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The Greatest Drive in K-State History; Also, D-III independets, Wisconsin, and USA South Previews

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We dip into the mailbag today as we continue getting ready for football.

Close, but no cigar.
Close, but no cigar.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Lead

Today, we're answering questions from the trusty mailbag. We'll start with our intrepid SlateMistress wildcat00, who asks, "In your opinion, what was the greatest play or drive in the history of K-State football?"

There was the pair of Paul Watson-engineered touchdown drives in the final eight minutes to beat Kansas 16-12 in 1991. But Kansas still almost won that game, and the win rightly belongs on the shoulders of the K-State defense, which held Kansas to only 16 points despite six Wildcat turnovers.

Chad May hitting Kevin Lockett for 44 yards to set up Tate Wright's 35-yard field goal with 21 seconds to go to tie Colorado 16-16 in 1993? Yeah, but it was just a tie.

There was another time K-State overcame six turnovers and scored twice in the final minutes: Cincinnati, 1995. Matt Miller hit Kevin Lockett for a 28-yard score to put the Wildcats up, but the Bearcats came right back to score, forcing Miller to again find Lockett from 22 on the final play of the game. It was a great pair of drives, but again... the defense earned that win, and it was over a team K-State should have routed.

Then there was the drive that wasn't, and one which might well be the greatest drive of all time if the results had been different: the final drive of the Cotton Bowl against BYU.

The drive to take the lead on Nebraska in 1998, which ended with an 11-yard pass from Michael Bishop to Andre McDonald. That was something. It's definitely up there on the list. But it's not number one. Nor was the drive against Missouri the following week which clinched the game and secured the top spot in the coaches' poll heading into That Game We Don't Talk About.

Jonathan Beasley to Quincy Morgan on a 12-yard strike with 2:52 to go to beat Nebraska 29-28 in 2000. Too much time left in that game, though, and there's too much bitterness from that year. The losses to Oklahoma take all the vinegar out of it.

It was a play, not a drive, but how can anyone forget the blocked PAT to secure the Farmageddon win at Arrowhead in 2009? Or that insane day in Manhattan with the skies themselves threatening to sweep everyone up into heaven, and Carson Coffman ran in from seven yards out to beat Central Florida 17-13?

The goal line stand in Miami, followed a week later by Arthur Brown's interception to set up the game-winning Anthony Cantele field goal to knock off RGIII and Baylor. Really, every Big 12 win that season except for Kansas was insane, wasn't it? Even the loss to Oklahoma State was epic.

All great moments. Just revisiting them to write this piece causes chills.

But for the ultimate answer to the question, start on the K-State 15-yard line with 1:35 to go after an opponent touchdown put the Wildcats down by three. Or, really, start a few seconds later and a few yards further back, because that drive started with a sack. And then a defensive pass interference call. And a 26-yard sideline completion, and after another sack, another 20-yard catch. And another 20-yard catch. And then a 10-yard catch.

That's 76 yards, all from quarterback Carl Straw to wide receiver (and former assistant coach) Michael Smith. After two more incompletions, and with only four seconds left on the clock, Straw hit Frank Hernandez on a 12-yard corner route, and minutes later the goalposts were on the way to Aggieville.

K-State 17, North Texas 14, September 30 1989. There have been other great drives, great plays, great moments. But that was the greatest and most important drive in Wildcat history. It was the drive which started it all.

Division III Independents Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION OVERALL
rv University of Chicago Maroons> Chicago IL 8-1
5 Wesley College Wolverines> Dover DE 12-2
Washington University Bears Saint Louis MO 4-6
Alfred State College Pioneers Alfred NY 1-7
rv Maranatha Baptist University Sabercats Watertown WI 0-6

The independent ranks drop by 40% as Wesley joins the New Jersey Athletic Conference while Chicago and Washington join the Southern Athletics Association (for two years, after which point they'll leave again -- Washington to the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, Chicago undetermined at this time). Meanwhile, an existing independent which hasn't previously sponsored football takes the field: the Finlandia University Lions from Hancock, Michigan.

Alfred State is coming off a pair of one-win seasons. Both of those wins were against Newport News Apprentice, which as we've noted before isn't an actual college, but not one of the "bad" ones. The Pioneers, not to be confused with the Alfred University Saxons, are still only a provisional member of the NCAA as they continue their move up from the junior college ranks. They lose WR Rasheed Williams, who signed a rookie deal with the Lions, as well as head coach Mick Caba, retiring after 15 seasons. His replacement is Jarod Dodson, former DC at South Dakota Mines, and a former assistant at Buffalo under Turner Gill.

Maranatha Baptist cancelled three road games last year because they simply didn't have enough players due to injuries. They went 6-3 in 2006, their second six-win campaign in four year; they have won seven games since. They've lost 15 in a row and 25 of their last 26. There's your preview.

