MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was so embarrassed by his team's performance in a loss at Vanderbilt that he penned a letter this week apologizing to fans of the Wildcats.
"I did not hold up our end and provide you with a more positive outcome," Snyder wrote more than a week after the 14-7 defeat. "We did not play or coach collectively as well as we are capable, nor as well as we needed to against a competitive Vanderbilt team. I apologize for that."
The Wildcats finally can start making amends.
Kansas State (2-1, 0-0 Big 12) heads into its Big 12 opener against improving Baylor (0-4, 0-1) on Saturday following an inconvenient week off. Yes, the Wildcats had ample time to diagnose what went wrong against the Commodores, but they also had ample time to stew over the loss.
"Last week we had the bye coming off a loss and the guys felt a little bit down," tight end Dayton Valentine said. "We didn't get to come out and play to have a redemption game to take that anger away. Coming back, the guys realize how important his week is."
That's because the Wildcats still have a conference championship as a goal. The loss to Vanderbilt didn't scuttle that.
"Honestly, we had a great bye week," Wildcats wide receiver Dalton Schoen said. "Obviously, we know what will happen when we don't execute, which was what happened at Vanderbilt. We know as long as we go out there and execute our game plan, we can do some good things."
Meanwhile, Baylor also learned last week what happens when it executes better.
The Bears were embarrassed by Liberty, UTSA and Duke during its non-conference slate, but things began clicking against No. 3 Oklahoma. Behind a breakout game from Zach Smith, who threw for 463 yards and four scores, the Bears took the Sooners down to the wire in a 49-41 loss.
"The way we process is to every day look at what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and try to get better at it," Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. "We have not played to our capabilities yet, and we won't all year. We'll continue to get better and better and better.
"We just have to keep pushing ourselves forward," he added, "and when we win, I'll still be the same way. I'll say, 'We're still not doing this right, but we're doing this better.'"
As the Wildcats and Bears prepare to meet on Saturday, here are some things to know:
TOTAL PROPS: Rhule gushed about facing the 77-year-old Snyder for the first time, calling him "the kind of coach that I respect, and the guys who coach the game right, play the game right."
"We're going to compete against each other, but really at the end of the day, having a chance to compete against Coach Snyder makes me better, and makes me look at myself and how I do what I do," Rhule said. "The way he runs his program is exactly the way I want to run this program."
INJURY WOES: Baylor wide receiver Chris Platt and defensive end Xavier Jones are expected to miss the rest of the season after getting hurt against Oklahoma. Platt, who had 16 catches for 401 yards, hurt his left knee and Jones broke a bone in his foot.
"We're anxious to get them back for their senior year next year," Rhule said. "As it is right now, it looks like they will be out for the season unless something changes."
RUSHING TO JUDGMENT: Kansas State prefers to grind out games, which could pose a problem for the Bears. The Sooners rolled up 342 yards and four scores on the ground against them, while Texas-San Antonio and Duke also piled up at least 200 yards rushing.
OR AIR IT OUT: Jesse Ertz was just 10 of 28 for 76 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss to Vanderbilt. But Snyder said the senior quarterback had a good week of practice, and there is a good chance the Wildcats will try to ensure Ertz's confidence rebounds.
SPEAKING OF QBS: Baylor gave Anu Solomon a shot earlier this season, but Smith was given his chance against Duke. And while the starter late last season struggled against the Blue Devils, the sophomore was dynamic – downright flawless – in the loss to Oklahoma
"It's going to be a test," Kansas State linebacker Jayd Kirby said. "I don't think we've seen 50 passes in a game yet, so it's going to be something new. We're going to have to defend them pretty well."