Looking back on last week's loss to West Virginia, and even to the week before when they dropped a heartbreaker to Texas, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman knew that his Wildcats would have days like these.
They don't call them growing pains for nothing.
"That's the ebbs and flows of your first year. I really believe that," Klieman said of a season that so far has produced more highs than lows. "We're going to go through some ups and downs.
"We're going to go through some really positive things, and we're going to have some hard times."
The good news for the Wildcats is that at 6-4, they're already bowl eligible. A three-game winning streak on the heels of two straight losses to open Big 12 play saw to that.
On the flip side, they've now lost two in a row again to fall to 3-4 in the league.
The Wildcats will try to get back on track at 6 p.m. Saturday, when they make their last road trip of the regular season to face Texas Tech (4-6, 2-5) at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. And they'll do so with the knowledge that they've successfully rebounded from back-to-back losses once already this year.
"You can get into those trends and things like that," senior center Adam Holtorf said. "And there hasn't been a focus on that.
"The focus all season has been on the process, on sticking with it, on continuing to improve — look for ways to get better. Sticking together as a team and holding each other to that standard. We talk about the standard over feelings all the time."
During their winning streak, the Wildcats found different ways to win, using a late 95-yard drive to edge TCU 24-17, grabbing a big third-quarter lead and hanging on for dear life to stun No. 5-ranked Oklahoma 48-41, then dominating Kansas on the road 38-10.
Against both Texas and West Virginia, they got off to quick starts offensively and fizzled. They also gave up a long drive that resulted in a last-second, game-winning field goal at Texas, while defensive breakdowns and critical penalties cost them against the Mountaineers.
"We're trying to handle it the same way we did then," senior defensive tackle Trey Dishon said of the first two losses at Oklahoma State and at home to Baylor, which came between a pair of bye weeks. "We lost two games going to 3-2, and everybody was panicking.
"That's when Coach really (emphasized), 'Stay the course, stay the course,' and be true to what he's preaching. That's the biggest thing."
Klieman, who knew nothing but success at his previous coaching stop, winning four FCS national titles in five years as head coach at North Dakota State, admitted that pivoting again this late in the season is not easy. Especially when dealing with injuries at key positions.
"That's difficult for our staff. It's difficult for me," he said. "It's difficult for our seniors, I know it is.
"That's the challenge of being able to right the ship and being able to stay positive. We came in here (Monday) and just kind of told the guys the truth of where we were at."
While the Wildcats have secured a postseason berth with their six victories, Texas Tech must beat K-state and then win at Texas the following week to extend its season. The Red Raiders, also under a first-year coach in Matt Wells, have dropped four of their last five, including a 33-31 decision last week against TCU.
"There's definitely a whole lot of fire in our football team," said quarterback Skylar Thompson, who passed for a career-high 299 yards last week against West Virginia, but also threw an interception in the final minute that ended a Wildcat comeback attempt. "We've lost two games back-to-back that have come down to making one play, and we just haven't been making that play.
"We've had some great wins and we've had some bad losses this year, too, so we've just got to get back to what makes us K-State and play with confidence and have fun and, more importantly, just finish the season strong for the seniors."
The Wildcats close out the regular season next Saturday at home against Iowa State. The game will kick off either at 2:30 or 6 p.m.