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Kansas State: Shades of 1998 November 18, 2012

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
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We’ve seen this before.  This is not the first time that Kansas State’s national championship run was ruined late in the season.  The Wildcats made a similar run in 1998, defeating powerful Nebraska for the first time in 30 years, among other things.  But come the Big XII championship game of that year, K-State overlooked a hungry Texas A&M, who snuck up on them and overtook them towards the end of the game.  Although that bumped the Wildcats down to only no. 4 in the rankings, it was too late to get a decent consolation prize.

Everyone seemed to assume that K-State was a lock on the Fiesta Bowl (where the BCS national championship was to be held), so other teams got “locked-in” to other BCS bowl games (Orange, Sugar and Rose).  With the Wildcats’ unexpected loss, they were left out in the proverbial cold, having to settle for the Alamo Bowl, then given the no. 4 pick for both the Big XII and the Big Ten.  One would imagine that they would not be too happy with having to settle for that lesser prize.  Purdue, their opponent for the 1998 Alamo Bowl, was, conversely, quite happy to make a return appearance in San Antonio (a fun town for a bowl game, fyi.), having won that bowl game the previous year.  Though the Boilers were unranked and Kansas State was still the fourth-highest ranked team in the land, Purdue came in, what made the difference was that Purdue was happy to be there for the Dec. 29 game, K-State not so much.

Despite Coach Bill Snyder’s moderately happy-sounding speech at the kickoff luncheon the day before the game (Dec. 28, 1998) in a convention room of the Marriott Hotel in downtown San Antonio, where he assured both the Wildcat and Boilermaker fans in attendance that “we’re very much looking forward to playing the University of Purdue,” they sure did not give that impression on the field of play in the Alamodome the next evening.  After a scoreless first quarter, Purdue drew (if you’ll pardon the expression) first blood in the second with a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Chris Daniels, and we never let up for the rest of the game.  Only in the last few minutes did K-State manage to inch ahead of us with a touchdown of their own, but Purdue answered on the very next possession, marching right down the field and put it away for good.  The Wildcats did have the last possession of the game, but with only less than a minute or so left in the game, they were unable to muster the necessary score.  We triumphed in the end, 37-34.  It was our biggest win in probably 20 years.

I say “we” because I was but a freshman student manager on the Purdue team during that game, witnessing all of this first-hand.  The point in all of this, given recent developments, is that we’ve seen this scenario with K-State play out before.  The Wildcats seem to be on the same path today.  The only saving grace for K-State today is that this sudden, season-derailing loss from last night came earlier than when the Big XII championship game would be (there is no such game for this season, given the recent changes in conference membership). Hence, there is still time to salvage things with earning a more prestigious bowl berth than the booby prize of the Alamo Bowl from 14 years ago.

Yet another reason for K-State getting, well, hosed that year is a manifestation of certain perpetual handicaps against the program.  Unlike traditional powers including, say, Alabama, Ohio State, Texas, or even Notre Dame, all of whom have strong, national fan bases, Kansas State, although a strong program, lacks that advantage.  Strong fan bases equal strong money and clout, something the Wildcats continue to lack.  Kansas State University is located in Manhattan, Kan., nicknamed “The Little Apple.”  It is in the middle of nowhere, in a state that has the same reputation.  It has no major market to tie itself to, unlike the Longhorns, who can not only claim Austin, but also Dallas and Houston.  The Buckeyes claim Columbus, as well as Cincinnati and Cleveland.  Even Notre Dame can claim Chicago, and to an extent, New York itself.  K-State lacks that major market anchor, and that goes a long way towards its overall lack of relative clout.  Even a team like West Virginia can claim Pittsburgh as its anchor market.  Claiming Kansas City is a stretch for KSU, who must also share the area with the Kansas Jayhawks, along with the Missouri Tigers.  Does that leave KSU Wichita?  Geography has conspired to make the lack of clout an unsolvable problem for the Wildcats, as far as one can foresee.

But another key difference in scenarios today is that, in the wake of K-State being kicked down to the no. 4 bowl pick for the Big XII Conference in 1998 —  much less the overall rankings — shortly thereafter the BCS implemented a rule that a team ranked that highly* would get an automatic berth into one of the BCS “big four,” instead of being relegated to a second or third-tier postseason game.  Perhaps the Fiesta Bowl is not out of the question, boys, but you still must pass through the eye of the needle that is Texas in two weeks’ time.

*Although Kansas State was ranked no. 4 in both the AP and Coaches’ Polls, they were actually ranked no. 3 in the BCS.

