Note: Due to some unfortunate circumstances it appears that Jon will not be able to finish out the series that he started, So I have decided to continue it in reverse order, so if Jon had started on some earlier posts he could publish them
The 2011 season started off with many questions. Questions like who would lineup under for the Wildcats, Collin Klein, a promising Junior who had shown flashes of being a fine running quarterback but questions still persisted about his awkward throwing motion, or Justin Tuggle, originally a Boston College QB who had arrived in the little apple via Blinn College, the JUCO alma mater of K-State great Michael Bishop. There were also questions about the running back position. Although most (and by that I mean all rational) outsiders assumed that Tennessee transfer and former 5 star RB Bryce Brown would win the starting position without much competition. But Bill Snyder seemed to have other ideas, as he indicated that John Hubert, the little known backup to Daniel Thomas, would receive the starting nod if the season would have started in early August. But probably the biggest questions were on the defensive side of the ball, granted there were a few players that were fairly know commodities such as D backs David Garrett, Tysyn Hartman and rising sophomore Ty Zimmerman. But this was largely a group of players that were walk-ons from the post Ron Prince mass JUCO experiment. That combined with the frighteningly high rushing numbers that this group gave up the season before. But there was hope that Bryce Brown's elder brother, Arthur a transfer via Miami, who was also a former 5 star recruit out of high school, would contribute immediately.
Many of these questions would be answered (at least temporarily) in the first game of the season against Eastern Kentucky. Collin Klein would earn the starting nod over Justin Tuggle, not a huge surprise. But in one of the many surprises of the night, John Hubert would start over Bryce Brown. After a deadlocked first half Eastern Kentucky opened scored on a 1 yard run set up after a fumble by a certain 5 star running back. The Wildcats would respond with a field goal from Anthony Cantele. But the Wildcats still found themselves down 4 points going into their final drive of the night. And in their final drive of the night, that included 3 catches by Chris Harper, yet another 5 star Kansas kid who found his way to K-State after a brief stop at Oregon, including, what turned out to be, the game winning catch with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game.
Snyder made good use of the bye week as the Wildcats would come out and shut out Kent State 37-0 in a game that would feature the starting defense returning to the field shortly after being pulled in order to preserve the shut out when it appeared that the golden flashes would score. The next week saw the Wildcats taking their talents to South Beach as the Hurricanes of the once mighty University of Miami played host to Kansas State team that through two game still had more questions than answers. Miami opened up the game with a field goal 3 and a half minutes into the game, but a Collin Klein run and a pass to K-State legacy player Tyler Lockett would give K-State a 14-3 lead going into the locker room at half time. The two teams would trade touchdowns to open up the third quarter before the hurricanes would score two consecutive touchdowns to go up 24-21 early in the fourth quarter. But K-State would respond less than 3 minutes later with a 2 yard rush by John Hubert. Miami then proceeded to drive the ball to the K-State 2 yard line. The next four plays would go down in K-State lore. On the first play 'Canes QB Jacory Harris threw incomplete, then Mike James would take the ball 1 yard to the 1 yard line, then he would attempt to run again with no avail. Then on what would be the last meaning full play of the game Harris would take the ball from the shotgun in an empty backfield, he would then roll out to his left, appearing looking for an open receiver, but ultimately dove for the endzone and as he was brought to the ground by Tre Walker the linesman's arms extended up and into the air. It appeared that the game was over for the wildcats but before Miami was able to kick their extra point, the head referee got buzzed from the review booth that the previous play was under further review. And upon further inspection Harris' knee was down a few inches short of the goal line. Collin Klein then proceeded to take 3 knees and end the game giving K-State yet another tally in the win column.
Over the next 3 weeks, K-State would beat Baylor, and its eventual Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin, Missouri and Texas Tech. All by no more than 7, and 2 of which that included fourth quarter comebacks. The Wildcats then traveled to Lawrence for a second strait year (thank you Nebraska and Colorado) and for the second strait year beat the Jayhawks handily with very very little ease. Then Oklahoma happened, and the slim margins that the "experts" had been saying would eventually catchup with K-State caught up to them. After the first half one would think that K-State was very much in this game as the Wildcats only trailed by 6 going into halftime, but K-State would not score the rest of the game and the sooners would roll to a 58-17 victory.
After the Oklahoma debacle things looked very dark and bleak as the wildcats traveled to the pass happy Oklahoma State in a game that quite frankly scared the crap out of me. And starting out it looked like these fears would be justified as the Cowboys went up 14-0 very early. But the wildcats would storm back to eventually lead 38-37 with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter and tie it up at 45 with 3 minutes left. And on the last play of the game K-State was within just a few yards of knotting it up at 52, but this team gained massive exposure and ultimately launched Collin Klein's Heisman campaign. The next 3 weeks saw K-State win yet 3 more close games against A&M in 4 OTs, Texas in a defensive grind, and Iowa State in a rainy and wet December day, with margins of 3, 4, and 7 respectively.
A 10-2 record would earn K-State a birth in the Cotton bowl (even though they should have played in the Sugar Bowl, but that's a rant for another day) to play Arkansas, who's only losses came against LSU and Alabama, who played for a national championship (if you can count what LSU did as playing), and may have very well been the third best team in the country. Ultimately the the game arrived, and it took forever to get there seriously Cotton Bowl the game doesn't need to be played a week and half into January, and K-State fell flat on their faces to start the game as they went down 19-0 to start the game before Nigel Malone returned a blocked PAT for 2 points and Andre McDonald made his last catch for at least a year on a 3 yard pass. It appeared that K-State would be in this game as Collin Klein cut the lead to 3 going into mid third quarter. But ultimately their slow start would be too much to overcome as Arkansas would go on to win 16-29. (I'm guessing the run in the second to mid third quarter was when Bobby Petrino was texting his girlfriend, just my guess)
After the season numerous awards would come for multiple wildcats as Tyler Lockett and Nigel Malone would be named to All American teams. And 10 wildcats would find their way onto the All Big 12 teams. Coach Snyder would also garner recognition as he would be named Big 12 coach of the year and National Coach of the Year by several publications. Ultimately many questions were answered during this season, Klein would become a super star at QB, Tuggle would switch to LB, Bryce Brown would leave the program a month into the season, John Hubert would become the feature running back for that season and next, and the defense would become a true leader of this program not just with the emergence of Arthur Brown, but also players like Nigel Malone, Meshak Williams, Adam Davis, and Vai Lutui.