Finlandia finally takes the field after years of preparation. Tim Driscoll, former defensive coordinator at Michigan Tech, will lead the program into an insanely challenging schedule. Partially as a result of their remote location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, by the end of September the Lions will have visited both Whitewater and Oshkosh and hosted Stevens Point, all of whom we just happen to be about to discuss. For a first year program, that's simply bonkers. Still, the schedule does contain at least a couple of winnable games, as the Lions will take on Maranatha home-and-home. Finlandia, as you'll be unsurprised to learn, is a major center of Finnish-American culture; the school was even known as Suomi College until 2000.

Game of the year: I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence here. There isn't one. Maybe next year, after Finlandia's got a season under their belts...

Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION WIAC OVERALL
1 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks Whitewater WI 7-0 15-0
18 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans Oshkosh WI 6-1 6-4
rv University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers Platteville WI 5-2 7-3
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers Stevens Point WI 4-3 7-3
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Eagles La Crosse WI 2-5 3-7
University of Wisconsin-River Falls Falcons River Falls WI 2-5 3-7
University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils Menominee WI 1-6 2-8
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds Eau Claire WI 1-6 1-9

If there were ever a Division III league that you should follow strictly based on the level of play, it's this one. You might look at Oshkosh going 0-3 in non-conference play then beating everyone but Whitewater and shake your head. Um, champ, two of those three losses were to the NAIA national championship runner-up -- and remember, NAIA schools get to give scholarships, so they've actually got an advantage on D-III schools -- and South Dakota State.

You know, the South Dakota State that made the FCS playoffs and had a running back who torched both Nebraska and Kansas for nearly 200 yards a game? Yeah.

This league is brutal, and nothing provides more evidence than the fact that Whitewater sometimes has less trouble winning playoff games than conference games.

Wisconsin-Whitewater loses a lot. Gone are two first-team All-Americans -- WR Jake Kumerow (D3football.com's national Offensive Player of the Year) and CB Brady Grayvold -- and second-team All-American QB Matt Behrendt. Gone are first-team WIAC WR Justin Howard and DB Marcus McLin. And gone is head coach Lance Leipold, who's taken his ridiculous 109-6 career record to Buffalo. After a national search, Whitewater went ahead and promoted defensive line coach and interim boss Kevin Bullis; he'll try and keep Whitewater's 32-game winning streak going. He'll have help; the Warhawks actually return two first-team All-Americans in G Conner Peters and DT Zach Franz, and second-team LB Justin Dischler, and eight WIAC second-teamers, and... look. If you want to pick someone other than Whitewater this year, be my guest.

Wisconsin-Oshkosh has slid from 13 wins (and the only non-Whitewater WIAC title since 2005) to 8 to 6, and yet it all still seems okay. The Titans did miss the playoffs last year, but it had nothing to do with the three losses which opened the season; those games effectively didn't count as far as the committee was concerned. Replace one of those games with a random D-III bodybag from the same region, and Oshkosh probably gets in. Second-team All-American TE Joe Sommers returns, as well as first-team WIAC OL Sam Versnik and SP C.J. Blackburn. But the Titans lose four first-team all-conference selections on the defense as well as All-American punter Nate Ray. The downward trend is excusable because of the schedule (which is much easier this season), but if Oshkosh doesn't reload that defense, they could be in for a slide down the standings as well as the win counter.

Wisconsin-Platteville lost to Whitewater and Oshkosh last year by a combined 13 points. They've risen alongside Oshkosh as the primary challengers to the throne over the last four years, earning a playoff bid in 2013. Gone are first-team All-American and WIAC Defensive Player of the Year LB Jacob Zilbar and second-team G Jayson Eddy, along with seven other WIAC first- and seccond-team selections. Two first-teamers return, however, in WR Russell Martin and DL Andrew Robinson. The Pioneers are facing the same non-conference slate as last year, sites reversed. Reversing the one loss, to North Central (IL), may be the difference between football and video games in late November.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point has slowly rebounded from their 2012 nadir, when they went 2-8. In the late 00s, the Pointers were Whitewater's primary threat. Four Pointers were first-team all-WIAC selections last year; two return, with DL Aaron Karlen receiving second-team preseason All-American honors. Stevens Point is rising, but there may be a ceiling in the way.

Wisconsin-La Crosse has been a model of consistency. In five of the last seven years, the Eagles have gone 3-7. For eight straight years, they've gone either 2-5 or 3-4 in conference play. Their only first-team selection, RB Ben Hertrampf, is gone, as are all three second-teamers. The Eagles have avoided disaster for a long while. The balloon may be about to burst.

Wisconsin-River Falls used to be a model of consistency, going 3-7 every year from 2002-2009, save for a 2-7 mark in 2003. They were also 3-7 last year. It's that span from 2010-2013 that's the problem; the Falcons were 4-36 over those four years, including an 0-10 2013. So last year was progress, and their three best players all return: K Ryan Kusilek, AP Rance Ashley, and DB Robbie Flom. A push to the top half of the WIAC is unlikely, but River Falls could post their best finish since 2000.

Wisconsin-Stout is coming off their worst season since they also finished 2-8 in 1999. They have little returning other than second-team OL Kane'ala Atchison-Keolanui, and things look grim for the Blue Devils in 2015. Facing two perennial playoff teams in the non-conference isn't going to help matters one bit.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire suffered their worst outcome since 1995 last season. Todd Glaser, a Blugold lifer who's run the program for a decade, is on the hot seat. OL Isiah Cage returns from last years WIAC second team, but there's little star power in the chamber.