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College Football Week 8 Awards October 22, 2012

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 8, pre-week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Lucky guy: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Poor guy: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a clue:  Charlie Weis, Kansas
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: David Cutcliffe, Duke

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Desperately seeking … anything:  Kyle Whittingham, Utah

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 10 USC  (beat Colorado 50-6)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 12 Georgia (beat Kentucky 29-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Kansas (lost to No. 8 Oklahoma 52-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Navy (beat Indiana 31-30)
Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did:  No. 17 South Carolina (lost to No. 3 Florida 44-11)

Dang, they’re good: Florida
Dang, they’re bad: Auburn
Did the season start? Iowa
Can the season end?  Boston College

Can the season never end?  Kansas State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 18 Texas Tech 56, TCU 53
Never play this again: No. 2 Oregon 43*, Arizona State 21
What? No. 4 Kansas State 55, No. 25 West Virginia 17
Huh?  Duke 33, North Carolina 30
Are you kidding me? Toledo 29, Cincinnati 23

Oh – my – God:   Navy 31, Indiana 30

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 8 Oklahoma (notwithstanding Georgia vs. No. 3 Florida in Jacksonville)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Kent State @ No. 18 Rutgers
Best non-Big Six matchup: Navy @ East Carolina
Upset alert: No. 13 Mississippi State @ No. 1 Alabama

Must win: No. 20 Michigan @ Nebraska
Offensive explosion: No. 15 Texas Tech @ No. 4 Kansas State

Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Kentucky
Great game no one is talking about: Cincinnati @ No. 16 Louisville, Friday, 8 PM

Intriguing coaching matchup: Bob Stoops of Oklahoma vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame
Who’s bringing the body bags? Colorado @ No. 2 Oregon
Why are they playing? UMass @ Vanderbilt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Hawaii @ Colorado St.  (notwithstanding Indiana @ Illinois)
They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 22 Texas A&M @ Auburn

*If Oregon did not call off the dogs at halftime, they could have scored 86 points, not just 43.

Offensive Explosion, C-USA-style:  Who’da thought that the Thursday night Houston-SMU matchup would have led to such offensive fireworks?

Two trends in helmet design:  One of which is the matte epidemic that must be discussed in a future article, having infected teams such as TCU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Baylor (their green helmets in the recent Alamo Bowl), Michigan State (sort of), and a host of others.  But another emergent trend, one more becoming of ultra-modernity, is the “chrome” effect.  Oregon debuted it during the most recent Rose Bowl, where they triumphed over Wisconsin wearing helmets with chrome [duck] wings on a chrome shell.  Recently, they demolished Arkansas State with chrome [duck] wings on a plain yellow shell.  Now, Michigan State has furthered the trend with a special helmet they wore in their narrow loss to rival Michigan, sporting a chrome-green shell with a silver chrome decal.  Not bad!

Will Muschamp seems like “the guy” after all:  “The guy,” meaning the guy who is capable of maintaining the high level of success that Florida fans have come to expect during the tenures of Steve Spurrier, followed indirectly by Urban Meyer.  Having established his credentials as an excellent defensive coach while at Texas, Muschamp has finally carried that over into a smothering defense on the part of his current team.  Indeed, the Gators have held opponents to just an average of roughly 12 points per game, and that includes a lackluster performance on both sides of the ball during their season-opener against Bowling Green.  Offensively, the Gators have shown considerable signs of life, thanks in part to the able QB skills of one Jeff Driskel.  On that side of the ball, Florida has averaged 33 points per game for the past five games.  Fourteen points was enough to overcome LSU’s stingy ‘D,’ while the Gators put up a whopping 44 points on South Carolina’s reputable defense yesterday in The Swamp.

The “So What” for the SEC:  If these shadows remain unchanged, it will be a Battle Royale in Atlanta between Florida and Alabama come early December.  But first, Florida must take care of Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, while Alabama has to contend with undefeated Mississippi State.  Bama also has LSU left on their slate, while the Gators’ only major challenge after the Bulldogs (UGA, not MSU) will be a regular-season closer at rival Florida State (thankfully for the Gators, a non-conference foe).  Stay tuned!

The current race in the Big XII:  Kansas State remains firmly in the driver’s seat after dispatching with yet another viable challenger in West Virginia.  Geno Smith might very well be leading a high-powered offense, but the Mountaineers’ defense is clearly another matter entirely, one that Coach Dana Holgorsen would be well-served to shore up at some point.  The challenge for head coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats is to turn around after a big win against a formidable team on the road, and be ready for the same level of performance at home, as Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech Red Raiders are about to come calling.  A loss on the part of KSU could make for a very rather muddled race for top spot in the conference.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is determined to maintain its insurgent conference championship run, but a number of potential challenges remain with Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and TCU awaiting their respective confrontations.  Having said that, Bob Stoops & Co. have the opportunity to get back into the national conversation, as No. 5 Notre Dame comes into Norman for the biggest challenge the Irish are likely to face the entire year.  The season for both teams hangs in the balance.

