A decade ago, newly hired Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was
asked where he hoped his team would be 10 years down the road.
He replied that he wanted to build a program that would improve
consistently and win seven or eight games a year. "And," he
added, "every once in a while, if the chips fall right, maybe
we'll jump up and compete for a national championship." That
optimism seemed bizarre then--K-State was riding a 27-game
winless streak--but here we are 10 years down the road, and
Snyder has gotten everything he wished for. His Wildcats have
averaged 7.7 wins a season, and last year he had a great chance
to win it all. Alas, by January the only chips he held were of
the cow variety.
A fourth-quarter collapse against Texas A&M in the Big 12
championship game knocked the Wildcats out of the national title
game and into the lowly Alamo Bowl--where they were beaten by
unranked Purdue. Now Snyder can only hope that last year's run
wasn't his chance of a lifetime. Gone from that team are the
Heisman runner-up (quarterback Michael Bishop), the school's
alltime leading rusher (Eric Hickson) and four all-conference
The only starter coming back at a skill position is Aaron
Lockett, who had 44 receptions for 928 yards as a freshman.
Opposing defenders might want to get rough with the 5'7",
155-pound Lockett at the line of scrimmage because if they let
him get up to speed, they'll be in big trouble--he finished
fourth in the 60-meter dash in the Big 12 indoor track and field
championships. He is not, however, the fastest player on the
team. That would be senior Frank Murphy, whom K-State touts as
the fastest player in the history of the program. Murphy will
battle junior David Allen, the nation's top punt returner last
year, to replace Hickson at tailback.
Snyder's toughest task will be to replace Bishop. He will call
on senior Adam Helm, a pocket passer, or scrambling junior
Jonathan Beasley. The Wildcats have a Butkus Award candidate in
senior Mark Simoneau, who is one of the defense's seven starters
who are coming back. With all that experience, the Wildcats have
the potential to return to the Big 12 championship game, and
Snyder hopes to use last season's disappointing finish as
motivation. "We have to try to find the good in everything,"
says Snyder. "But it can be pretty doggone hard to do sometimes."
Sounds like Snyder has a little chip on his shoulder.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Matriculation K-State lost most of its offense, but Butkus candidate Simoneau and six other defensive starters are back.
1998 record: 11-2 (8-0, 1st in Big 12 North)
Final ranking: No. 10 AP, No. 9 coaches' poll
1998 Averages Scoring Rushing Passing Total
Yards Yards Yards
OFFENSE 48.0 224.9 253.6 478.5
DEFENSE 13.3 98.3 170.1 268.3
Schedule strength: 68th of 114
Nov. 6 vs. Colorado
The Wildcats' first tough test. The Buffaloes put a scare into
K-State last year and are fully capable of doing it again.
Nov. 13 at Nebraska
Beating Nebraska, as K-State did last year at home, is one
thing. Winning in Lincoln, which it hasn't done since 1968, is
The Bottom Line
K-State is no one-year wonder and could go to a New Year's Day
bowl, but its best chance to win a national title came--and