MANHATTAN — One point of emphasis in Kansas State's second bye week was to evaluate the young talent on the roster.
The second, and more urgent, was to simply get better.
So instead of turning their early attention to this Saturday's home game against Texas Christian University, the Wildcats turned on each other, in a manner of speaking.
"Last week was a productive week focusing more on us — K-State vs. K-State — and very little on TCU, our next opponent, and we're working into that — started (Monday)," head coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday during his weekly media briefing. "The guys had a good bounce in their step yesterday, but we have to have a terrific week of preparation to play a really good TCU team on Saturday."
K-State's second bye in four weeks came after back-to-back losses at Oklahoma State and at home to Baylor to open Big 12 play, which dropped its record to 3-2 overall, 0-2 in the conference. That left plenty to work on before this week's 1:30 p.m. Saturday game against the Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1) at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Quarterback Skylar Thompson said the Wildcats made the most of it.
"I've definitely seen a lot in our growth as a team, especially last week," he said. "We did a lot of good-on-good with K-State stuff — one vs. ones — and did a lot of competitive situational stuff that brought out a lot in our football team.
"You could tell guys were flying around, having fun and being competitive. Along with doing that, the defense was playing stuff — coverages and things — that we have struggled with and they were doing things that they were kind struggling with as well."
The Wildcats' difficulties have come on both sides of the ball. In the 26-13 loss to Oklahoma State, they managed just 244 yards total offense while the Cowboys racked up 526, including 296 yards by running back Chuba Hubbard alone.
That margin narrowed against Baylor, but the Bears put together scoring drives on 98 and 91 yards on the way to a 31-12 victory, while K-State didn't get in the end zone until the fourth quarter.
"The two bye weeks so close is a little unique," said senior center Adam Holtorf. "It's something I haven't experienced since I've been here.
"I think it was good, though, to have a bye week last week. We got a chance to work a little more good-on-good, a little more competition-type things. The ability to spend a little more time working ones vs. ones this week was really beneficial for us, so I'm glad the bye week gave us that opportunity."
Klieman was glad to have a second bye week but would have preferred it later in the season.
"Football is a rhythm sport and you need to be able to play to continue to improve," he said. "You can only practice so much, from NCAA guidelines and rules and stuff, and you get better by competition, bottom line.
"I'm glad we had two bye weeks. I would have loved one in week four and week 10 or week nine or something."
Instead, they finish the season with seven straight games after playing just five in the first seven weeks. So to simulate game competition and try to maintain their rhythm, the Wildcats matched their starters against each other more often than during a typical week.
"What we worked on last week is going to feed us through the next seven weeks and, knock on wood, we were able to stay healthy because we've got a pretty good grind here for the next seven weeks," Klieman said.
All the while, he preached staying in the moment.
"You be where your feet are and you've got to control what you can control today, and that's the message we're going to continue to send," Klieman said. "Everybody wants to race to maturity and a race to the top.
"It's a process, and the guys know it's a process."
The message was well received, according to Thompson.
"When adversity strikes, that's when you've really got to buckle down and focus on the little details of things and just trust the process," he said. "I think that's the most important thing in football and life in general.
"I've been really pleased with our growth and how much we have progressed throughout this bye week."
Regardless of what happens this weekend, Klieman said, the beat goes on.
"I know this: We are getting better on both sides of the ball," he said. "I saw it over the last week or so of practice. Things are just a little more crisp.
"Now will that translate to Saturday? I don't know, guys, but our guys are gaining more confidence."