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K-State Bowl History Part 2: 1997-2001

The Glory Years of K-State bowl trips.

Kansas St v Syracuse
The 1997 Wildcats beat Donovan McNabb and Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl, arguably K-State’s biggest bowl victory ever.

On Wednesday, we started our march through K-State’s bowl history leading up to Tuesday’s Cactus Bowl. That covered K-State bowl games from 1982 through the start of 1997. Beginning with the 1993 Copper Bowl, we started to see a lot of familiar names.

Today we pick up where we left off earlier, and it’s a good batch. From the 1997 Fiesta Bowl to the 2001 Cotton Bowl (for the 2000 season), K-State won 3 bowl games in 4 years, including two consecutive bowls for the only time in school history. And there are even more familiar names this time around.

1997 Fiesta Bowl

K-State had its best season in ages — if not ever -- in 1997. The Wildcats finally got over the hump against Colorado for Bill Snyder’s first win against the Buffaloes (after playing to a 16-16 tie in 1993) and went 10-1 in the regular season, only losing at No. 3 Nebraska, who went on to be named national champions by the coaches’ poll.

For all that success, the Wildcats got a New Year’s Eve trip to Tempe, Arizona, to play the 9-3 Syracuse Orangemen, led by some guy named Donovan McNabb.

A field goal gave Syracuse a 3-0 lead in an otherwise quiet first quarter, but the Wildcats blew the game open in the second quarter as QB Michael Bishop led 3 consecutive touchdown drives, with TD passes to Darnell McDonald and Justin Swift, along with a rushing touchdown. Syracuse scored 12 points to finish the half with K-State ahead 12-15.

The third quarter was even quieter than the first, with neither team scoring, but Bishop threw 2 more touchdowns to McDonald in the fourth quarter, including a 77-yard pass that set the Fiesta Bowl record. Another Syracuse field goal kept the score a respectable 35-18, Wildcats.

Bishop threw for 317 yards and ran for 73 more to earn Offensive Player of the Game honors, while McDonald caught seven passes for 206 yards. That single game represented 33 percent of McDonald’s catches, 47 percent of his yards, and 50 percent of his touchdowns for the season. On defense, Travis Ochs picked off a pass and recovered a fumble, earning Defensive Player of the Game honors.

1998 Alamo Bowl

The end of the 1998 season was so disappointing for K-State. First they couldn’t seal the deal in double overtime against Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship when they were practically a shoo-in for the BCS title game. Then they fell all the way out of the BCS to the Alamo Bowl to play a 24th-ranked 8-4 Purdue team. Hey, at least they got a new rule nicknamed after them, right?!

The Wildcats fell behind 27-13 through three quarters of play before mounting a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. David Allen scored on a 3-yard run with 12 minutes left to cut it to a 1-score game, but a Purdue field goal pushed the lead to 10 again. With 6:23 left, Bishop found McDonald for an 88-yard touchdown pass, trimming the lead to a field goal. With 1:25 left, Bishop threw another touchdown pass, this time to Swift from 2 yards out. K-State had completed the comeback and taken a 34-30 lead.

Then it all went to hell again. A sophomore QB named Drew Brees quickly led the Boilermakers on a touchdown drive, capped off with a 24-yard pass with 30 seconds left. K-State lost 37-34.

1999 Holiday Bowl

After the disappointment of the 1998 postseason, the Wildcats came out in 1999 and put together another strong regular season, only losing at Nebraska, again. (The Wildcats took out that frustration on Missouri the next week, throttling the Tigers 66-0.)

Finishing the year in sixth place in the BCS standings, the Wildcats again were shut out of the BCS bowls, going instead to San Diego for a Holiday Bowl matchup against unranked 7-4 Washington.

After allowing a Washington field goal, the Wildcats responded with a touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard run by Jonathan Beasley. The Wildcats and Huskies traded field goals, but a Washington touchdown gave the Huskies a 13-10 halftime lead.

Beasley put the Wildcats back ahead with an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but Washington again responded to retake the lead, 2017. Beasley scored his third rushing touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter, giving K-State a 24-20 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.

2001 Cotton Bowl

An 10-2 regular season in 2000 set K-State up with a rematch against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, but a 27-24 loss at Arrowhead Stadium again left K-State looking for its first BCS bowl game.

Instead, the Wildcats went to their second Cotton Bowl to face No. 21 Tennessee.

Beasley put on a show in the first 20 minutes of the game, running for a 14-yard TD and throwing passes of 56 and 10 yards to Quincy Morgan for two more scores, taking a 21-7 lead, and the Wildcats still led 21-14 at halftime.

12- and 6-yard TD runs by Josh Scobey in the third quarter basically sealed the victory, although a Tennessee TD in the fourth quarter resulted in a final score of 35-21, K-State. Beasley and DE Chris Johnson were named MVPs for the game, and Scobey set a K-State bowl record with 147 rushing yards. The K-State defense limited Tennessee freshman Casey Clausen to 7-of-25 passing with 3 interceptions.

If any K-State bowl victory rivals the 1997 Fiesta Bowl, it is this one.

2001 Bowl

After four fantastic seasons, the Wildcats came crashing back down to earth in 2001 with a 6-5 regular season that included four consecutive losses. K-State’s best win of the season was either against the 6-6 USC Trojans or the 7-5 Iowa State Cyclones.

For that, the Wildcats got a rematch of the 1997 Fiesta Bowl against the 9-3 Syracuse Orangemen. Syracuse took its revenge, holding K-State to just a field goal by Joe Rheem. If the 2001 Cotton Bowl rivaled the 1997 Fiesta Bowl, this game rivaled the 1994 Aloha Bowl for K-State’s worst showing in a bowl game.