bowl invite since 2003 (Fiesta Bowl).
They fell to Oregon 35-17 but what else is new. A pesky postseason record (6-8) is the only pox on Snyder's impeccable resume (a 177-90-1 overall record and two Big 12 championships), but that bowl losing streak - now at five straight dating back to the 2003 season - has become a source of frustration and embarrassment for Kansas State.
"With the type of success Kansas State has had under Coach Snyder, to still have a bowl losing streak, it's really incredible and overshadows a lot of what this program has accomplished," junior quarterback Jake Waters said.
"If we're fortunate enough to get a win against Michigan, it would be special and a great way to end the season, and end the streak."
The streak spans 10 seasons and both Snyder and Prince tenures. It has occurred in campaigns after KSU went 11-3 (2003), 7-5 (2006), 7-5 (2010), 10-2 (2011) and 11-1 (2012), and has included hundreds of different players so there is no common thread amongst the defeats.
"If I had a genuinely accurate answer to explain [the losing streak], you would not have to ask the question," Snyder said. "It could be a multitude of things, and perhaps it is, or maybe it something simple that I am overlooking. The bottom line is I do not know."
A redshirt junior defensive end, Ryan Mueller has been a member of the last three bowl-eligible (and losing) teams, and he admits that it has been difficult to go into the offseason without momentum and without a sense of accomplishment.
He's eager to be a member of the team that ends Kansas State's struggles and starts a new tradition.
"This is an opportunity for us to achieve something everyone on this team wants to achieve," Mueller said. "Bowl victories create positive attention for your program that the coaches can use on the recruiting trail, and then everybody wants to feel like a winner at the end of the year.
"You may not win your conference or play in a BCS bowl, but if you win that last game, you feel like you did something great."
Kansas State has good reason to feel confident heading into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, having won five of its final six games, including a 31-10 victory over in-state rival Kansas Nov. 30 The Wildcats rallied back from a 2-4 start that included a humbling 24-21 season-opening loss to FCS foe North Dakota State.
"Everyone has asked us if there was one game or one moment where we got it turned around, but it really wasn't one particular thing," Mueller said. "We weren't playing with confidence after that first game, and a lot of guys were making freshman mistakes. We sort of all just needed to put the loss to North Dakota State behind us, refocus on our team goals and bind together as a team.
"There was a lot of adversity early, and we needed to realize everyone on the team, senior to freshman, was in this together.
"It started with one quarter, then another, and then it was a game, and then the next game, and the next game. We were tired of losing and we committed ourselves to listening to our coaches, being the best players and teammates we could be, and overcoming adversity."
Streaking in a more positive direction, the Wildcats are excited about playing Michigan and putting an end to their postseason losing ways.
"Just to be able to end the season on a good note, to be able to send the seniors off with a win - it would be huge," junior receiver Curry Sexton said. "Every season has its successes and failures, but the thing you remember is how the season ended."