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After loss to Texas, Wildcats get week off to ponder 2-2 start filled with troubling trends

The foundation of the Kansas State football program since Bill Snyder's arrival more than two decades ago has been what he calls the "16 Goals for Success."

Things such as unselfishness, commitment and unity.

More often than not, the Wildcats have thrived on these principles. But as they mull over a 2-2 start that included a disheartening loss at Texas on Saturday night to open Big 12 play, those same goals are providing a good place to start figuring out where things have gone wrong.

"We need to improve in the intrinsic values segment of our program," Snyder said Tuesday. "And it starts with me."

The loss to the Longhorns was Kansas State's second conference-opening loss since 2005, the final year of Snyder's first tenure in Manhattan. It also left the defending Big 12 champions trying to answer a slew of questions as they get this week off.

"We need to go back to a value system that we've tried to operate on for a long period of time," Snyder said. "Just those goals, so to speak, and understanding the intrinsic values that are significant in being successful, both on and off the field."

Bye weeks aren't terribly exciting for players, especially after watching a five-game winning streak over Texas come to an end. Most would rather get back on the field right away. Still, this is one week off that Snyder said the Wildcats desperately need.

"We still don't like to have to sit on it," Snyder said. "By the same token, there are a number of things that are going to take some time that we need to work with."

Turnovers are a good place to start. Jake Waters already has thrown five interceptions and the Wildcats have lost four of their six fumbles. Meanwhile, they've been on the receiving end of four interceptions without recovering any of the opposing team's four turnovers.

The Wildcats' defense is giving up more than 185 yards rushing per game. The team has been penalized an uncharacteristic 16 times for 138 yards. A team that generally dominates possession time has seen it go the other way. And on and on.

"A lot of people needed this bye week to get their heads together," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said. "Just to be able to relax and just think about the future of what we're trying to get to this year and everything we're trying to accomplish."

The past two seasons, a gritty, never-back-down approach carried Kansas State to consecutive seasons of 10-plus wins. It's a mentality that the Wildcats hope to capture once more.

"We've lost sight of the fundamentals of how we're supposed to play this game," sophomore defensive tackle Travis Britz said. "We're known to be hard-working, tough-nosed football team and we lost sight of that."

The Wildcats seemed to have lost it even before a season-opening loss to North Dakota State, and it never really appeared in underwhelming wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and UMass. Then came the letdown in Austin, when the Wildcats were manhandled most of the night by Texas.

"Nobody likes to lose," linebacker Charmeachealle Moore said. "We're striving to get better and like Coach says, every week we have to improve and every week no matter if it's a bye week or if we're playing, we have to improve."

Snyder defended his use of a two quarterback system this week, saying that Waters and Daniel Sams have both done good things, but that neither one of them has earned the full-time job.

Snyder did say that the depth chart will remain fluid.

"It's competitive every day," he said. "Young guys go out and they understand the depth chart is fluid day in and day out and week in and week out. That's consistent. The guys that are doing the best are the guys on top of the depth chart."

The Wildcats don't have much time to figure things out.

They hit the road in their return from a week off to face high-powered Oklahoma State, and then return home to face a Baylor team that seems unstoppable on offense. Then comes another week off before a final stretch of six games in six weeks.

"This is a great week to be able to do ... see where everybody's head is at," Lockett said, "and also to see who's going to get on the train and who's not going to get on the train."