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No. 19 Wildcats take Saturday off as Auburn awaits
Big 12 Conference
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MANHATTAN — In Bill Snyder’s perfect world, the notoriously regimented coach would be getting No. 19 Kansas State ready for a Saturday afternoon game against a relatively non-descript opponent.
He sure wouldn’t be getting ready for a Thursday night date with No. 5 Auburn.
Yet forced to play on a day he abhors, against an opponent that he’d rather not deal with, Snyder is forcing himself to look for the positives. The game against the Tigers will be on national TV, a marquee game at home for his program, and there are a few extra days to get ready for it with the Wildcats getting this weekend off.
“It will be here in a heartbeat. There is no doubt about that,” Snyder said. “We have to be awfully careful about not putting things off. It’s our intent to treat this week like it is a game week as much as possible.”
Little hard to do that without a game at the end of it.
In reality, Snyder is basically sliding Kansas State’s normal game-week schedule back a few days, turning Saturday into what would typically be Monday. That means the game Thursday night against Auburn will fall on what the team would consider Saturday — proof, perhaps, the wizard of Manhattan really can do anything, including the bending of time.
“It’s the next one on the schedule,” Snyder said simply. “I just haven’t looked at anything beyond that. It would be a waste of time, probably.”
The game was scheduled as part of a home-and-home by former coach Ron Prince, who spent three years at Kansas State while Snyder was briefly retired. The Tigers won the first meeting 23-13 in the 2007 season opener, and it’s taken seven years for the return game to happen.
As for the Thursday night date, well, that’s a whole other story.
Kansas State athletic director John Currie was approached by ESPN executives several years ago about moving the tantalizing early season matchup. Currie balked at first, wary of the challenge that weeknight games pose for the school’s far-flung fan base — not to mention the fact that Snyder has repeatedly expressed his desire to play only on Saturdays.
Eventually, Currie grew to accept the idea. It would turn into a 3-hour infomercial for the program, the school and the town of Manhattan, and the game itself just might shatter attendance records at the recently renovated stadium that bears Snyder’s name.
Meanwhile, it would give the Kansas State players a game in which to shine.
“Of course, everybody on the team is looking forward to that game,” wide receiver Tyler Lockett said. “We understand we have a great opportunity when we play Auburn.”
That doesn’t mean the Wildcats have been caught looking ahead.
Recalling the season-opening flop against North Dakota State last season, the Wildcats easily handled Stephen F. Austin in this year’s season opener. Then, faced with the unenviable task of playing on the road in the Big 12 in Week 2, Kansas State calmly marched 80 yards in the final minutes for a 32-28 win at Iowa State and an early lead in the conference race.
“You have a coach that preaches it every single day, every other word — one day at a time, one day at a time,” quarterback Jake Waters said. “So I’m just worried about the next practice, the next meeting. But with a team like Auburn, that’s the kind of game you live for.”
The Tigers are also off this week after blowout wins over Arkansas and San Jose State, so their trip to Kansas State will also be gut-check time for a team with national title aspirations.
“We are playing a very good team on the road,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said this week, “with one of the better coaches that has ever walked the planet.”
Nothing to worry about there, right?
The last time a non-conference team as highly ranked as Auburn visited the Little Apple was 1969, when No. 2 Penn State eked out a 17-14 victory. And if the ramifications of that are lost on Snyder, just point out the “Roll Snyd” T-shirts that enterprising fans are selling online.
“People have been in our ears saying, ‘Oh, you guys are going to play Auburn, you guys are going to play Auburn,’” defensive back Morgan Burns said. “It kind of feels good that we can finally give into it and start preparing for Auburn.”