Kansas State was once the weakest team in all of major college football. Now it’s one of the most lethal — call the scourge of Manhattan the “Purple Rain” or call the Wildcats the No. 4 team in the country. And also call them a real threat to play in the national championship game with their 6-0 record.
With Coach Bill Snyder, Kansas State has been the silent assassin of college football ever since the silver-haired wizard of winning came back to coaching after a short retirement.
How many places have named their stadium after a man who is still coaching? Kansas State has. It’s Snyder Stadium out on the flat plains in Manhattan (known as the Little Apple to K-State people).
Kansas State was once so bad if any season was blessed with a tie game it was considered partially successful.
But then Snyder took the job once considered the worst in all of college football. And then purple-clad Wildcats began to win more than they lost. And soon they were losing so infrequently that not only the eyes of Texas were upon them but also the eyes of Oklahoma, Iowa, and Lawrence at the University of Kansas.
When Snyder retired, Kansas State returned to its losing ways. He came back. And winning on a grand scale returned with him.
Now, the Wildcats come to Morgantown with scalps on their belt from the wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Miami, as well as Coach Charlie Weis and his Kansas Jayhawks, a 56-16 bombing.
There is no flamboyant quarterback . . . no mercury-heeled running backs . . . no can’t-be-covered receivers. Just workmen whose understated styles win games.
Quarterback Collin Klein is protected by what is probably the best offensive line in the Big 12. And offensive lines win football games. The runners are John Hubert (98 carries and 606 yards) and quarterback Klein (98 carries and 510 yards). Tremaine Thompson and Chris Harper catch the most passes.
Should Saturday’s game with West Virginia come down to a field goal or which side has the better placekicker, Kansas State has Anthony Cantele who is 32-for-32 on extra point tries and 7-for-8 on his field goal attempts.
West Virginia should be broiling after taking a thorough beating at Texas Tech . . . and a probable roasting from the coaching staff this week in practice.
Excuses for the last week’s mauling in Lubbock include the in-game injuries to Brodrick Jenkins, Stedman Bailey, Jeff Braun, and Isaiah Bruce as well those to Will Clarke and Shawne Alston that kept both from playing at all.
But the severe problems in West Virginia’s secondary and its almost nonexistent pass rush could not be explained away.
Kansas State does not bring with it the usual get-pounded Big 12 defense. It has given up only 16 points a game this season. Two of its beaten opponents — Missouri State and North Texas — are not much.
Kansas State does not overwhelm with its talent. Or its quickness. Or its depth.
But Kansas State brings no window dressing. No shortcuts. No pomp and circumstance.
Quiet execution. Quiet confidence.
And one of the nation’s best coaches in Bill Snyder.
West Virginia has to get something from its running game. It has to keep Wildcat receivers from running unattended through its perplexed secondary. Can the Mountaineers mount any kind of pass rush?
Kansas State is unlikely to beat itself with mistakes.
West Virginia needs Bailey to team with Tavon Austin. None of the other receivers can match his elusiveness and effectiveness.
But if West Virginia doesn’t find some defense that it could never uncover in the Texas Tech game, then even Geno Smith and a fully healthy group of receivers can’t score enough to keep Kansas State from being the “Purple Reign.”