MANHATTAN, Kan. - Every coach likes to have teaching moments, even after a win. Bill Snyder has plenty to choose from.
Snyder's 15th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats defeated North Texas 35-21 on Saturday night, but he sounded more like a losing coach than the winner after the game.
"We most certainly did not," he said when asked if his team took a step forward.
The victory still sets up a matchup of undefeated teams in next week's Big 12 opener when the Wildcats travel to No. 5 Oklahoma.
Snyder wonders if his team will be ready after its effort against North Texas.
"If you don't prepare yourself well, almost anything can happen," Snyder said. "We were not very well prepared. Last week, we tackled well; this week, we didn't. Last week, we got lined up reasonably well; this week, we didn't. Last week, we began to communicate better; this week. we didn't."
North Texas (1-2) gained 145 yards and had two touchdowns on the ground, but Kansas State used a surprisingly effective passing game to hold off the Mean Green.
Collin Klein was 15 of 20 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Tramaine Thompson had five catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats (3-0).
"We were not as sharp as we needed to be," Klein said. "There was a lot of emotion coming off a game like (last week's victory over Miami). At the end of the day, great teams are exactly the same every week."
Senior tight end Travis Tannahill could see positives in the newfound success of the passing game.
"They were putting quite a few guys in the box so we took what they gave us," he said. "Last year, teams started stacking the box. We're going to have to be balanced to beat the really good teams in our conference."
Kansas State didn't score on the ground until 13:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when John Hubert scampered around the right end for a 6-yard touchdown.
Klein then followed with a 1-yard plunge for the Wildcats' final points. His touchdown was initially ruled short of the goal line, but after review it was ruled that he stretched the ball across the line.
North Texas added the final points of the game on Brelan Chancellor's third touchdown of the night, a 19-yard reception. The two-point conversion was successful.
North Texas didn't look intimidated. Down 14-7 at the half, the Mean Green started their first drive of the second half from their 12 but proceeded to go 88 yards in 14 plays to draw within one point on a 1-yard run by Chancellor. The extra-point attempt was wide right.
"(Kansas State) is an example of how to build a college football program," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said after his team's gutty performance. "A lot of good effort by the players on our football team, but it was not enough to win the game."
Kansas State answered the Mean Green's score with an eight-play, 77-yard drive when Klein hit Thompson for a 21-yard touchdown. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass as Thompson bobbled the ball. But after review the call was reversed and Thompson had his second touchdown catch of the evening.
"I was trying to make sure I got my whole foot down," Thompson said. "I knew I had a little bit of room."
North Texas controlled the first half statistically, outgaining Kansas State 174 yards to 142. In the first quarter, it was even more pronounced, 94 to minus -1.
But special teams bailed out the Wildcats as they have so many times in the past. Kansas State has 81 non-offensive touchdowns since 1999, second most in FBS in that span.
Kansas State had back-to-back three-and-out drives to start the game before North Texas drove 55 yards for a touchdown on its second series.
Preseason All-American linebacker Arthur Brown was injured on the drive when his right leg bent underneath him while tackling Chancellor. North Texas grabbed the lead three plays later when Chancellor ran it in from six yards.
"It was kind of a scary moment," fellow linebacker Tre Walker said. "Arthur is one of our better players. Any time that happens, a lot of things go through your mind. But our linebacking corps is very strong. Jarell Childs was able to come in and do a great job."
But that lead was short-lived. Tyler Lockett returned the ensuing kick 96 yards for a touchdown.
On North Texas' next drive, the Mean Green got down to the Kansas State 28-yard line before Ryan Mueller dropped quarterback Derek Thompson
for an 11-yard sack. It was the first sack allowed by North Texas in the first three games.
Kansas State then marched from its own 8 to the North Texas 5, but John Hubert had the ball stripped on an inside run and the Mean Green recovered.
Brown returned to the K-State lineup for the next series and played the rest of the half.
Once again, special teams came up big for Kansas State. Vai Lutui surged up the middle to deflect a 45-yard field goal attempt by Zach Olen, keeping the score knotted 7-7.
K-State then went 72 yards on six plays for a touchdown when Klein hit Thompson up the middle for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
NOTES: Snyder has had more wins than any coach in Kansas State football history (162), more than four times the number of second-place Mike Ahearn, who went 39-12 between 1905-10. Snyder's first win at Kansas State came in his fourth game in 1989, a 20-17 victory over North Texas on a touchdown on the final play of the game... McCarney faced a team from the Big 12 for the first time since leaving Iowa State after the 2006 season. He was 2-10 against Kansas State while leading the Cyclones. ... North Texas is tied for the eighth-youngest team in FBS. The Mean Green has 12 freshmen on the two-deep roster, and nearly have of the players on the two-deep are either freshmen or sophomores.