In any turnaround, there are seminal moments—moments that imprint themselves on a fan’s memory and remain forever. We go back there, from time to time, to revel in the euphoria of those moments, and they become a part of the collective psyche of a fan base.
For K-State fans, The 2003 shellacking of No. 1 and possibly “greatest college football team ever” in Arrowhead is certainly one of those moments. Winning a league title, and doing it against Bob Stoops and the K-State assistant coaches who sewed turmoil in 1998 by deciding to leave Coach Snyder’s team when it was on the precipice of crashing the national championship party, was cathartic. It was unexpected joy, and anyone who was a fan at that time can tell you that the final score was 35-7 without having to look it up. We relived that memory in the first installment of Wildcat Nostalgia.
The 2012 Texas game, which secured Bill Snyder’s second league title after his three-year trial retirement, is also imprinted on our memories. It was bittersweet, because injuries and ineffective play had already dashed K-State’s national title hopes two weeks earlier at Baylor. But we remember, anyway, because the resilience and resolve of those players carried them to a win—and a title—over a Longhorn roster loaded with future NFL players. That was our second football watch party.
The 2011 game against Texas A&M is memorable because it went four overtimes and epitomized the toughness and focus of that year’s team, a squad that seemed to find a way to win every close game—so much so, that it was under-appreciated and pegged as an outfit that couldn’t possibly sustain that much “luck.” A&M was gridiron watch party number three.
Those of us K-State fans of the “seasoned” variety, who lived through an era (hell, damned near an epoch) when our football fortunes were truly terrible, also remember the 1993 Copper Bowl, Bill Snyder’s first bowl appearance and only the Wildcats’ second ever. That game was a validation, a celebration of the growth that had come, day by day, step by step, repetition by repetition under Snyder’s method. We can tell you that score without looking it up, too: Cats 52, Cowboys 17. That will surely merit a watch party, too.
It’s possible that all of these moments pale next to the 1998 match-up in Manhattan against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cats had been to five consecutive bowl games by then, and had demolished Donovan McNabb’s Syracuse Orangemen 35-18 in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl the previous year. The one hurdle they had not yet cleared was Nebraska—then one of the four or five dominant programs in college football.
It was an enormous hurdle. In the history of the series, Nebraska had shut out K-State 26 times. They had won 29 straight contests between the two from 1969 to 1997, with the majority of those victories coming by embarrassing margins. Cornhusker fans turned games in Manhattan into de facto Nebraska home games. The Cats even agreed to play in Tokyo once, since K-State fans would not fill the seats in Manhattan.
In 1997, Michael Bishop’s first season at quarterback for K-State, the Huskers had handed the Wildcats their only loss, 56-26. Bishop promised his teammates after that game that it would not happen again. After suffering a 30-point pasting at the hands of the Huskers, the promise was roundly brushed off as wishful bravado.
The rematch was teed up for November 14, 1998. Nebraska, led by quarterback Eric Crouch and coached by Frank Solich, had dropped close games to Texas and Texas A&M, and came in at No. 11. K-State was undefeated and (a position that would have been unthinkable just a a few years earlier) No. 2 in the country. The national media would not, could not, ignore us anymore. ESPN College Gameday was in town, and fans packed the stands for the broadcast. The stadium had not undergone any of the seating additions yet (the east side buildup came between 1999 and 2000), but reports stated that the fan turnout for Gameday was, at that time, a record. It was raucous. Energy was brimming over. K-State was finally poised to slay the beast, to vanquish its greatest tormentor, to clear that impossibly high hurdle and sprint for the tape.
Clear it, they did. At the end of the game, legendary ABC college football broadcaster Keith Jackson called the Little Apple “the happiest place on earth.” That might not have been hyperbole.
Relive the joy with us at 1:00 CDT. The Link: