MANHATTAN — The last thing Bill Snyder wants to see from his Kansas State Wildcats is an air of entitlement.
It's a message he has preached from the time he arrived in Manhattan as a first-time head coach in November 1988.
So when he watched the Wildcats practice Monday, ahead of their season opener against South Dakota at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium, Snyder was struck by his team's demeanor.
"I was just visiting with one of our players, and I shared my thoughts about (Monday's) practice," Snyder said Tuesday during his first game-week news conference. "The Monday of the first ballgame, the players have gone through all of what used to be two-a-days and all of camp, etc., and that they seem to think is hard work, and normally that first Monday comes and they're excited.
"There's more emotion than you might normally see, and I didn't see that. But what I did see was a very businesslike approach to that practice, which I appreciated a great deal."
With a marquee nonconference matchup against No. 18-ranked Mississippi State just ahead in Week 2, the players seem to have gotten the message: Look past South Dakota, a solid Football Championship Subdivision opponent, and next week's game is meaningless.
"I definitely think we were looking too far in the future last year and lost some games we should have won," said senior linebacker Sam Sizelove. "And this year, we're really just going game by game, practice by practice, getting better each day."
The Wildcats won five of their last six games a year ago to finish 8-5, leading them to wonder what might have been had they gotten out of the gate faster.
"Last season, I think, can kind of be taken as a lesson learned," said senior receiver Zach Reuter. "We can really use those games early on as an example of what not to do, because we came in too early, too excited about the returning guys we had and how much potential we had.
"But potential doesn't mean anything unless you can put it on the field, and so this season I think we have a better mindset of what happens when you look ahead."
K-State received votes in this year's preseason rankings, but so did South Dakota in its FCS poll. The Coyotes went 8-5 and made their first-ever Division I playoff appearance in coach Bob Nielson's second season.
Last year, South Dakota ranked second in the FCS in total offense, sixth in passing and fourth in scoring. But that was with senior quarterback Chris Streveler, runner-up for the Walter Payton Award.
Junior Austin Simmons will make his first collegiate start at quarterback against the Wildcats, though leading receiver Shamar Jackson (53 catches, 766 yards) is back.
K-State senior right tackle Dalton Risner, a team captain, echoed Snyder's sentiment about the Wildcats' businesslike approach.
"I talked to a lot of guys on the team and we all agree that this is our job, man," he said. "It's a pretty cool job that we all enjoy, but it's our job.
"I think the team has really taken that in, as well. We're not out there whooping and hollering, overboard, where coach kind of can tell that some of that's a little fake mentality."
Junior running back Alex Barnes, the Wildcats' top returning rusher, said it's possible to dream big and still pay attention to details.
"It's something us leaders kind of got together with and we're going to handle this more maturely and take it week by week," he said. "We still have the same end goal, but we can't overlook anybody."