Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 20, 2018 at 10:22 pm.

Surging Wildcats bid for bowl eligibility

Kansas State has made late-season pushes before, including three straight wins to close the regular season in 2015 and ’16, and four wins in the last five regular-season games last year.

Bowl eligibility was at stake in 2015 and ’17 and is again on Saturday when the Wildcats (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) travel to Iowa State attempting to win a third straight game.

A 21-6 victory over Texas Tech on Nov. 17 was proof the Kansas State defense is improving under first-year coordinator Blake Seiler and despite several injuries, including the loss of arguably the team’s top defender, cornerback Duke Shelley.

“Week in and week out we’ve gotten a little bit better, little bit better, and a little bit better (defensively),” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

Essentially that is the mantra Snyder set forth the day he took over the worst major-college program in history back in 1989. Only this season, modest improvement did not result in many victories and left the Wildcats skidding to the extent many fans and media members have called for Snyder’s job while in his 27th season.

A bid to a lower-tier bowl will not make some of them reconsider. Not if Kansas State only makes it to .500. But it would make it more difficult on athletic director Gene Taylor and the Kansas State administration to expedite Snyder’s departure if the 79-year-old veteran coach does not want to retire.

The performance against Texas Tech was thorough. Special teams accounted for all the scoring except for the game’s lone touchdown, a pass from quarterback Skylar Thompson to emerging freshman receiver Malik Knowles.

The Red Raiders generated only 181 total yards, the first time they were held to fewer than 200 since 2010. The effort also marked the fewest yards a K-State defense allowed a Big 12 opponent since 2003 against Iowa State. The 31-yard rushing yield was the best for the Wildcats in conference play since a 2009 matchup against Texas A&M.

“It was amazing,” said linebacker Justin Hughes, who led the Wildcats with eight tackles.

“I appreciate my guys for giving out their full effort each play. We just went out there and dominated against a high-profile offense, one of the best in the conference. I’m proud of my guys and hopefully we can continue this on to the next game.”

That promises to be a stiff challenge since Kansas State’s modest two-game win streak was achieved at home. Iowa State (6-4, 5-3) will be stinging following a 24-10 loss at Texas that doused the Cyclones’ hopes of reaching the Big 12 championship game.

The Cyclones are led by running back David Montgomery with an 88.7-yard rushing average. The Iowa State defense has also been particularly stingy at home, which will be a test for the Wildcats’ Alex Barnes, who leads the Big 12 in rushing. The teams rank one-two in scoring defense during Big 12 play, and two-three behind only TCU in total defense.

Last game for Snyder? It could be if Kansas State tumbles and cannot extend a string of eight consecutive bowl appearances, though the veteran coach has given no indication he will step down on his own.

“I have always said the same thing,” Snyder said. “If I was not wanted and didn’t feel like I was having an impact on the lives of young people and my family wasn’t interested in me continuing, then I certainly wouldn’t.”