MANHATTAN, Kan Coming off their 15th straight season-opening victory, the No. 13/12 Kansas State Wildcats look to move to 2-0 on the season today, when high-powered Fresno State invades KSU Stadium.
The game, which will be televised live nationally by Fox Sports Net, is the second of a three-game, season-opening home stand against non-conference opposition for Kansas State, which will be attempting to open 2-0 for the 15th straight season under Bill Snyder.
The Wildcats got the 2004 campaign off to an intriguing start with a 27-13 win over Western Kentucky last week. Behind Heisman Trophy candidate Darren Sproles' 221 yards rushing, the most ever by a Wildcat in a season opener, Kansas State ground out 502 yards on 81 snaps and enjoyed a nearly 2-to-1 statistical advantage over WKU in total offense.
Still, K-State's struggles in the red zone kept the game closer on the scoreboard than it was in the trenches as the Wildcats fumbled inside the Hilltopper 20 on their second possession of the game, settled for field goals on long drives during the second and third quarters and had a bad snap on a fourth-quarter field goal attempt.
On defense, Kansas State kept Western Kentucky bottled up for most of the evening, holding the Hilltoppers to just over 200 yards of total offense until their final dive of the game. In all, WKU mustered only 77 yards on the ground, despite yielding just one sack.
On the other sideline, a veteran Fresno State squad, led by junior quarterback Paul Pinegar, will also be looking for a 2-0 start. The Bulldogs, who many are picking to unseat Boise State atop the Western Athletic Conference in 2004, tripped up Washington, 35-16, in their season opener last Sunday in Seattle.
The Match Up
Today's game may be a battle between Cats and Dogs, but the truth is Kansas State and Fresno State are really cut from the same cloth - two agricultural universities that pride themselves on playing a blue- collar, hard-nosed brand of football.
Both programs have in recent years featured high-powered offenses and punishing defenses. And both have been successful, with K-State making 11 straight bowl appearances and Fresno State five.
Each team got the 2004 campaign started in the right direction with season-opening victories. The question today will be which squad will build on that momentum.
Despite featuring a lineup that included 10 first-time starters, the Wildcats hardly missed a beat on offense or defense last week vs. Western Kentucky. K-State dominated both lines of scrimmage with 306 yards rushing to just 77 by the Hilltoppers, and in the end outdistanced WKU in every category on the stat sheet.
In addition to Sproles, who posted his school-record fourth 200-yard rushing game, K-State also got impressive debut performances from sophomores Dylan Meier and Yamon Figurs. Meier, the first Kansan to make his first career start in a season opener under Snyder, accounted for 243 yards of total offense. Figurs was his favorite target, hauling in five passes for 84 yards.
But despite putting up one of the nation's most impressive statistical performance on both sides of ball, Kansas State was unable to produce the scoring explosion that has been so characteristic of the Wildcats in recent years as K-State was never quite able to deliver the knockout punch. The result was a final score that was much closer that the overall statistics might have indicated.
Across the field, the Bulldog defense may have produced the most dominating effort of the weekend against Washington. Playing like group of rabid junk yard dogs, Fresno State's defense scored three touchdowns and set up a fourth, effectively accounting for 28 of the Dogs' 35 total points and helping to mask a shaky offensive effort that struggled to produce 252 yard and 11 first downs.
Still, Fresno State has been a thorn in the side of many Bowl Championship Series conference opponents of late, posting an impressive 8-6 record in its last 14 games vs. BCS foes. Kansas State, meanwhile is 44-3 in all non-conference home games under Snyder, with a 43-1 mark at KSU Stadium since the start of the 1990 campaign.
Clearly something has to give. And the team that finds the answers to its own nagging questions (K-State in the red zone and Fresno State on offense) will likely be the one that leaves today's contest with its unblemished record intact.
Kansas State Head Coach Bill Snyder, the architect of what many believe to be the greatest turnaround in the history of college football, is in his 16th season at the helm of the Wildcat football program. During his tenure in Manhattan, Snyder has guided K-State to an impressive 128-55-1 record. He is the second winningest coach in the country since the start of the 1993 season, guiding the Wildcats to 109 wins and posting a winning percentage of nearly 80 percent.
Snyder has also guide Kansas State to 11 consecutive bowl games - a feat accomplished by only six other programs in the country - and 11-win seasons in six of the last seven years.
Fresno State Head Coach Pat Hill is in his eighth season with the Bulldogs. He has guided Fresno State to a 56-35 mark during his tenure in the San Joaquin Valley. The Bulldogs have earned bowl berths in each of the last five seasons under Hill, including a victory over UCLA in last year's Silicon Valley Football Classic.
Today's game between Kansas State and Fresno State is the first ever between the two schools on the gridiron. K-State is a combined 11-14-1 against current members of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), but has won each of its last for games vs. WAC foes. Louisiana Tech, which K-State defeated 40-7 on Nov. 17, 2001, was the Wildcats' last WAC opponent.
Fresno State is 1-9 all-time against the Big 12. The Bulldogs were roughed up by Oklahoma, 52-28, last season in their most recent engagement vs. a Big 12 foe. Fresno State earned its lone Big 12 victory at Colorado in the 2001 season opener, defeating the Buffaloes 24-22 at Folsom Field.
What’s That “V”
Football fans across the country often ask "what is the meaning of the green and red 'V' on the back of Fresno State's helmets"? When Pat Hill became Fresno State's head coach prior to the 1997 season, he wanted to reinvigorate San Joaquin Valley pride in the Bulldogs. Fresno State is the only Division I football program in the Valley, a 250-mile stretch in California's midsection from Bakersfield to Modesto, and Coach Hill often states, Fresno State is not only representing Fresno, it's representing the entire Valley.
This representation of the San Joaquin Valley is displayed in the form of a green "V" on the back of the Bulldogs' helmets. The green in the "V" is a symbol to the agricultural community of the Central Valley.