Kansas State shocked the Big 12 world by dropping its season opener to Arkansas State, 35-31. The immediate solution to the Wildcat woes would be to shock the Big 12 again by spoiling Oklahoma’s conference opener after the Sooners made an impressive 48-0 debut against Missouri State. In order for that to happen though the four-touchdown underdogs are going to have to have a lot go there way.
Returning just eight starters from 2019, the Wildcats started 2020 fewest returning starters in the conference. A rash of injuries and COVID testing made an already shallow K-State depth chart even more so in the season opener, but at the end of the day head coach Chris Klieman said that it’s all about his guys learning to take advantage of opportunity.
“The football game didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” Klieman said this week in regards to the season opener. “A lot of things played into that. You can say COVID played into that, it sure did, you can say a lack of spring ball played into that, it sure did, a lack of summer training, it sure did, losing time in fall camp, losing players, all of that stuff — it did. But the bottom line is you have an opportunity to compete.”
It’s that last aspect that Kleiman really wants his guys to focus on. Opportunity. Kansas State still has plenty of it in front of them and the guy who had never won fewer than 12 games in a season, as a head coach, before heading to Manhattan is trying to rally his troops under than banner.
“You don’t know how many opportunities we’re going to have this year,” Klieman said. “Are we going to play nine more or are we going to play two more? None of us know that. So when you have the opportunity to compete, you have to take advantage of your opportunity and your moment.”
“If the first guy goes down, the second guy goes down, the third guy goes down, it doesn’t matter. You’re wearing K-State and you have to make plays. And we didn’t make enough plays from young guys that played to older guys that have played to new guys that haven’t played.”
Ravaged By COVID
Like Oklahoma, Kansas State was down a multitude of players heading into the season opener. Klieman said the Wildcats took the field against Arkansas State without 35-40 players and around a dozen players who participated in the game had been out for two weeks before getting cleared on the Thursday before.
Last Thursday Klieman said on his radio show that it had been another tough week for test results.
“We haven’t had a good week dealing with COVID already this week, with losing some guys,” Klieman said. “It’s just going to be a nonstop battle.”
The good news is that the Wildcats are practicing and it appears as if the game against Oklahoma isn’t in jeopardy at this point but it’s also only Monday and there are two more rounds of testing to go before Kansas State travels to Norman.
On Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference Klieman was a little more specific in regards to his numbers from last week to this week. “We were excited because we were able to get 12 kids back on Monday after the season opener,” Klieman reported. “Lo and behold, we’ve lost another 10 to contact tracing or positives over the past week. So you take two steps forward and you end up taking a step-and-a-half or two back.”
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley showed some empathy towards his scheduled rival this Saturday. The Sooners were shuffling the deck, so to speak, in the week leading up to the Missouri State game.
“I can relate to several of those things that Chris said,” Riley stated on the teleconference. “I think everybody can right now. No, you just can’t do the things that we’re all so used to doing.”
For their part, the Sooners are focusing within as much as they are without when it comes to game prep. Several mistakes led to last year’s upset in Manhattan and no repeating those seems to be a crucial aspect of Oklahoma’s game prep this week.
“It was just frustrating from the standpoint that it wasn’t necessarily that they beat us. We kind of beat ourselves,” Oklahoma defensive back Tre Norwood said on Monday. “It was one of those type things that we didn’t play good as a whole.”
“It was obviously frustrating.”
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