MANHATTAN, Kan. – Bill Snyder is as frustrated as anybody by Kansas State's penalties and turnovers, yet he also knows how quickly those kinds of things can turn around.
"In 2003 we lost our first two (conference) ball games," Snyder said this week. "Both of them were close ball games, I think four points each one. Our ball games this year have been reasonably close. That team was able to put it all together."
The Wildcats went on to win the Big 12 title that year, and Snyder hopes this year's team (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) can do the same starting Saturday against No. 15 Baylor.
There is plenty of work to be done.
They have already surpassed last season's 12 turnovers with 14 through their first five games. Things were especially bad in last week's lost to Oklahoma State, when Kansas State turned the ball over five times while committing 12 penalties.
Kansas State is currently 121st nationally in turnover margin, worse than all but two teams. Only two teams were better than the Wildcats during their Big 12 title run last season.
Now, the Wildcats face the nation's 14th-ranked scoring defense, one that has often been overlooked by the prolific scoring of Baylor's offense this season.
"We have to be a more disciplined football team and that encompasses the penalties and the turnovers," Snyder said. "It's just a matter of doing things the appropriate way."
Last week, all three of Oklahoma State's second-half field goals came after a turnover. An early second-half fumble thwarted a comeback attempt against Texas the previous week.
"It's deflating for the entire team," center BJ Finney said. "It takes points away from us and gives points to them so it's something we can't do. It's something we can't have in order to win a game. It's not how we've won games and it's not our identity in K-State football."
It's not just that the Wildcats are turning the ball over, either. They're also failing to take the ball back, and that's partly why their turnover margin is so skewed. They forced 31 turnovers through their 13-game schedule last season, but have caused just five turnovers so far this season. Only two teams nationally are worse than that.
"We were 5-0 last year and now we're 2-3," wide receiver Kyle Klein said. "It's not hard to see where the train left the tracks."
Penalties also have been a big problem.
The Wildcats drew 12 flags for 92 yards last week against the Cowboys. They didn't commit that many penalties last season until their sixth game against Iowa State. Kansas State already has been penalized 28 times this season, 20 of them in its first two conference games.
"Discipline, focus, concentration, whatever the case may be, the right decision making that you have to make — all of that goes into play," Snyder said. "Not that they're not trying, we're just not disciplined as we need to be."