MANHATTAN — Nobody is a more vocal advocate for his Kansas State football teammates than Dalton Risner.
Risner, a three-time team captain and an all-Big 12 offensive tackle, has their back, regardless.
So it pained him to admit that in the waning moments of last Saturday's lopsided 51-14 loss to Oklahoma, the Wildcats might have gone into cruise control.
"I don't think that's been an issue all year, but I think that there might have been a little bit of that on Saturday, unfortunately," Risner said Tuesday. "I'm an honest guy. I'm going to be honest with you all.
"I don't think effort has been an issue all year, but I think what happened Saturday is we got down early, and we kind of got beat inside our own minds come the third or fourth quarter. I don't like that, so we've got to get better."
This is no time for a crisis of confidence for the Wildcats, who at 3-5 overall, 1-4 in the Big 12, find themselves in a three-way tie with TCU and Kansas at the bottom of the league standings. Especially when the next two games are on the road against the Horned Frogs and then at home against KU.
So how do the Wildcats restore that confidence, which was at a season-high just two weeks ago after an impressive 31-12 victory over Oklahoma State?
"I think it kind of depends on the team," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "It depends on your players.
"It doesn't make it easy, but if you have quality young guys and guys that genuinely care, have a passion for the game and a desire to compete, then it's far less difficult than it would be if you had the other."
Center Adam Holtorf was adamant that the Wildcats have not thrown in the towel.
"There's definitely some anger and frustration because we didn't execute, we didn't compete," he said of the Oklahoma game. "It was a tough loss to take, so there is that anger but also (a determination) to try to channel that in the right way to motivate ourselves into trying to get better."
Snyder was asked Tuesday during his weekly media briefing just how close the Wildcats have come this season to maximizing their ability. The answer was not surprising.
"It probably depends on the game, but in this past ballgame that we're talking about, nowhere near close to what they're capable of," he said. "The previous game (Oklahoma State), I thought they got closer — probably as good a game as they've had during the course of the year.
"And my expectations are probably far greater than anybody wants to consider, but I think they're capable of far more."
Wide receiver Zach Reuter credited Risner with making that very point when addressing the team on Monday, specifically referencing the Oklahoma State game and how the Cowboys rebounded from their K-State loss to knock off No. 6-ranked Texas last week.
"He reminded us that we still have a lot in front of us and one hiccup shouldn't define our season," Reuter said.
One goal still on the table for the Wildcats is a ninth straight bowl game, but in order to be eligible they must win three of their last four games.
"I'd like to think that they want to succeed," Snyder said. "And it's not just about playing in a bowl game — they certainly want that.
"But I think beyond that, they want to be a competitive football team. I think that they were embarrassed with the outcome of (the Oklahoma) ballgame and didn't like that feeling and don't want to feel that way again."
Risner agreed, expressing confidence in the Wildcats to channel their frustration the right way.
"We don't want to be embarrassed," he said. "We're sick of being embarrassed.
"We want to be able to do something about it and we have plans for this season, regardless of what everyone thinks."