Kansas State's Tyler Lockett has already returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season, and has returned several punts for scores during his career.
Scott Sewell/Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy tends to stick to himself at coaching conventions and meetings. He isn’t someone who tends to spend much time schmoozing with others in his profession.
The same goes for Kansas State’s Bill Snyder.
But while Gundy and Snyder haven’t spent much time hob-knobbing over the years, that hasn’t diminished the amount of respect the Cowboys’ coach has for the 75-year-old silver fox.
"As I’ve said each year, I have a lot of respect for him," Gundy said this week. "You can go back to when Barry Switzer said that he was the coach of the century, at one time. It’s a challenge for me, as a head coach, and for our staff against them."
That goes doubly this year. Snyder has No. 11 Kansas State off to a 6-1 start, and a 4-0 mark in the Big 12, the lone unbeaten team left in conference play. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have dropped two straight regular-season games for the first time since the 2012 season.
"I’ve said this from Day One, and I said it years ago when we were standing here talking about being 6-1 or 7-0, but each week is different," said Gundy, whose Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) visit Kansas State on Saturday night. "You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low."
That’s good advice for the Wildcats, who were ninth in the inaugural playoff rankings this week but still have the toughest part of their schedule awaiting them.
Kansas State has already knocked off 19th-ranked Oklahoma on the road, and still has trips to No. 10 TCU, No. 12 Baylor and No. 20 West Virginia. But none of those games will mean anything in the national landscape if the Wildcats can’t slip by the Cowboys — something they were unable to do last season, when the teams met earlier in the season in Stillwater, Okla.
"They will always be competitors regardless of what their record is or how their season has gone," Kansas State defensive back Morgan Burns said. "They always have great athletes and high recruits on their team. I know they have had some issues with injuries this season. I think just expecting the best team and the best that they have will be a smart thing for us to do."
Indeed, the Cowboys have struggled with injuries along the offensive line and at running back, a big reason why they managed 19 points total in consecutive losses to TCU and West Virginia.
Now, they’re facing a Kansas State defense that just shut out Texas.
"There is all that dialogue about Oklahoma State struggling on offense. Someone played very well defensively against them," Snyder said. "I don’t know if they feel like they have been playing as well on offense, but when I look at them, they look pretty good."
As the Cowboys visit the Wildcats, here are a few things to keep in mind:
GONE BOWLING: While the Wildcats have already clinched a bowl berth and have their sights set on bigger things, the Cowboys still need a win to become eligible.
RETURN GAME: Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett has already returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and has returned several punts for scores during his career. Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill is just as dangerous, returning two kicks for TDs this season. "He’s the fastest man in the world," Snyder said. "That’s probably what makes most of it happen. He has world-class speed."
DAM THE WATERS: Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters is already one of the most accurate passers in school history, but he can also do damage with his feet. Waters also hasn’t committed a turnover in four straight games. "He knows where seams and alleys are," Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. "The one time your eyes are wrong, he is going to get you."
DAXX MAN: Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman has struggled the past two weeks, throwing one TD pass and four interceptions. He had 10 touchdown passes in his first five games. "This week is a really important week for him to get better," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said.
PLUG THE RUN: Kansas State allowed just 90 yards rushing to Texas last weekend, a big reason why they were able to shut out the Longhorns. "That’s always a big goal of ours, to stop the run, make them one-dimensional," linebacker Jonathan Truman said. "We got that done."