'We're close and we know it': Kansas State football remains positive heading into open week
MANHATTAN — Skylar Thompson doesn't see a Kansas State team limping into its only open week of the season after back-to-back losses.
Instead of licking their wounds, he insists the Wildcats are more determined than ever.
"We're hungry, and we've got a fire inside of us that I don't know if we've really, truly had here since I've been here," Thompson, the Wildcats' sixth-year senior quarterback, said following last Saturday's 37-31 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma. "We know we're a very good football team, and a couple of losses here and there, it's unfortunate and you obviously never want to lose, but we're going to continue to pound this thing."
After three straight nonconference victories to start the season, the Wildcats dropped their Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State, 31-20, before falling to Oklahoma. The Cowboys and Sooners remain unbeaten atop the conference standings at a combined 5-0.
That is why there is no sense of panic.
"We had a really tough first two games in the Big 12 — on the road at OSU and then a top-ranked Sooners team," wide receiver Landry Weber said. "It's a really tough start, and we're close.
"We're moving in the right direction."
Timing of open week beneficial
Looking at the big picture, head coach Chris Klieman welcomed the open week before the Wildcats play host to Iowa State (3-2, 1-1) at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 16
"We're in essence halfway through, a little more than halfway through when you think of all the practices we have in fall camp four weeks prior to playing Stanford and then playing five games," Klieman said. "It comes probably at a good time. I'd rather have it come after a win, so you don't have a bad taste in your mouth for a couple of weeks, but this week we're going to spend some time on Iowa State and then quite a bit of time on ourselves with our younger players as well as with our older guys."
It's also a chance to recalibrate and recuperate.
"Just kind of shoring up some things, doing self-scout (and) doing some technique work," Klieman said. "But these kids also need some rest. They need to get their bodies right, because when we come back, we've got a bunch of games in a row with not an open week."
On the injury front, the Wildcats have been hit especially hard at defensive end, losing Khalid Duke for the season against Nevada, then Bronson Massie for 2-4 weeks in the Oklahoma game. Best-case scenario for Massie would be a return for Iowa State.
Defensive back Reggie Stubblefield is also coming off an injury that had his hand in a cast, and tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe saw limited action against Oklahoma, making one catch in the first quarter.
Senior defensive tackle Timmy Horne was torn after the loss to Oklahoma.
"I wish we could go back out there, but at the same time we need a bye week to get our bodies back to 100% for sure," he said. "For this coming week, we've got to continue to chop at stuff and get everything right how we want to.
"We've still got our goals in front of us and (need to) get these two down games behind us."
Wildcats eager to double down in practice
The best way to do that, Thompson said, is to get after it in practice.
"Myself as a leader, I'm not going to let anybody come up short or take a shortcut in anything, and I'm not going to either," he said. "Obviously this is a week when we want to get healthy and get some guys some reps who maybe are younger, who can possibly help us out.
"I'm going to be out there practicing. I'm going to be out there giving everything I've got this week, even though we don't have a game this weekend, because we do have to continue to get better and push forward and understand we have a lot of season left.
"That has lit a fire inside of all of us and we're excited for the next opportunity."
"The attitude in the locker room is probably way better than you think," he said. "We're close and we know it and we're all bought in. We believe."