HOUSTON -- It's almost cliché to compliment the job coach Bill Snyder does annually, maximizing the talent on his Kansas State roster.
But it's accurate. Look at 2016 as evidence.
The Wildcats entered the season picked eighth out of 10 teams in the Big 12's preseason media poll. They are the youngest team Snyder has had in his 25-year Kansas State tenure, coming into Wednesday's game with a combined 125 starts from freshmen or sophomores. (The previous high was 101 in 1989.) In the team's season-opening loss to Stanford, it started 11 freshmen and sophomores, the most since 1997.
Yet the Wildcats finished a respectable 9-4, capping the season off with a solid 33-28 win over Texas A&M in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl on Wednesday at NRG Stadium.
It was a vintage Snyder victory: Kansas State played disciplined football, made fewer big mistakes, outschemed Texas A&M and beat a team that, on paper, has more talent.
That's not to undersell the Wildcats: Defensive end Jordan Willis will be playing on Sundays next year; and quarterback Jesse Ertz made some impressive throws on Wednesday, namely a strike between two defenders on a first-quarter 79-yard touchdown pass to Byron Pringle that was extraordinary.
But the facts bear it out: Kansas State took care of the ball; Texas A&M (8-5) didn't, turning it over twice. The Wildcats capitalized on all three of their red zone trips; the Aggies left points on the board by committing one of their turnovers in the red zone.
From a schematic standpoint, the Wildcats had the upper hand. They did what they do: run the football effectively (218 yards). The rushing game is something the Aggies struggle to defend but knew they had to stop; they couldn't.
The Wildcats held future NFL first-round draft pick Myles Garrett to just one tackle, running away from the Aggies D-lineman when they could and double-teaming him when they couldn't. When Kansas State threw the ball, Ertz was deft enough to get it out of his hands before Garrett could get to him.
Ertz -- the game's most valuable player -- continuously made smart, effective plays. He was accurate (14 for 20 passing, 195 yards) and productive in the running game, as well (67 rushing yards, two touchdowns).
While Ertz and Willis are upperclassmen, so many of the key Wildcats on the field were younger, including Pringle (a sophomore), three starting offensive linemen, three-quarters of Kansas State's starting secondary and half of its starting defensive line.
Even with that youth, the Wildcats are currently tied for the third-most wins in the Big 12 this season -- including what could be called a Texas state championship. Kansas State defeated all five Power 5 conference teams from the Lone Star State: Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.