Pick the two most painful losses in Kansas State history, the games on Dec. 5, 1998, and Nov. 17, 2012, will be the first to come to mind.
In Wildcat football history, twice the Purples were on the doorstep to a national championship game … but lost. In 1998, it was a devastating 36-33 double-overtime loss to Texas A&M; in 2012, it was an embarrassing 52-24 loss to Baylor.
Bill Snyder said after Saturday's loss, "We weren't well enough prepared. We struggled on both sides of the ball."
Later he said, "I thought we prepared well, but I don't think we handled the situation as well as we should have been able to." The situation was playing as the No. 1 team in the nation.
"They wanted to play well, they wanted to play hard, but we just didn't handle the environment well."
In Snyder's words, K-State played hard, but "without discipline."
That was from the first snap, an off-sides by defensive end Adam Davis, to the second snap, an off-sides by Davis … and throughout the rest of the game.
K-State did nothing that resembled K-State football.
• The No. 1 defensive unit in the Big 12 (17.7) allowed Baylor to score 52 points in three quarters
• The No. 2 rush defense in the Big 12 (100.4) allowed Baylor to rush for 342 yards on 7.0 yards per attempt
• The No. 1 rushing team in the Big 12 (213.6) was held to 76 yards
• The No. 3 total defense in the Big 12 (351) allowed Baylor to run-pass for 580 yards
• The No. 1 pass efficiency team in the Big 12 was held to 27-of-51 passing with three interceptions
• The No. 1 sacking team in the Big 12 did not record one sack against Baylor
• The No. 3 team in preventing the sack in the Big 12 allowed Collin Klein to be sacked three times
• The No. 3 team in converting third downs (.504) was just 8-of-19
• The No. 5 team in stopping third down conversions (.380) allowed Baylor to convert 10-of-15, plus 1-of-1 on fourth down
• The No. 1 team in the Big 12 in fewest penalties (3.2 per game) had seven flags for 60 yards
• The No. 1 team in the Big 12 in turnover margin (plus-20) gave up three to Baylor and forced just two
"It's why you play the games," said KSU quarterback Collin Klein. "We knew that they were a better ball club than what showed on paper, but we just didn't get it done. Hats off to them."
The challenge now is for coaches, team members, and fans, alike, to not allow one loss become two as it did in 1998 when after the tremendous disappointment of the loss Texas A&M in the Big 12 title game, it was followed by a loss to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl.
While the Alamo Bowl was pretty meaningless … win or lose … this time that "next game" carries great meaning within this 2012 season.
A win on Dec. 1 against Texas will give Kansas State its second Big 12 championship in a 10-year period, and only its third in the history of the program. Oklahoma could tie K-State, but the ‘Cats won the head-to-head meeting giving the Purples the crown and the automatic invitation into the BCS bowl family.
That's what a victory would do.
But if the Wildcats go into hibernation following this loss to the Bears, 2012 may fall into the category of another really, really good season, but one without a trophy at the end of the year.
K-State is 7-1 in the Big 12 with a game at home with Texas on Dec. 1.
Oklahoma State is 5-2 with a game at Oklahoma on the 24th, and one at Baylor on Dec. 1
It's not likely, but that schedule makes it possible to have two-, three-, and even a four-way tie for first at 7-2, with a worst case scenario involving the Wildcats and Longhorns being in a tie, which would leave the Texans with the head-to-head advantage.