In the spring of 2011, I still remember my father telling me, "If Collin Klein is our quarterback, we are in big trouble." I don't mean that as a knock on my dad- in fact, I agreed with him, as did many others. I just use it to illustrate how we all felt- and really how we felt about the team going into the season.
Goal 4: Improve- every day as a player, person, and student
Flashforward to the end of 2011. K-State went 10-3, winning an astounding 8 games by a touchdown or less, causing many to think, "hey, we were pretty lucky this year. Next year may be different as a result, but let's enjoy this while it lasts." Even looking at the 2012 schedule, it looked like a monumental task to even get close to those 10 wins again. Road game vs OU to start, road games vs BigXII newcomers and highly-ranked TCU & West Virginia. Improved Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Texas teams. I thought 8-4 was possible, 9-3 at best, as did most.
Goal 2: Unity- come together as never before
Something happened during the year though, that may have tipped us off to the coming success of 2012. I'm talking about Snyder's 16 goals. Those goals have been around since Snyder took over in 1988. They're what he lived by and was his teams lived by as they skyrocketed up the polls, all the way to a #1 ranking in 1998. Their continued success was a direct result. The only problem was that no one knew about them. K-Staters hardly knew about them. When they were made quite public in 2011, however, it did something to K-State that I hadn't seen before- it clearly defined them. K-State had always had an identity, sure. They lived off of non-offensive touchdowns (most in FBS since 1999). They ran a new-to-the-day option offense where the quarterback had way more room to run or pass than ever before. And their defense played smash-mouth, blitz-every-down football. But as talent and assistants changed, so did the success of those pieces of identity. The 16 goals, however, were and are unchangeable. K-State could keep them even after Snyder retires. They clearly define K-State.
Goal 1: Commitment - to goals and being successful
Even more than the 16 goals becoming public, they had a senior class that clearly lived by them. Collin Klein could rattle them off in order, out of order, by number, all in a matter of seconds if you wanted them too. They clearly defined him. Arthur Brown, even if he didn't speak much, clearly lived by them, always slipping one in during the few interviews that he did. They clearly defined him. This more than anything, showed how successful this team was going to be, even if it didn't mean wins. They were going to be successful in life, and as always, that is what great coaches like Snyder are much more concerned with teaching about anyway. I teach Biology at the high school level, and we always talk about how FORM fits FUNCTION. One thing is shaped that way SO THAT it will perform its particular function. It can't do anything else and it wasn't made to do anything else- you can't have one without the other. They form and function of life are intertwined. Just as Snyder's 16 goals are intertwined with success in life and football. This team was successful on the football field BECAUSE they bought into the 16 goals- you can't buy into the 16 goals and not be successful- you can't have one without the other. And K-State proved it on the football field.
Goal 6: Self-discipline- do right, and don't accept less
To belabor the point just a bit more, this wasn't even the most talented team K-State ever fielded. Sure, we have a battering ram for a QB who has improved his passing greatly, but has nowhere near the athletic ability of Michael Bishop or Ell Roberson. We have a solid running back in Hubert, but he is certainly no Darren Sproles. Few if any of these offensive lineman will go pro (and we've had plenty) and the same goes for the defensive line. Arthur is great, sure, but he and his surrounding linebackers are nowhere near the talents of the time when Jeff Kelly and Mark Simoneau lined up together or even Josh Buhl and Terry Pierce. And don't even get me started on how much better Terrance Newman is than anyone playing defensive back for K-State right now. Understand, I'm not trying to knock these guys- just showing how much buying into the 16 goals has really meant to a group that may not stack up athletically that also have 11 wins in K-State's past.
Goal 14: Consistency- your very, very best every time
And as if buying in and all that weren't enough, they performed amazingly throughout one of the toughest leagues in college football history. 90% of this league is bowl eligible- the highest in college football history. 80% of this league has 7 or more wins- the highest in college football history. The Big XII was the deepest league ever and Kansas State University is the champion of that league. Let that sink in for a minute. I saw this on the message boards some and agree- this team is better than 2003. Not athletically, perhaps, but emotionally, mentally, and consistently this team was better. The 2003 team played an amazing game against OU in that championship game, but nothing compares to doing so consistently throughout the season.
Goal 13: Expect to win- and truly believe we will
Finally, the buying in this team has done has made them better that the 1998 team as well- making them the best team in K-State history. The 1998 team went 11-0, one better than this one. They were consistent and beat down on teams just as much as they've done in 2012. The results, however, were different. And I barely even want to mention the 1998 championship game. Not because of how painful it was to lose the first and possibly only real shot at a national championship, but because I want to talk about what happened afterwards. The 1998 team wasn't able to bounce back from losing their national title hopes to Texas A&M in double overtime of the BigXII championship. They lost to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl, who was led by a young Drew Brees. However, after losing to Baylor by 4 touchdowns, this 2012 team WAS able to bounce back- and sometimes, that can be the most difficult thing in sports. Losing to Baylor but still coming back to Manhattan to beat Texas to win the BigXII championship is the greatest thing Snyder and his cats have ever done. Sure, Texas is a bit down, but they were ahead 10-7 at half and looked as if McCoy might just be their quarterback of the future. But K-State settled down and finally played to their potential, winning only their second BigXII Championship and winning 11 games for the first time since 2003. And you never know- perhaps a 12th win (it would be the most in K-State history) is in store. And it's because they bought into Snyder's 16 Goals.
Goal 12: No self-limitations- expect more of yourself