Archive for Saturday, November 6, 2004

K-State bowl streak on line

Wildcats must win out to qualify for 12th straight postseason

November 6, 2004

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— Sitting atop a VCR in the back of the Big 8 Room in Kansas State's Vanier Football Complex sat a half-dozen recently viewed videotapes. One was labeled, "Kansas State Wildcats versus Nebraska, Nov. 15, 2003" and another, "2003 Football Awards Ceremony."

Those two high points in Kansas State history were accompanied by a third tape: "90s Bowl Experiences."

Kansas State has played in the postseason for 11 straight years. But at 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 Conference, the Wildcats are in jeopardy of ending that run.

"We talk about last year," cornerback Maurice Mack said. "I'm surprised we're 3-5. We're a lot better than that."

Kansas State is off to its worst start since 1989, when the Wildcats finished 1-10 in coach Bill Snyder's first season. They must win their final three games against Missouri, Colorado and Iowa State to reach their 12th-straight bowl game.

That's still something to play for, senior defensive tackle Jermaine Berry said -- especially for the seniors, who can't pack it in and wait for next year.

"There's still good spirits. There's still hopes and dreams," Berry said. "People have been down, and there's been some tears that have been shed. But there's still hope.

"People better not be looking ahead," he said. "We're cherishing everything we can. For the seniors, there shouldn't be anybody looking to next year."

Mack, a sophomore, understands how difficult this season has been on Berry and the rest of the seniors, including All-American running back Darren Sproles. What he doesn't understand is why the Wildcats are struggling.

"The mistakes we're making are just catching up to us," he said. "Other teams are just capitalizing."

Berry said he is as perplexed as anybody about what Snyder has called a team-wide slump.

"We're perfect in practice, but we get to a game and some little thing in one spot goes wrong," Berry said. "Faith isn't a problem, it's execution."

It's also about having the right mind-set, said Snyder, who questioned his team's mental toughness after Saturday's 35-25 loss to Texas Tech.

"We need to be a tougher-minded football team," he said. "I think we can. We just need to do it."

Berry said several players have been getting together for meetings, led mostly by the senior class. The last one was two weeks ago, on the Thursday before the Nebraska game. Kansas State responded with arguably its best performance, beating the Cornhuskers 45-21.

That meeting went undetected by Snyder, who said he wasn't aware of players getting together. Berry said it was an example of the players taking the rest of the season upon themselves.

"It's as hard on the coaches as it is on us," Berry said. "They're feeling as much pressure as we are. For all of us, we still have hope for this year."

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