AMES, Iowa — Two straight weeks in survival mode left the Kansas State Wildcats with nothing tangible to show for it.
Nothing, that is, except a chance saddle up and do it again.
But after keeping their postseason hopes alive with back-to-back victories, the Wildcats finally have a chance to see the fruits of their labor — provided they can clear one last hurdle.
"There's a lot at stake here," K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson said of the 6 p.m. regular-season finale Saturday against No. 25 Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. "We're fighting. We don't want to be the first team in a while not to make a bowl game."
At 5-6 overall, 3-5 in the Big 12, the Wildcats need to get past the heavily-favored Cyclones (6-4, 5-3) in order to be bowl eligible for a ninth straight year. And to do so, they'll have to win on the road for the first time all season while also extending their winning streak in the Iowa State series to 10.
"It's the type of games you look forward to, though," K-State safety Denzel Goolsby said. "Those are the type of games in high school you dream about playing in, just big, big energy environments."
The Iowa State game is relevant only because the Wildcats took care of business at home, edging Kansas 21-17, then shutting down Texas Tech in impressive fashion last week, 21-6.
"It's obviously going to be a little bit of a motivation for everyone in the locker room," said junior running back Alex Barnes, the Big 12's leading rusher. "It will be that little extra push that we might need to be able to pull out a victory.
"The odds are against us right now, but you never know. Especially now that we have an attainable goal to work toward."
A loss not only would finish the Wildcats' season, but it also could mark the end of Bill Snyder's hall-of-fame coaching career. Snyder, 79, has faced heavy scrutiny this year, both from disgruntled fans and the media, leading more than one columnist to call for him to retire.
The speculation resurfaced during ESPN's broadcast of the Texas Tech game, when announcer Jay Alter relayed a conversation in which he said Snyder told him, "If the president, the players and the fans want me out, I’ll be gone."
Snyder said Tuesday during his weekly news conference that the remarks were nothing out of the ordinary.
"Most of you have asked me at some point in time, what would cause me to make the decision, and I've always said the same thing," Snyder said. "If I was not wanted and didn't feel like I was having an impact on the lives of young people and my family wasn't interested in me continuing, then certainly I wouldn't."
In the meantime, the Wildcats are laser-focused on extending their season one more game.
"Obviously, the next game means a lot more now since we can be bowl eligible," said K-State kicker Blake Lynch, whose four field goals against Texas Tech earned him Big 12 special teams player of the week honors. "If we would have lost (last Saturday), that game wouldn't really matter as much, so I think it will keep everybody's spirits up.
"We always have a bowl game in mind, but we need to play for ourselves, too, and not get too overwhelmed about that."
Iowa State saw its shot at the Big 12 championship game slip away last week with a 24-10 loss at Texas. But the Cyclones, who are listed as 13-point favorites, won five in a row before that, including a 48-42 shootout against then-No. 25 Oklahoma State and a 30-14 decision against current No. 12 West Virginia.
And they would like nothing better than to end their decade of frustration against K-State. Of the 10 games during the streak, only one — a 41-7 blowout in 2013 — was decided by more than eight points.
Last year, K-State came back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 20-19 on Skylar Thompson's 1-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber as time expired.
"That game was crazy," Thompson said. "I'm sure they're going to have a little bad taste in their mouth after that game. It's going to be a dogfight like it always is versus Iowa State and they're going to be ready to go. But we're going to be ready, too."