MANHATTAN, Kan. – It is inevitable in sports: Eventually, you will lose. That doesn’t make Kansas State’s first loss any easier for Chris Klieman to stomach.
The Wildcats’ new coach had won 25 consecutive games stretching nearly than two years – back to his days at North Dakota State – before a 26-13 defeat at Oklahoma State last weekend. It came in his first Big 12 matchup and ended a perfect start to his career in the Flint Hills.
“You take them harder. I’ll be honest,” said Klieman, whose team will try to rebound Saturday against unbeaten Baylor. “At North Dakota State, every win felt like a relief, and that’s terrible to say. It really is terrible to say that it was a relief because you were a target every week.
“So when you did lose,” Klieman continued, “it just tore your heart out, and it does. I’m a competitor by nature, and I was really frustrated in myself that we didn’t win. I was frustrated in general that we didn’t play our best football. But I think it’s going to reveal a lot of things from character, resolve, the leaders, and it starts with me.”
That’s a good sign for Kansas State, considering Klieman is pretty good coming off a loss.
After their 33-21 loss to South Dakota State on Nov. 4, 2017, the Bison blew through the rest of their schedule before winning a national title. In fact, the only time Klieman has lost back-to-back games as a head coach was in 2005 during his single season coaching Loras, a Division III school.
“Obviously it was a tough loss, but the energy and spirit in our team is nothing is changed,” said Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson, a Fort Osage High School graduate. “Same with our coaches. We know we need to correct some things and get better at some things, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
It’s not as if the road for Kansas State (4-1, 0-1) gets any easier.
Baylor (4-0, 1-0) is coming off a heart-stopping 23-21 victory over Iowa State in which the Bears blew a 20-point lead, only to kick a winning 38-yard field goal in the final seconds.
The win left Baylor coach Matt Rhule with a unique problem.
“I have to make sure we are having enough fun,” he said, “because we are winning games and guys are going in and saying, ‘We have to get better.’ And that is a good thing. But you have to enjoy winning, too. It’s a balance. I like where our heads are, and we have to get a lot better this week because Kansas State does not give you a thing.”
NO RHULE CHANGES: Baylor announced a contract extension for its coach that could keep Rhule on the sideline through the 2027 season. Rhule went 1-11 in his first season, 7-6 with a Texas Bowl win last year, and he has the Bears on the rise again.
“I’m excited for what we’ll get to and we’re not there yet,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’re going to keep grinding.”
ALPHA CHARLIE: Charlie Brewer got hit hard during last week’s game against Iowa State and was “wobbling around,” Rhule said, leading him to remove the quarterback from the game.
“He got hit in the ribs, so we let Gerry (Bohanon) go,” Rhule said. “Then when Charlie felt better, we got him back out there.”
DEAR JOHN: Kansas State quarterback John Holcombe II announced on social media that he would be transferring after falling to No. 3 on the depth chart in fall camp and rarely seeing the field. The Wildcats toyed with changing the athlete’s position but ultimately struggled to build a package for him.
NOBODY KNOWLES: Klieman said he’s unsure whether Kansas State wide receiver Malik Knowles will be available this week due to a lower-body injury. The Wildcats’ leading receiver did not travel to Oklahoma State.
“It truly will be a week-to-week deal,” Klieman said. “We’re hoping he can do some things in practice.”
DRESS FOR SUCCESS: The Wildcats refused to embrace alternate uniforms under former coach Bill Snyder, and that was one thing players and fans hoped Klieman would bring. It starts this week with Kansas State unveiling white helmets and pants to go with their traditional purple jerseys and trim.
“We always had hope,” cornerback A.J. Parker said. “We did something every year, like the camo (helmets) that one year. So we've always done something, but this is the one year that we changed the helmet and the pants."