Kansas State hasn't suffered a losing season since Bill Snyder returned for a second stint as head coach of the Wildcats in November 2008. At 5-6, the Wildcats can continue their six season streak of finishing at .500 or better, and secure a bowl appearance, with a win over West Virginia on Saturday.
It may not happen without another step forward for the 2015 version of the Wildcats.
K-State has struggled during the first half of games during Big 12 play but may have turned the corner during its 45-14 win over Kansas last Saturday. The Wildcats outscored the Jayhawks, 35-7 in the first half after five straight games entering the halftime locker room trailing by double-digits.
"That's always significant, but it's been awhile," Snyder said of his team's strong first half. "We got off to good starts against Oklahoma State and TCU but we didn't put two halves back-to-back. And to beat a good football team, you have to do that."
As Kansas State plans for success against West Virginia, the Wildcats could have the advantage as the more efficient offense in the opening half of conference games. Kansas State's 2.6 points per drive in the first half ranks fifth in the Big 12 while West Virginia's 1.95 points per drive in the opening half ranks eighth.
First half success was not a foreign experience for Kansas State heading into November as the Wildcats held a eight point lead over Oklahoma State in their Big 12 opener on Oct. 3, then took a 18-point halftime lead over TCU on Oct. 10. But Saturday's showing against Kansas was a positive step forward after multiple steps backward.
"We are making a lot of improvement," linebacker Elijah Lee said. "We came out and made a big statement in the first two quarters, and then we just need to work to put the other quarters together."
Therein lies the key to Kansas State's chances of a 6-6 season. The Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Big 12's best -- outside of Oklahoma -- resulting in close losses to Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor yet could not transform those solid performances into wins.
While injuries have played a major part in K-State's losing record, the ability to focus and execute for a full 60 minutes has been a true struggle. Against West Virginia, the Wildcats will need to play well for the entire game to knock off a Mountaineers' team that can secure a fifth-place Big 12 finish with a win.
"We are a team that's hasn't put two halves together yet," Snyder said. "We need to start being consistent and finish, we haven't done that. We have played so well at times, and that's a plus, but just being able to do it over and over again, snap after snap, is important to be a good football team."