MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Bill Snyder said all along that Kansas State was making progress.
He said it during spring practice, through the sweltering heat of two-a-days, and even after his Wildcats barely survived an upset bid from Eastern Kentucky in their season opener.
Well, people ought to start listening.
The No. 17 Wildcats are off to their first 5-0 start since 2000. They beat Miami on the road, knocked off then-No. 15 Baylor and toppled Missouri for the first time in six years.
They've shown an uncanny ability to get the job done, even if it's not always pretty, and the result is their highest national ranking since 2004 — way back in Snyder's first tenure as head coach.
"I don't have too many complaints right now," Snyder said Saturday night.
That's a rare admission from a coach whose demanding style turned a moribund program in the 1990s, and who is already working the same magic just three years into Round 2.
Snyder was quick to qualify his comment. He knows there are problems to work out, and the Big 12 meatgrinder won't really get going until the Wildcats face No. 3 Oklahoma, sixth-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 22 Texas in succession starting the final week of October.
By then, Kansas State could still be undefeated.
The Wildcats head to Lubbock on Saturday to face a Texas Tech team reeling from an emotional loss to the Aggies. Then it's on the road to Kansas, which just lost 70-28 to Oklahoma State.
"One game at a time. We'll count the wins at the end of the season," defensive back Tysyn Hartman said. "The team mindset hasn't changed. Take it one game at a time."
Hartman said that's easy to say and difficult to practice, even with Snyder barking at players to remain focused on the here and now.
But the difficulty doesn't arise from national pundits and college football insiders patting the Wildcats on the back, telling them how great they are.
No, it comes from the fact that many players don't believe they're getting their due.
The Wildcats were a field goal underdog to unranked Missouri, at home no less, and for the life of them couldn't figure out why.
Any other program with such high-profile wins as Miami and Baylor might well have been a touchdown favorite for the nationally televised game.
Sophomore linebacker Tre Walker said that slight irked him a bit, along with the rest of the guys in the locker room, and they promised to use their TV platform to make a statement.
The Wildcats' stout defense held one of the nation's top offenses to fewer than 100 yards in the first half — zero net yards in the first quarter.
The Big 12's leading rusher, Henry Josey, came in averaging 12-plus yards per carry, but finished with 55 yards on the ground. Quarterback James Franklin was sacked twice and threw his first pick in 108 attempts.
"They're a heck of a team," Missouri tight end Michael Egnew said.
The final score was 24-17, though it was never really that close. The Tigers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, and they never got the ball back with a chance to tie the game.
"They're a pretty good defense," Missouri's Jacquis Smith said. "They made some plays, and they have playmakers. That's what you expect from a good football team. You expect them to make plays."
Make a few more plays and people might start taking notice.
Not surprisingly, Snyder said he doesn't pay attention to what others are saying about his team, even if his players keep aware of it.
The coach only focuses on what he can control — it's been that way since he stepped foot on campus in the late-1980s, and during those heady years of the '90s, when the Wildcats were routinely among the nation's elite.
They're heading that way again.
Even if Snyder is mostly oblivious to it.
"I have no idea," said Snyder, who turned 72 earlier this week. "I pay attention to what goes on in this building, and once in a while wherever that is I live. ... I have no control over it, so it doesn't make sense to waste any time on it."
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