WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS,
AND WE'LL KEEP ON FIGHTING
'TIL THE END!
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
NO TIME FOR LOSERS,
'CAUSE WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS...
OF THE WORLD...
Well, that was fun. Too bad it didn't happen that way, because there is no doubt in my mind that we were the best team in the country that year. We had Tim Tebow before there was a Tim Tebow, and his name was Michael Bishop, dammit. Replace "Kansas State Wildcats" with "Oklahoma Sooners" and even a 2OT setback in the Big 12 Championship would not have kept us out of the Fiesta Bowl (hell, a 28-point setback in 2003 didn't keep them out).
I'm glad we won this one because a No. 3 seed is as favorable as it gets for K-State. The 1999 team is in a decent position to defend its title, but lurking in its regional is the one team that beat them - Nebraska. (More on that Sunday...) The 2000 and 2003 teams open as low seeds on the road, and the 2002 team barely squeaks into a No. 8 seed, but I think it has a decent chance to be the Florida of its bracket. We shall see.
Anyhow, don't go anywhere, because there's much more where this came from, and as we get closer to the present, my recaps should improve in detail as I remember more of what happened in more recent seasons.
No. 3 Kansas State Wildcats (14-1) VS. No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium - Tempe, Ariz.
Saturday, Jan. 2, 1999 - 6 PM MST
Wind: WNW 13 MPH
Final Score: Kansas State 22, Ohio State 12
Player of the Game
Kansas State RB Marlon Charles
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - In just its first year of existence, the FBS National Championship has turned college football upside-down.
Exhibit A? "Futility U" is the 1998 national champion.
Kansas State (15-1) defeated Ohio State (13-2) 22-12 Saturday night to win the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and claim the Sears National Championship Trophy.
It was a historic moment for the school, which was tagged by Sports Illustrated with the embarrassing moniker in 1988 in recognition of its status as the losingest football program in a major conference.
That changed when Bill Snyder was hired to resuscitate the moribund program. 10 years later, Snyder was showered with Gatorade after winning his second consecutive Fiesta Bowl, a crowning achievement for the man who transformed the worst program in the nation into the #1 team in the nation.
After the game, jubilant purple-clad fans partied late into the Arizona night. "It's a dream come true," said Robert Lipson, a "super fan" who said he hasn't missed a single K-State game, home or away, in years.
Snyder, who once proclaimed that the "greatest opportunity for a turnaround in college football" existed at K-State, delivered on that promise after 10 years of steady improvement in fundamentals, recruiting, facilities, and fan support, and the keystone performance came tonight in a game in which the Wildcats never trailed.
The Wildcats and the Buckeyes each gained only one 1st down on their opening possession and had to punt. K-State began its second drive on its own 14-yard line, but things changed quickly when RB Marlon Charles burst through the middle of a Buckeye blitz and rumbled 71 yards to start the drive.
Two plays later, QB Michael Bishop, who won MVP honors last year in this stadium against Syracuse, hit Frank Murphy for a 10-yard gain. A 1-yard Eric Hickson run made it 4th and 2 at the 7, and Snyder faced a difficult decision. He rolled the dice, and Charles rewarded his risk-taking by finishing what he started, rushing up the middle again for the last seven yards and the TD.
On the ensuing possession, K-State's defense again held Ohio State to just one 1st down and a punt, and yet again the Wildcats started a drive hot as Hickson scrambled for 45 yards on a draw play. He lost three yards two plays later to make it 3rd and 13, and Darnell McDonald's acrobatic 11-yard reception near the sideline wasn't enough to convert.
This time, leading 7-0, Snyder played it safe, trotting out All-American K Martin Gramatica to attempt a 28-yarder. Gramatica slipped it just inside the upright and increased the lead to 10.
Ohio State needed to respond. On the next drive, QB Joe Germaine converted two 1st downs and drove the Buckeyes to the K-State 38, but then LB Mark Simoneau intercepted him and returned it to the Ohio State 48. K-State failed to capitalize, as Bishop threw an INT right back to Ahmed Plummer three plays into the drive.
