It has been a great week of looking back and remembering the 2003 Big 12 Championship, which, if you hadn't heard, Kansas State won in "if trucking is wrong, Josh Buhl doesn't want to be right" fashion. We cap it all on Friday with Derek's phenomenal piece. (hint, hint...)
For now, we'll use the Round Table to revisit some of our own memories — ranging from being kids in college, to sharing a special family moment, to Morse being lampooned somewhere not even remotely close to Manhattan during that entire season.
Share your experiences below!
Let's start big and work our way to specifics ... In semi-short fashion, how do you remember that season as it played out?
Jon: Man. I was distraught. It didn't help that I was 1600 miles away, and even just ten short years ago coverage was still pretty sketchy. I mean, understand here: the second game I actually got to see all year -- the Cal game being the first -- was Nebraska. I didn't get to see the losses; I just had to agonize over box scores. So it wasn't until Nebraska that I even had a feeling the season would be anything but a disaster.
Derek: I was a freshman in college, living in the dorms in Great Bend. All I remember from the regular season is jumping up and down in front of the TV in my dorm when James Terry caught that long TD pass at Nebraska. I remember thinking "Thank God Ell is back."
TB: That was my sophomore year in Manhattan, so I lived that one close up. Before the year, I was convinced K-State would play for a national title. Of course, at that stage in my life, I thought playing for a national title was easier than it actually is. So you can imagine the nut-punch the Marshall game was, followed by the gut-punch and haymaker of the Texas and Oklahoma State games.
Kitchen: That was a crazy time in my life. Just out of school and months into my first "career" job as a PR Manager for SCCA in Topeka. I bring that up because it meant it was the first season I couldn't stay glued to a football calendar. So, when the Cats dropped three in a row, I wrote it off for the most part. But, having a job also meant I could afford to buy Big 12 Championship tickets. I bought two in the early fall when they first came out because my brother and I wanted to watch one in person, not knowing who was going to play in that game ...
We know what the team thought about the game going in, but what did you think? Did K-State realistically have a shot to win?
Jon: I had... a feeling. It wasn't a strong feeling, but I knew that while Stoops appeared to have Snyder's number, the games were always still close. The three losses has all been close. I didn't think they'd win, but I thought the media pretending that K-State was just a speed bump was ridiculous.
Derek: I still had a really bad taste in my mouth from the 2000 season and I was getting really sick of hearing about just how great the Sooners were. I wanted to believe, but I didn't think the secondary could hold up. I was pretty doubtful.
TB: I knew K-State was a lot better than most people thought, because over the last month of the season they played like they had been expected to before the year. But I didn't know if that was enough.
Kitchen: Not really. I mean, I wanted to believe KSU was riding high and playing its best football at the right time, but when EVERYBODY says one team is going to win (*cough* Alabama now, *cough), you tend to believe it. Preseason expectations told us the Wildcats were talented, even if three losses in the middle of the year had separated potential from reality a bit like oil and water in my mind. I knew they were good. I didn't know if they were that good.
When the Wildcats fell behind immediately like they did, admit it: You thought it was going to play out just like Kirk Herbstreit predicted, didn't you?
Jon: I honestly never get worried over the first touchdown. Teams score on the first drive all the time. It's why when some tool on Twitter starts laughing because Lower Pennsytucky State has a 7-0 lead on Alabama with 9:23 to go in the first quarter, I roll my eyes.
Derek: I remember I was sitting in my parent's living room with a friend and everyone else was in the kitchen. When Jones broke the long run I remember my Dad yelling "Is it over?" (He's a big fan but has a tendency to be pessimistic.) I don't remember if I said anything back out loud but I remember thinking "Hell no, Sproles is gonna do that like four times."
TB: I wasn't quite throwing in the towel, but it was a little less than encouraging.
Kitchen: Remember that brother I mentioned earlier? Yeah, he's a gigantic Oklahoma fan (has been since pre-John Blake days, so he paid his dues). Little bro was a bit late getting to the game, so he comes swagger-sauntering in, decked out in OU gear, with the score 7-0. I was worried because K-State got gashed on that drive, and OU made it look easy. When you're the massive underdog in that spot, you can't feel good. But, little did we know — and we laugh about it now — that little brother would not get to watch his team score a single point with him in attendance. That warms my heart.
When it ended, where were you? At home? Down near the field where a lot of KSU fans stayed after to celebrate? In a bar (yes, Morse, we know you were certainly old enough ...)
Jon: Har, har, har. I had watched the game in my living room on my ginormous 47" big-screen -- you know, those old-fashioned ones that literally weigh 1000 pounds -- with some buddies from work and a lot of alcohol. One of them was a Sooner fan. It was sweet.
Derek: Like I said, I was at my parent's house. And I was 19, so no, I didn't drink. I remember my friend and I jumping up and down and screaming when Sims ran the interception back at the end. I was the sports editor of the Barton Community College newspaper at the time and I remember thinking, "Man, I wish I'd gone to K-State so I could write a story about this."
Things worked out.
TB: I hope people aren't getting tired of my story. I drove to the game with my roommate, Dave. We were next to an old man who'd seen decades of putrid K-State football teams. After the game, we (metaphorically) licked the tears of sadness off Sooner fans in the Arrowhead parking lot, Scott-Tenorman-Must-Die Style. And then we drove back to Manhattan.
Kitchen: We sat upperdeck in the corner, which gave me a perfect All-22 view of Sproles' screen pass TD as he ran to the other end of the stadium. When that play developed and the red waters split, my only words were "Oh, s***!" because you could see from line of scrimmage to end zone from my seat. That's how open it was in the middle.
There were a ton of KSU fans sitting around us, with some OU sprinkled in. As the game wore on, the red wore out, leaving my brother in the middle of a big purple group. With each score, we all "patted" him on the back, repeatedly, with tender care. To his credit, he stuck it out through the end ... even as the OU band was reduced to playing "Boomer Sooner" after positive plays instead of points.
We know that not everyone sees that win as the biggest in school history. Where does it rank for you?
Jon: It really all depends on what one means by "biggest". I think in a lot of respects the Fiesta Bowl win over Syracuse is the "biggest" because it marks (so far) the apex of K-State's football achievement: a (not technically, but for all intents and purposes) BCS bowl win. That said, it is absolutely the best moment I've had at the end of a game as a fan of the program. Only spending a week seeing "(1) KSU" twice comes close.
Derek: I was at the 1998 Nebraska game and that was pretty incredible, but I was really confident we'd win that game. I was also at the 2006 Texas game and that was also incredible considering I had the exact opposite attitude going in. But the 2003 Championship game is by far my favorite, and it's not even close. I'm really glad we're celebrating it.
TB: Biggest single night, without a doubt. For me, only last year's game against Texas comes close.
Kitchen: Personal me says yes, biggest game ever because I got to see it in person. Analytical me could point to several other games that might rank ahead: First bowl win, finally topping both Colorado and Nebraska, first major bowl win, etc. All of those are "biggest" but for different reasons, I think.