Coming off back-to-back 40+ point offensive performances vs. California and Troy State, Kansas State is back in action at KSU Stadium for tonight's matchup with NCAA Division I-AA power McNeeseState. The game, which is the second of a season-long four-game home stand, will be the first ever meeting between the Wildcats and Cowboys on the gridiron.
Special Guests, Take Two
KansasState continues its year-long celebration of its football past this evening as it honors the 1953 Wildcats. Coached by Bill Meek, the '53 Cats compiled a 6-3-1 overall record - snapping an 18-year run of losing records - and finished Big Seven Conference play with a 4-2 mark, good for second place. The turnaround was impressive enough to earn Meek Coach of the Year honors from the Rockne Club of Kansas City, as K-State's six wins equaled the entire win total of the previous eight teams combined.
Included in K-State's win total that season were victories over both Nebraska and IowaState, which ended 10-game losing streaks vs. both programs. The 1953 Wildcats also ended an eight-game slide vs. Kansas with their 7-0 victory over the Jayhawks.
Defense was a hallmark of the team, as K-State yielded just 116 points for the entire 1953 season - which still ranks as the fewest points per game (11.6) allowed during a season in school history - and posted four shutouts on the year.
Led by All-America halfback Veryl Switzer, a Ring of Honor inductee and K-State Hall of Famer, the '53 Wildcats broke three individual school records, including most net yards rushing (177 by Cecil "Corky" Taylor vs. Colorado), longest punt return (93 yards by Switzer vs. Drake) and longest field goal (47 yards by Ed Pence vs. Colorado).
The team also had three players named to the All-Big Seven squad, including Switzer, Pence and guard Tom O'Boyle, while seven members of the team went on to play in all-star games.
KansasState will put its 39-game non-conference home winning streak on the line tonight when the Wildcats battle McNeeseState. K-State has not dropped a non-league game at Wagner Field since Northern Illinois upended the Cats, 37-20, on Sept. 23, 1989. Home and away, Kansas State has won 37 consecutive regular season games vs. non-Big 12 opposition and has not suffered a non-conference loss since falling at Utah State, 28-16, on Oct. 17, 1982.
The Wildcats also bring the nation's fourth-longest overall winning streak into tonight's game. With its victories over California and TroyState, K-State has now won eight in a row dating back to last season.
McNeeseState, ranked preseason No. 1 in Division I-AA to open the season, returns 18 starters from last year's 13-2 club which finished 2002 ranked No. 2 in the nation after falling to Western Kentucky in the I-AA national championship game. The Cowboys, who are coming of a 42-0 drubbing of HendersonState last Saturday, suffered just one loss during the 2002 regular season, falling at Nebraska, 38-14.
Quarterback Scott Pendarvis who passed for over 2,000 yards last season, returns to direct an MSU offensive attack that averaged nearly 400 yards and over 30 points per game during 2002. He completed 14-of-17 attempts for 186 yards and a pair of scores in the Cowboys' season opener and is joined in the backfield by Vick King, who rushed for 1,103 yards a year ago.
On defense, the defending Southland Conference champs bring back nine starters, including All-American linebacker Roderick Royal, who led McNeeseState with 160 total tackles in 2002.
KansasState's Bill Snyder, enters tonight's game with a 118-51-1 (.694) record in 14-plus seasons with the Wildcats. K-State is 47-6 under Snyder vs. non-conference opposition. McNeeseState head coach Tommy Tate is in his fourth season with the Cowboys. He has compiled a 30-10 (.750) record since taking the reins at his alma mater.
Though KansasState has never previously faced McNeeseState in football, the Wildcats have played a number of NCAA Division I-AA programs. Since Bill Snyder's arrival in Manhattan, the Cats have played nine games vs. I-AA programs, posting an 8-1 record with the lone loss coming to Northern Iowa during coach Snyder's inaugural campaign in the Little Apple.
Home Sweet Home Openers
KansasState won its 14th consecutive home opener last Saturday as the Wildcats rolled to a 41-5 victory over TroyState on a soggy Wagner Field. The win upped K-State's record in August games to a perfect 6-0, including a 5-0 mark under Bill Snyder. It also marked the first time KansasState has played two games in the month of August.
Scoring in Bunches
KansasState's 41-point offensive outburst vs. TroyState marked the sixth time in its last eight games that the Wildcats have scored at least 40 points. The only misses during that stretch were 34-point outing vs. ArizonaState in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and a 38-point performance at Missouri in the 2002 regular-season finale. Dating to the start of the 2002 season, K-State has topped the 40-point mark in 10-of-15 games and have not been held out of the end zone since scoring just a field goal vs. Syracuse in the 2001 Insight.com Bowl.
The Wildcats may have gotten off to a slow start in the driving rain last Saturday vs. TroyState. But, when KansasState finally got rolling the Cats were like an out-of-control freight train. Trailing 5-0, it took K-State just to put five touchdowns on the board as the Wildcats roared to a 35-5 halftime edge. Of Kansas State's 13 scores so far this season, 11 have been a result of no drives or drives lasting fewer than three minutes with four scores coming in under a minute.
Big Play Potential
It has only been two games, but KansasState's offensive attack has already flexed its muscles with several big plays. Through eight quarters, K-State has broken off 13 plays in excess of 20 yards, including five that have gone for more than 30 yards. Ell Roberson's 57-yard hookup with wide receiver Davin Dennis during the fourth quarter of the TroyState game stands as the longest play of the year thus far. Other plays covering more than 40 yards include three bombs to wide receiver James Terry and a 53-yard scamper by running back Darren Sproles on K-State's first play from scrimmage this season vs. California.
Very Special Teams
KansasState has developed a knack for superior special teams play in recent years. The Wildcats turned in another strong effort last week vs. TroyState as Ted Sims blocked a Trojan punt during the second quarter that was scooped up by Danny Morris who vaulted into the end zone for a touchdown. The score was the third of his career on special teams for the Johnny-on-the-spot Morris. Last season, Morris converted two blocked punts into touchdowns.
TroyState became the 57th opponent during the Bill Snyder era and the seventh in the last 15 games to be held to single digits on the scoreboard. The Trojans, who gained just 138 yards of total offense, were also limited to just 39 on the ground. It is the fewest rushing yards yielded by the Cats since K-State held Baylor to -37 yards last season. KansasState has now held each of its last 10 opponents under 100 yards rushing and has allowed a 100-yard individual rusher just once in its last 15 games.