Manhattan Bill Snyder’s first year back at Kansas State ended with a 6-6 record, one win short of the Big 12 North title.
Asked Tuesday if he thought the year was a success or failure, Snyder said he couldn’t give a definitive answer.
“I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “There were some very good things that happened and there were things that weren’t so good. It was a little bit of all of them. Bottom line for me: It was a disappointing finish, yet I was pleased with progress we had made during the course of the year.”
Snyder, of course, has taken the long view at K-State before. When he arrived in 1989, Kansas State was the only football program with 500 losses. The Wildcats began their ascent the next year and starting in 1993, they went to 11 consecutive bowl games. At one point, the losingest program in major college history was ranked No. 1.
When he came back before this season, the Wildcats were down on their luck again — just 5-11 in Big 12 Conference play since 2007.
They also had to replace quarterback Josh Freeman, an NFL draft pick, and Carson Coffman got the nod. But he was replaced by Grant Gregory, a sixth-year transfer from South Florida, who led K-State to a win over Iowa State.
That set the stage for the most lopsided two-game swing by any team in Big 12 history: The Wildcats were handed a 66-14 loss at Texas Tech, but bounced back the next week, beating Texas A&M 62-14 in Manhattan. After a home win against Colorado and a loss at Oklahoma, Kansas State defeated in-state rival Kansas, 17-10.
It was the first time the Wildcats had beaten the Jayhawks since the 2005 season.
The victory also left Kansas State alone atop the Big 12 North division. But two losses to Missouri and Nebraska brought an end to any thoughts of a Big 12 title and a bowl invitation.
“Since we went through the out of season program, I think we’ve made improvement,” Snyder said. “Are (the players) completely there yet? No, I’m quite certain they’re not, but they’re beginning to understand the commitment aspect of it. They’re beginning to understand the emotional and mental preparation that’s required to have success.”
Perhaps no unit saw more improvement this season than the defense. The Wildcats, who ranked 117th nationally in total defense a year ago, finished this year ranked 38th.
Snyder said if players continue to buy into the system, there’s room for more improvement in 2010.
“I think we have a chance to be better in a lot of areas,” he said. “Defensively, that’s certainly the case. I think each one of them has to accept the responsibility and foster that commitment. If indeed that takes place, then yes, we have a chance to be a better defensive football team as well as in other areas.”