Wildcats need a win to salvage Big 12 hopes

Updated: October 7, 2003, 7:19 PM ET

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Two straight losses have silenced the talk of a national championship at Kansas State. The Big 12 title hopes and the Top 25 ranking could be next.

Kansas State, which started the year ranked seventh in the nation, is down to No. 22 and trying to salvage its season.

A win Saturday at Oklahoma State would be a good start -- and that's the Wildcats' concern right now.

"Sometimes, a high ranking in the preseason is not really a good thing," center Nick Leckey said Tuesday. "It can give you an inflated self-image.

"I think ours has been pretty well deflated by now, and we can get back to being a blue-collar team."

The Wildcats are off to a disappointing 4-2 start in what had promised to be one of their best seasons ever. The good news, coach Bill Snyder said, is that they're not happy about it.

"I'd be a little concerned if everybody was happy," Snyder said. "If there wasn't anger, I'd be a little bit upset. They're upset with themselves and the concept of not competing -- but mentally, they are on track."

Kansas State was No. 6 when Marshall upset the Wildcats 27-20 on Sept. 20.

Quarterback Ell Roberson missed that game with an injured left wrist, and Kansas State hoped his return -- and a week off -- would help in the Wildcats' Big 12 opener at Texas on Saturday.

Instead, Roberson's fumble led to the Longhorns' game-winning drive in Texas' 24-20 victory.

"I was a little rusty, but I don't think I was that rusty," said Roberson, who ran for two touchdowns but threw two interceptions and was only 5-for-18 passing. "I knew what I had to do, but I just didn't perform my best."

Neither did Kansas State's offense, which was just 1-for-12 on third-down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth-down tries.

"It's a plethora of problems. There isn't one thing that remains consistent, other than the results," Snyder said. "There is one way to not have to worry about what the issues are, and that is to not be in those third-and-long positions."

Oklahoma State (4-1) is hardly the ideal opponent for a team looking to reverse a skid, though.

The Cowboys have won four straight since a season-opening loss at No. 10 Nebraska. They have outscored opponents 150-12 over their last three games -- and they're looking to pay Kansas State back for a humiliating 44-9 loss last year in Manhattan.

"We can't take another loss, and we're going to have to fight, because Oklahoma State is a good team," defensive end Andrew Shull said. "Going down there is going to be a challenge for us."

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be finding a way to stop wide receiver Rashaun Woods, whose nine TD catches include an NCAA-record seven in a 52-6 win over Southern Methodist on Sept. 20.

"He's probably the best route runner I'll face as a wide receiver all year," cornerback Cedrick Williams said. "You have to be right there with him to prevent him getting any separation."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index