This time, Ohio State was able to advance a Reggie Germany fumble to the K-State 32, and K Dan Stultz hooked a 46-yard FG through to finally get his team on the board early in the 2nd quarter.
After two more ineffective K-State drives, Ohio State thought they could pull closer when Michael Wiley's 45-yard off-tackle run set them up at the Wildcat 26, but Stultz's 42-yard attempt was no good. Bishop threw on 1st down to McDonald, who made a nice catch and shed several tackles as he gained 49 yards. This set Gramatica up for his second make, a 35-yarder with 1:27 left in the half.
Ohio State, down 3-13, went 3-and-out but gained renewed life when Charles fumbled the ball on 1st down at the KSU 36. Germaine wasted no time, lobbing a 39-yard TD pass to Germany, and K-State chose to run out the half and preserve its slim 13-10 lead.
That lead would grow even more perilous, as the only score in the 3rd quarter was an Ohio State safety to make it a 13-12 ballgame. Several punts into the second half, OSU managed to pin K-State at their own 9-yard line. On the subsequent play, Bishop was blindsided in the end zone by Joe Cooper.
Ohio State took the safety kick to just across midfield, but went 3-and-out. Their defense recovered a Bishop fumble on the next drive, but the Buckeyes' woes on offense continued as they were forced to settle for a 47-yard Stultz FG attempt, and he pushed his kick wide left for the second time in a row.
Ohio State's inability to capitalize on multiple chances in a close game finally came back to haunt them in the final period. After the two teams traded several more punts, Gramatica kicked his third FG, a 31-yarder, and began the slow bleeding of OSU's hopes.
He accelerated the process with his 47-yarder three minutes later, and finally nailed the coffin shut with his K-State record-tying fifth FG made in as many tries, a 27-yarder with 59 seconds remaining, as K-Staters cheered and despondent Ohio State fans looked on, their team having burned three timeouts just prior in the vain hope that Gramatica might finally miss a kick.
But this was the Wildcats' night, and no Buckeye miracles were in the making to derail it.
Charles gained 78 of his 83 yards on the first scoring drive, but producing K-State's only TD was enough to earn him AFCA Player of the Game honors. He should probably consider giving a piece of the trophy to Gramatica, though, as the senior kicker ensured the biggest win in Kansas State history in his final game as a college athlete.
Other K-State standouts were Bishop (a steady 9-19 for 120 yards), Hickson (20 carries, 76 yards), McDonald (4 catches, 75 yards, his best performance in the playoff), and Simoneau (15 tackles, a sack, and an INT).
Wiley was spectacular in defeat, rushing 24 times for 126 yards. Germaine distributed the ball well, going 21-33 for 169 yards and completing at least three passes to five different receivers. But Stultz's 1-3 kicking performance and multiple missed opportunities on 3rd down cost the Buckeyes too much against this opponent, despite having more 1st downs than K-State (18-10).
Kansas State may be hard-pressed to repeat this performance next season, as Bishop, Gramatica, McDonald, Hickson, and a slew of other seniors played their last game tonight in the desert. That said, it will be entertaining to watch them try.
All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out - it's pretty cool.
All bowl logos are courtesy of sportslogos.net, with some modification.
The 1999 FBS Playoff field will be unveiled Sunday at noon. Tomorrow, I will post a few tables. Right now, I'm thinking of the following:
- A running tally of real and mythical champions, for comparison purposes
- What the final AP Poll might have looked like after this playoff
- Win-loss records of all teams, coaches, conferences, and seeds in the playoff (cumulative)
If there's anything else you'd like me to track, just let me know. Until then, I hope everyone sleeps soundly tonight, dreaming of tortilla chips and Waterford crystal trophies for us instead of the Gators.
- SUNDAY: 1999 field announced
- MONDAY: First half of the 1st round games played (higher seed hosts)
- TUESDAY: Second half of the 1st round games played (higher seed hosts)
- WEDNESDAY: 2nd round games played (bowl sites)
- THURSDAY: Final Four (bowl sites)
- FRIDAY: National Championship
- SATURDAY: Stats and analysis