Oregon, meanwhile, keeps motoring along up in the Pacific Northwest.  The Ducks remain undefeated, and their scores have been so high, they have practically required oxygen to read them, averaging 51 points each game thus far.  Their no-huddle offense is so fast-paced that it has caused Nick Saban of seemingly invincible Alabama to grumble.  But it will not be a smooth road to Miami for the Ducks for the BCS title game.  In two weeks, they must face resurgent USC.  Just two weeks after that, Stanford will not be playing dead just because Oregon is, well, Oregon, and they close their regular season with in-state rival Oregon State in the annual match-up known as “The Civil War.”  Given that the Beavers have crept into the No. 8 ranking, the game between these two teams this year could very well live up to such an august game title/nickname.  Moreover, that game this year will be in Corvalis, not Eugene.  If the Ducks end up making it to the Orange Bowl part II, they will certainly have earned it.

About the Author July 18, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in About the Author.
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My name is Patrick Murray, though many of my friends from college know me as “Sarge”.*   This website that I maintain is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and insight, specializing in the virtues of limited government, as well as of scientific, historical, and pop cultural insights, plus the occasional sports commentary for fun.

I was born in Louisville, Ky., on March 2, 1980.  I graduated from high school in Madison, Ind., where I lettered for three seasons in football and track.  My undergraduate years were spent at Purdue University, where I majored in Mass Communications with a minor in History (honestly, I felt more like a science and history student masquerading as a comm student!).  On the side, I took some courses in German, Latin, Entomology, Oceanography and Paleontology — in other words, fun stuff!

Outside of the classroom at Purdue, I served for three seasons as a student manager on the Purdue football team.  That job allowed for me to see almost every stadium in the Big Ten (except for Iowa and Illinois), to say nothing of making some special life-long friends.  I have a number of friends who play in the NFL — including Drew Brees, with whom I celebrated my 19th, 20th, and 21st birthday — and I remain an avid football fan to this day.  As a manager, I worked directly under Coach Joe Tiller, and during the games, I helped out then-O-line Coach Danny Hope, who later became the current head coach from 2009 thought 2012.  I also worked with Coach Kevin Sumlin, who was then the receivers coach (he played at linebacker for Purdue), before going on to give the Houston Cougars program a shot in the arm and then leading the Texas A&M Aggies to become the hot program it is today.

My services with the team also allowed for me to travel to special away games, including a season opener in Los Angeles Coliseum against USC (before the Pete Carroll era, to be sure!) in 1998, and in the Citrus Bowl against Central Florida in 1999.  The three bowl games I was a small part of were the 1998 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the 2000 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., and of course, the 2001 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.  Those were memorable times.

After I graduated from Purdue, I went straight into business graduate school at the University of Louisville, where I earned my MBA.  The next few years found me knocking around in the customer service sector until I just happened to find a teaching opportunity as an adjunct faculty member at the Louisville campus of National College.  Finally I was able to find a job more commensurate with my education and talents.  At that school, I have taught a number of different business courses, including Intro to Business, Principles of Management, Small Business Management, Operations Management, Purchasing & Materials Management, and, my favorite, Strategic Management.  In addition to all of those, I have taught a number of general education courses, such as Public Speaking, Georgraphy, American History (both 1896-1945 and 1945-2000), Political Science, and American Government (needless to say, another one of my favorites to teach!).  Starting in the late Spring of 2013, I have also taught computer skills courses (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.).

In more recent years, I have elected to fulfill a very latent goal of mine, and that is to become a mechanical draftsman (sometimes known as a CAD operator), if not an outright engineer.  I have a design internship under my belt at a materials handling system manufacturer in Jeffersonville, Ind., and worked as a design engineer for a conveyor systems manufacturer on the southern edge of Louisville.  In April of 2014, I accepted a position as an on-site project manager for a conveyor systems integrator, and have helped build sorter systems at FedEx Ground facilities in Fort Wayne, Ind., Indianapolis, New Castle, Del., Philadelphia, and Santa Fe Springs, Calif.  This job has allowed for me to travel extensively and to engage in extensive learning in so doing.

Assuming that I have failed to establish my renaissance man credentials yet, it is also worth noting that I have given a couple of education seminars on insects to the docents at the Louisville Zoo — an occasion that allowed for me to show my rather extensive exotic insect collection.  I also am an avid photographer (I use a Canon 7D), where I specialize in macro nature (particularly insects), aquarium fish, classic cars, and some sports.  In addition, I have been a guest on a friend’s radio show on multiple occasions, discussing the Constitution and our Founding Fathers.

* The “Sarge” cognomen started back in June of 1997 — right before my senior year of high school — and was attending football camp at Purdue.  The era of Coach Tiller was about to begin, and this camp gave me the opportunity to get to know all the coaches.  Part of the camp’s curriculum was for the campers to coalesce into passing league teams, where we had such games for three consecutive nights, four games a night.  My team’s coach was Coach Gary Emanuel, Purdue’s once and again current D-line coach.  He did not know my name, but noticed I took a rather militaristic approach towards addressing my superiors (e.g., “yessir,” “no, sir.”).  Such is the way I was raised.  Noticing this, Coach Emanuel started calling me “Sarge,” and the name stuck.  When I got on with the team as a manager, all the coaches remembered me, and soon the players too, started calling me by the same cognomen.  It was only a matter of time before the cognomen in question spilled out beyond the gridiron to the greater campus.