Chris Klieman didn't get where he is as a coach by ignoring the details or letting the little things slide.


Neither did the Kansas State football program, for that matter — first under Bill Snyder and then last year in Klieman's debut season.


So coming off a disappointing 35-31 home loss against Arkansas State, and with an extra week to prepare for the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma, Klieman brought his team together, not only for a postmortem, but also for some soul searching.


"I think they were productive, but the meetings that we had weren't all dealing with what's going to happen on the field and scoreboard and stuff," said Klieman, whose Wildcats face a daunting task Saturday when they take on No. 3-ranked OU at 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla. "Some were on the things, the inner workings of our team that we want to improve upon and be better at.


"Challenge the guys (and) make sure the guys hold each other accountable to the standard that we expect. Working on discipline, maturity — all sorts of things that just don't just happen overnight."


Clearly there were on-field issues on both offense and defense against Arkansas State, some of them brought on by personnel shortages created by positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing. Klieman said the Wildcats came dangerously close to the threshold at one position that would have forced the opener to be postponed.


"You've got to realize that we lost four or five months of a lot of time with coaches and players together," he said. "You lose that much time, you don’t just make up for it in a quick summer camp or fall, especially when so many guys miss.


"It’s going to take a lot of teams a while to recover from the amount of time that they lost. I’m not saying on the field. That’s a no-brainer. I’m saying off the field, as well."


Senior linebacker Justin Hughes, a team captain and leader on defense, said the message was simple enough.


"We have to be disciplined on and off the field," he said. "The little things matter. Details matter.


"We have to execute those details to a T to be successful, especially with everything going on with COVID. We have to take everything seriously and we have to do everything the right way."


Since his arrival in December of 2019, Klieman has made it clear that his players must take ownership, which also includes policing themselves.


"Coach has two rules: do things right and be on time," Hughes said. "We have to execute that on and off the field, whether that be meetings, class, Zooms, everything.


"So we’re taking everything a little bit more serious now that we have seen that any given Saturday we can get beat. So we’re going to take everything serious and come out and take each and every day to be as successful as possible, individually and as a team."


Klieman said he hopes to have several key players back this week, especially at the depleted wide receiver position, where senior starter Wykeen Gill and sophomore kick return specialist Joshua Youngblood were sidelined. Quarterback Skylar Thompson, who was banged up in the opener but continued to play, did not practice last week, but was back on the field Monday.


The defensive secondary continues to be a concern after starting safeties Wayne Jones and Jahron McPherson both went down with injuries in the Arkansas State game.


With the day-to-day uncertainty brought on by the Big 12 mandate for COVID testing three times a week, continuity is an ongoing concern.


"Every day is a different animal on that because you don’t know from one day to the next who’s going to be out at practice," Klieman said. "But the guys that are out there, (Monday) for example, just really worked hard and are excited about the opportunity."


On the field, there's Oklahoma, which pummeled Missouri State in its Sept. 12 opener and still remembers last year's stunning 48-41 upset loss to K-State in Manhattan. The Sooners, who recovered from that loss to make the College Football Playoffs, are 28-point favorites at home.


"I don’t pay attention to a lot of the point-spread things, but they’re a really good football team. And we, after one game, showed that we have a long ways to go, so that makes sense to me," Klieman said. "You've got to line up and play.


"We have to not worry about who the opponent is — and we know who it is — and more focus on us getting better at all areas, offensively and defensively."


K-State defensive back Will Jones shrugged off the underdog label.


"We see stuff like that and we pretty much don’t really worry about that, but it kind of fuels our fire," he said. "We know what we're doing over here.


"We know what we need to fix, the problems we need to fix and we're just going to get it done. We are going to go out there and do our best to handle business on Saturday."


Handling business for K-State's defense starts with redshirt freshmen Spencer Rattler, the latest in a long line of Sooner standout quarterbacks. Rattler completed 14 of 17 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns against Missouri State.


"We know it's going to be a tremendous challenge down in Norman," Klieman said.