Going into the season, Kansas State and Iowa State each held lofty goals.
The Wildcats wanted to challenge again for the Big 12 title, despite losing conference players of the year Collin Klein and Arthur Brown.
After two straight bowl appearances, the Cyclones hoped to finish in the top half of the conference for the first time under Paul Rhoads.
While those goals remain intact for both, Week 1 was something of a nightmare for both teams.
Kansas State, the defending champion in the Big 12, fell Friday to two-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State. The following night, fellow FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa toppled the Cyclones in Ames. Before either Kansas State or Iowa State can attempt to get back on track, they must first pick up the pieces from a disastrous opening weekend.
“We know we can win games,” Cyclones quarterback Sam Richardson said. “But we have to get our confidence back.”
It’s understandable why the confidence of either team would be shaken.
To win in Manhattan, North Dakota State went on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate up almost nine minutes and left just a few seconds remaining. Iowa State, meanwhile never led against Northern Iowa, which racked up 228 yards on the ground and averaged almost 7 yards a carry.
“Everybody is hurt to begin with, whether it is disappointment or embarrassment or just emotional pain from it,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday. “I think at some point in time that turns into anger, and they get angry about the situation and what took place. And then maybe the next emotion is probably determination to rectify whatever the mistakes happened to be and to rectify the situation. Everybody that cares goes through that, and I think most of our guys care.”
Pinpointing what exactly went tangibly went wrong for either team isn’t easy. Kansas State center B.J. Finney said the Wildcats tried too hard to make plays, and ended up making mistakes instead. Richardson said the Cyclones didn’t work hard enough to make plays.
Whatever the case, both players agree that their teams strangely failed to play with much emotion in their openers.
“We kind of lacked spirit and enthusiasm out there,” Finney said. “Guys weren’t getting excited when we made big plays. When you don’t play with enthusiasm -- football is an emotional game -- that tends to wear you down. Gets you tired.”
The Wildcats looked like a tired team late in their game. So did Iowa State, which failed to scrape a drive together of more than 22 yards in the fourth quarter.
“It didn’t feel like a Cyclone atmosphere that day in our locker room,” Richardson said. “That’s definitely something we have to get going.”
The good news is that both teams are already showing signs this week of snapping out of their funks. Richardson said his teammates have already begun to get excited about their rivalry game with Iowa next weekend. Snyder said his squad had its best practice of the season Monday.
“Some of us were pretty angry with the outcome on Friday and we wanted to change that,” Finney said of the workout. “It definitely showed that people wanted to change and truly want to have something special here.”
No matter how mad they get, neither team will be going undefeated. The way they looked in their openers, they both have a way to go before doing anything special.
But the Cyclones and Wildcats still have many of their preseason goals in front of them. Which means the season is not a disaster yet. Even if the first week was.
“We’ll remember that one for a while,” Richardson said. “It’s frustrating, for sure.
“But we can definitely rebound.”