Game of the year: Pointing at any of the games between Whitewater, Oshkosh, and Platteville would be easy. But we're going to cast our hoary eyes on September 24, when Whitewater travels to Sioux City to take on Morningside, last year's 4th-ranked team in the NAIA, 2012 national runners-up, and 2013-14 semifinalists. With no disrespect intended to Oshkosh and Platteville, Whitewater's probability of finally losing a game will be highest that day.

USA South Athletic Conference Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION USAC OVERALL
rv Christopher Newport University Captains Newport News VA 7-1 8-4
Huntingdon College Hawks Montgomery AL 6-2 7-3
Maryville College Scots Maryville TN 6-2 7-3
Methodist University Monarchs Fayetteville NC 5-3 6-4
North Carolina Wesleyan College Battling Bishops Rocky Mount NC 4-4 5-5
LaGrange College Panthers LaGrange GA 3-5 5-5
Greensboro College Pride Greensboro NC 3-5 3-7
Averett University Cougars Danville VA 1-7 2-8
Ferrum College Panthers Ferrum VA 1-7 1-9

The king is dead. Christopher Newport, who had won or shared ten conference titles this century, has departed for the New Jersey Athletic Conference. USA South has already had their Media Days, so we can report that the coaches are mostly in agreement that Huntingdon is the heir to the throne.

Huntingdon returns two USAC first-team selections, DB Anthony White and OL Chael Pridgen. They lose USAC Defensive Player of the Year and honorable mention All-American Zack Brownell and DB Jeremy Murphy, who received second-team All-American honors as a special teams selection. Still, Huntingdon has carried excellence over into the USAC; after several successful seasons as an independent, the school enters its third year in the league as the consensus favorite, receiving six first-place votes.

Maryville (TN) had the USAC's only other All-America mention, DT Zack Capehart. He's graduated, though, along with three other USAC first-teamsrs. RB Trenton Shuler, DE Jonathan Clark, LB Gabe Johnson, and DB Micah Smith, first-team selections all, return. Maryville picked up one of the other two first-place votes. The Scots will play their first season under Shaun Hayes, promoted from co-offensive coordinator to replace Mike Rader. Rader, who led Maryville to their first and only NCAA playoff appearance in 2013, resigned to return to his alma mater, joining Carl Torbush's staff at the reinstated East Tennessee State program.

Methodist suffered through a dismal second half of the 00s. C.J. Goss was promoted to head coach prior to the 2013 season, and the Monarchs immediately won 8 games and shared the USAC title. They regressed a bit last season, but they still picked up the remaining first place vote in the preseason poll. This despite losing two-time all-USAC QB Max Reber, three-time honoree DL B.J. Minter, and second-teamers RB John Papillon and WR Patrick Jacobs. LB Bryan Bing and OL Brandon Sparrow also received first-team nods, and they'll be back in 2015.

LaGrange has, aside from a 9-2 campaign in 2008, been decidedly average. They lose their only first-team selection, WR Griffin Roelle, and second-team honoree OL Scottie Connors. Sophomore DB T.J. Bulock returns, and the coaches tabbed LaGrange to move up a spot in 2015.

North Carolina Wesleyan peaked late in the 00s, being responsible for two of the five times Christopher Newport didn't claim a share of the USAC title. Since 2010, though, things have been dismal. Last year saw a rebound to .500 under second-year boss Jeff Filkovski, but the loss of RB Jacques Alston is leading to the expectation of regression. Alston, the USAC Offensive Player of the Year, who also received first-team honors as a return specialist. Also receiving dual honors was first-team WR Malik Adams, who was named the second-team return specialist; he'll be back for his junior year.

Averett matched their win total from the two previous seasons combined, which is not that impressive when you go 2-8. Still, it's progress for Cleive Adams as he enters his second season. Returning seniors DB Dontae Gilbert and P Hobie Proctor were both named to the USAC second team last year. When the 2015 season ends, Averett will break ground on a stadium expansion, getting a shiny new press box designed in an antebellum style. Spiffy.

Ferrum had consecutive seven-win seasons in 2011-12, but the bottom's fallen out. This is bad news for head coach David Harper, who took over in 2012 and has seen his win totals fall from seven to two to one. OL Bryan Smith, a second-team selection, returns along with sophomore DL Montel Lee, a first-team honoree and last year's USAC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Greensboro returns second-team LB Chase Sams and Offensive Rookie of the Year WR Gregory Clifton. The Pride, who have never had a winning season, are expected to slide back into the cellar this season.

Game of the year: On September 5, Huntingdon opens the season by hosting Louisiana College. The Wildcats have spent most of the last decade riding shotgun to powerhouse Mary Hardin-Baylor in the American Southwest Conference; a win would solidify Huntingdon's bona fides in the event they require a hard-to-acquire at-large bid to the playoffs.

Tomorrow

See, we answer mailbag questions. Get yours in. Tomorrow we'll preview the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.