MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke glowingly of the fan base at Kansas State, where no matter how much the Wildcats are winning or losing, they always seem to make it a tough road environment.
“It’s a great home-field advantage,” said Kingsbury, who has experienced it as both a player and a coach. “They show up, they’re loud (and) the players feed off it.”
The Red Raiders visit the Wildcats on Saturday, and the comments were striking given their loss to Texas last week. Thousands of fans left their home game in the third quarter, which has become all-too-common at Texas Tech, and missed a fourth-quarter rally that fell just short.
Kingsbury was asked afterward about fans leaving and said: “That’s kind of par for the course right now with our fans. We’ve got to win, and they’ve got to stick around.”
The comments raised some eyebrows around the program, particularly given Kingsbury’s increasingly tenuous situation. He arrived at Texas Tech as the golden boy-come-home, the star quarterback who had returned to Lubbock to help the program reach the same heights it did under Mike Leach.
But he’s had winning records just twice in his first five seasons, and the Red Raiders (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) have lost three straight to fall in danger of missing a bowl game again. They need to beat the Wildcats (4-6, 2-5) or Baylor down the stretch to reach the requisite six wins.
“Really, I think about the seniors,” Red Raiders wide receiver Antoine Wesley said. “I want to do as much as I can for them to make sure that we can go to a bowl game and extend their season.”
Kansas State is trying to do the same thing.
The Wildcats need to sweep their final two games against the Red Raiders and Iowa State, though, after losing close games to TCU, Baylor and Texas this season. And pressure is clearly mounting, with Kansas State not making any players available to media this week.
Asked whether it’s been a tough year on the seniors, who will be playing their final home game, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder replied: “I think it’s been a difficult year for everybody.”
That includes the 79-year-old Snyder, whom many are starting to believe will retire after the season.
“I don’t think there’s a game they don’t diligently want to win,” Snyder added. “I have a high degree of confidence that’s what they’re feeling.”
Here are some story lines to watch:
QB SITUATION: Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman is unlikely to play against the Wildcats, though Kingsbury didn’t rule him out early in the week. The freshman sustained a partially collapsed lung against West Virginia, then had a recurrence of the injury against Oklahoma. “We just want to make sure he’s healthy and forego another episode with that lung,” said Kingsbury, who will likely turn again to sophomore quarterback Jett Duffy for the third time this season.
SPEAKING OF QBS: Alex Delton’s running ability saved the Wildcats last week against Kansas, but he’s been banged up for weeks. Fellow starter Skylar Thompson has also been dealing with injuries, forcing the Wildcats to contemplate using freshman John Holcombe in the remaining games.
BARNES THE BEAST: The Big 12’s leading rusher Alex Barnes surpassed 1,000 yards for the season in the Wildcats’ win over the Jayhawks. “They have a solid run game,” Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks said. “He’s one of the better backs in the league, in my opinion.”
ROAD WARRIORS: Texas Tech may be one of those rare teams that plays better on the road than it does at home. The Red Raiders beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater and won at TCU this season. “I think it’s a close-knit group,” Kingsbury said, “so when they go on the road and it’s an us-against-everybody mentality, they thrive off that and play really well, and come out with great intensity in all the opposing stadiums we’ve been in. Hopefully, that continues.”
INJURY REPORT: Red Raiders linebacker Dakota Allen could return this week after breaking his hand against Iowa State. He played through it against Oklahoma the next week, only to hurt his left knee and miss the last three quarters of the game. “We thought he could go last week and he wasn’t able to,” Kingsbury said. “We want to be smart and right by him.”
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