MANHATTAN — It isn’t about living on the edge anymore.
Not these No. 4-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, who have had a propensity to get better every game out, and gradually climbing up the Bowl Championship Series ladder one rung at a time.
Last season, Kansas State had a knack of pulling out tight games late on its way to a Cotton Bowl berth and 10-3 season — winning nine by seven points or less.
After pulling away in the second half for a 55-24 runaway over No. 15 Texas Tech on Saturday, the unbeaten Wildcats (8-0) figure to rise to No. 3 in today’s rankings by The Associated Press, No. 2 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 2 in the BCS with four regular-season games remaining.
“We’re getting a lot more attention,” Kansas State senior fullback Braden Wilson said. “I said I had a feeling we would before the start of the season and it’s here now. Nobody’s flying high.
“We’re finally getting some attention, but at the same time, it’s a lot of work. There are a lot of good teams out there, and I think we’ve earned where we’re at right now. We understand there are a lot of eyes on us, so we know that we can’t slip up.”
Georgia’s 17-9 win over Florida, ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll and No. 3 in The AP rankings, necessitates the Wildcats’ latest jump. It was the fifth blowout victory of the season for Kansas State, including its second straight after toppling stubborn Iowa State 27-21 two weeks ago in Ames, Iowa. West Virginia was victimized and exposed a week ago by the Wildcats during a 55-14 runaway.
Saturday’s win also upped their Big 12 Conference-leading record to 5-0, as Kansas State likely will trail only top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama in the BCS race.
Leading 13-10 at halftime, everything changed at the outset of the third quarter. The Wildcats scored on their first two possessions and parlayed it into another win going away.
“It was not so much in the terms of adjustments,” Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said of his team’s second-half flourish, “because we were playing well defensively. Offensively, we didn’t quite have it figured out yet and they had to kind of spar for a little bit, until you can find some answers.
“It wasn’t adjustments, just being able to get into the right things, which we didn’t initially.”
As Texas Tech effectively drove the football throughout a chunk of the first half, the Wildcats’ time of possession was contained until halftime.
The Wildcats had only three play series the entire first quarter, starting their second drive at the six-minute mark and down 7-0.
As Kansas State deferred to the second-half kickoff, Tech (6-2, 3-2) opened the game by driving 75 yards in nine plays for its 7-0 lead at the 11:46 mark. Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege completed 7 of 9 passes for 66 yards during the drive, capped by a 32-yard scoring pass to Eric Ward, who ran a deep post route and beat Wildcats cornerback Nigel Malone in man coverage.
All the while, Kansas State couldn’t get into any ebb-and-flow going offensively much of the first half, although the avalanche of points came in a hurry thereafter.
“We always talk about possession time with Kansas State,” Snyder said, “and (the Red Raiders) do a pretty nice job of that as well. They’re above 30 minutes of possession time collectively during the course of the season and they maybe do it in a little different way. There was an awful lot of clock used up.
“They moved the ball and the simple answer is, it was very difficult to be able to slow them down. They got the first drive in the end zone, but after that, again there’s some acclimation that takes place, initially. We didn’t get adjusted to what was taking place as you would like sometimes, but that’s an awfully good offensive team, and then we got a feel to where we were.”
Kansas State hosts Oklahoma State next Saturday.