MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Even when Kansas State is bad, it can't help but be very, very good.
Kansas State trailed by seven in the first quarter, and confusion along Texas Tech's offensive line left the Wildcats' best pass-rusher, Meshak Williams, unblocked. He took advantage and took Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege for a ride, planting him into the turf before Doege even knew Williams was en route.
The ball popped loose, and the chase was on. Jarell Childs scooped it up and ran the rest of the way for an apparent game-tying touchdown.
It wasn't. Defensive end Ryan Mueller was flagged for an illegal block on the return, and the Wildcats were penalized 15 yards.
"It's still a touchdown in my book," Childs said with a laugh after the game.
Until a late hit when the Wildcats were up by 38 in the final minutes of a 55-24 win, K-State had a total of 10 penalty yards and zero turnovers.
Even when it's bad, K-State can't help but be very, very good. The Wildcats simply don't make mistakes, and unless they start, a loss down the stretch looks unlikely.
"If we want to be successful, we have to do it in all three facets of the game, and if we play well across the board, we always have a chance," coach Bill Snyder said. "And if we don't, and if one group falls out, then we've got problems."
In short, Kansas State controls its own destiny -- except just perhaps not in the BCS standings. The voters (and an undefeated record for Oregon) will tell us that. But on the field, it's more true for Kansas State than any team in the country. Play well for the next four weeks, the Big 12 title is coming back to Manhattan for the first time since 2003 and the Wildcats might have a shot at their first national title.
Snyder would never admit it, but Kansas State will enter its final four games as clearly the best team. Whether it leaves that way is up to the Wildcats.
"Success is fleeting in this world. There's bigger things at stake, but we and I recognize that we are human, we do make mistakes and are susceptible to complacency," said quarterback Collin Klein, who accounted for four touchdowns and 316 yards of offense to leave no doubt as to who's the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. "Just knowing that is the first step. Identifying that and being able to attack it."
Snyder's program is founded upon daily improvement, and this team has yet to show any cracks, save a couple of slow starts that K-State made up for in big ways with fantastic finishes. The Wildcats managed to convert 6 of 10 third downs before sending in the backups, too, making the task of finding a way to beat them look even more impossible. Good luck finding any cracks in the foundation -- and look just about anywhere and you can see improvement. That starts with the final scores. K-State hadn't beaten a Big 12 team other than cellar-dwelling Kansas by more than one score in the past two seasons. In two weeks, it has completely obliterated two Top 25 teams.
"From the beginning to where we are at this point and time, we've become a much better football team," Snyder said.
He won't get any arguments from Lubbock or Morgantown anytime soon.
If cracks don't inexplicably start appearing in that solid Kansas State foundation, the rest of the season might look more like a victory lap while the BCS standings shake out around the No. 3 Wildcats.
It starts with Oklahoma State next week, but can the reigning Big 12 champs shake off some quarterback issues and prove they're better than the team that nearly lost to Kansas? TCU might be starting its third-string quarterback in Fort Worth, Texas, in two weeks if the knee injury Trevone Boykin suffered Saturday proves serious. The Frogs lost with Boykin last week at home anyway, to the same Tech team that K-State rolled over on Saturday. Baylor? The Bears have struggled to find their first Big 12 win. Texas in the finale? The same team that needed heroics to beat a KU team that K-State crushed by 40? On paper, the dominoes are all lined up for the Wildcats. It's up to them to knock them down. How forceful that push is might decide whether K-State fans can start booking flights to Miami.
"I don't think people want us to play in the game. We could be [left out]," receiver Chris Harper said. "We've got to go out there and play like we did today and put scores up there so we can't leave no doubt and people can't leave us out."