Sept 8, 2001
By KEN PETERS
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES - Bill Snyder's 100th coaching victory at Kansas State didn't come easy, with the 12th-ranked Wildcats helped by a lucky bounce in the end zone and breakdowns in Southern California's kicking game.
"I like the fact that we won, but I didn't like the fact that we didn't play very well," Snyder said after the Wildcats opened their season Saturday with a 10-6 victory in their first game ever against USC.
Snyder played down his milestone win, saying: "The significance is that it is 100 and not 99. There was no celebration. Our players understand that this is only a foundation. We're a team without an identity and we're building one."
But he also said, "A win on the road is a plus, especially against a quality team like USC."
Although Josh Scobey rushed for 165 yards and quarterback Ell Roberson ran for 119, guard Nick Leckey scored Kansas State's touchdown when he recovered Scobey's fumble into the end zone in the second quarter.
Jared Brite's 41-yard field goal in the first quarter provided Kansas State's other score as the Wildcats built a 10-0 halftime lead and barely held on.
Meanwhile, David Davis missed a 42-yard field goal try in the second quarter and had his PAT attempt blocked after Sultan McCullough's 7-yard touchdown run for USC (1-1) in the third.
It was the first college coaching loss for the Trojans' Pete Carroll, the longtime NFL coach who took the USC job last December.
"They're a very good team and deserve a lot of credit, but we had a real chance," Carroll said. "That opportunity was there right at the end of the fourth quarter, just like you draw it up. But we didn't finish it."
USC was threatening in the final minutes of the game, but Carson Palmer fumbled at the end of a 4-yard scramble. Defensive end Henry Bryant recovered at the Kansas State 24 with 2:33 left to play, and the Wildcats then marched down to the USC 15, running the clock down to a second before turning the ball over on downs.
Scobey carried 27 times, and Roberson, a redshirt sophomore making his first start at quarterback, carried 21 times. He was far less productive passing, completing just 7-of-16 for 26 yards, with one interception.
Snyder was impressed by his team's running game, complimenting Scobey and Roberson.
"They both ran hard," he said. "And my hat goes off to our offensive line. They did extremely well opening things up for them."
Kansas State's defense essentially shut down the Trojans' ground game. McCullough was held to 40 yards on 18 carries, 127 yards less than he gained in the Trojans' opening 21-10 win over San Jose State.
"We knew there were a lot of things we needed to do to win this game, and we did them. McCullough was a big part of that," Kansas State linebacker Ben Leber said.
Palmer, who went 16-of-36 for 197 yards, said of his late fumble, "I just didn't hold on to it. I gave it up."
The Trojans, blanked by the Wildcats' defense until midway through the third quarter, finally cut the lead to four points on McCullough's scoring burst. Then Tank Reese blocked Davis' PAT attempt.
On the Wildcats' touchdown, coming on first down from the Trojans' 12, Scobey carried to the 1, where safety Troy Polamalu punched the ball out of his hands. Leckey dove into the pile in the end zone and came up with the ball.
Although Kansas State held a 366-297 edge over USC in net yards, the Wildcats slowed themselves with untimely penalties. They were flagged 10 times for a total of 81 yards, with several of the penalties wiping out long gains.
The Trojans also were flagged 10 times, for 75 yards, but their penalties were less costly.
Snyder, 62, who has guided the long-suffering Wildcats into national prominence, is 100-43-1 since he became their coach in 1989.
Kansas State, which went 11-3 last year for its fourth consecutive 11-win campaign, finished ninth in last season's rankings and beat Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl.
The win over USC extended several impressive streaks by the Wildcats. They've won 29 straight regular-season games against nonconference teams, dating to a 28-16 loss at Utah State on Oct. 17, 1992.
They also have opened their last 12 seasons with a victory, with their last defeat in an opener coming in a 31-0 loss at Arizona State in Snyder's first year at Kansas State.