MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two teams aiming to make the best of rebuilding seasons, Kansas State and West Virginia collide Saturday with the winner moving into position for the modest reward of a lower-tier bowl bid.
After back-to-back losses to unbeaten Top 25 teams, West Virginia (3-4, 1-3) remains three wins shy of becoming bowl-eligible. CBS Sports analysts Jerry Palm doesn’t like the Mountaineers’ chances and forecasts the Big 12 won’t be able to fill its seven bowl tie-ins. Even though Kansas State (2-4, 0-3) won’t even able to apply a win over an FCS team—recall the opening-night loss to North Dakota state—Palm projects the Wildcats earning a Texas Bowl invite as the Big 12’s No. 6 team team opposite Indiana.
ESPN’s pair of Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards are split on K-State reaching the Texas Bowl, while both have West Virginia failing to qualify.
Bill Bender of The Sporting News foresees WVU in the Texas Bowl against Northwestern, with K-State staying home. USA Today doesn’t currently project either team making the postseason.
“A bowl game is important, but a fourth win is more important,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, whose team would have been in prime bowl position had it been able to hold an 11-point second-half lead against Texas Tech last Saturday.
“We have not gotten to the point where we need to talk about the motivation to win. I think the motivation to win is there.”
Holgorsen’s first WVU team went 5-1 away from home, a record that has plummeted to 2-6 the last two seasons. Yes, life in the Big 12 is more challenging, but West Virginia rightfully rejoiced over the chance to join the league and Holgorsen’s staff had better show more promising results before the minority of fans screaming for a change swells into a majority.
LEGEND OF THE LITTLE APPLE
There’s no such disfavor among K-State fans, who realize what a treasure they have in Bill Snyder. Heck, the school recently unveiled a statue of the man, who turned 74 this month and turned around the Wildcats’ fortunes upon becoming head coach in 1989.
Snyder already retired on his own accord once, and no doubt will be able to do so a second time whenever the mood strikes. After his team won the Big 12 title last season and ascended to the No. 1 ranking, he signed a contract extension through 2017.
“I have always looked up to Coach Snyder, because he doesn’t have the best situation at Kansas State in regards to recruiting, but he continues to win,” said West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. “As a coach’s kid, I’ve had so much respect for him. The stadium is already named after him, and he is still there, so he is everything to that school.”
Two K-State assistants made intriguing comments this week regarding Snyder’s extended success at program that was previously among the losingest in Division I.
“What we get out of practice every day is more than what other programs get out of their practices,” said running game coordinator Dana Dimel, currently in his second stint coaching under Snyder.
Added defensive line coach Mo Latimore: “I think other programs baby their kids more, while we demand more out of our kids. … Our guys know that we truly care about them going out and making it in the world. I think our players understand that, and in turn are willing to work harder than most guys.”
LESSON TO LEARN
Snyder has gone 268-172-1 in 22 seasons at K-State, a tenure that begin with little promise. His first squad floundered at 1-10 and the Wildcats didn’t go bowling until Snyder’s fifth season.
Is there a lesson in administrative patience to be learned there? Perhaps one that could apply to Holgorsen during a disappointing stretch at WVU?
Perhaps, but the setups are different. Holgorsen took over at a school that had averaged nine wins the previous nine seasons. Snyder was tasked with fixing a program that won nine games combined the previous six seasons.