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K-State coach can't shake NU dominance

LINCOLN - No matter how far Bill Snyder takes the Kansas State football program, the question that dogs him will always be close behind.

Terry Douglass
When will his Wildcats, a team that Snyder has taken from a lowly 1-10 record in 1989 to four consecutive nine-win campaigns and four straight bowl appearances, finally reach the next level? Or more specifically, when will Kansas State finally beat Nebraska?

Prowling the sideline
AP Photo
Despite resurrecting the K-State program, Bill Snyder has had a tough time against elite competition. He's 0-16-1 against Nebraska and Colorado during his tenure as head Wildcat.
Saturday, No. 3 Nebraska's 56-26 victory over the No. 17 Wildcats left Snyder 0-9 against the Cornhuskers. To make matters in Manhattan even worse, he is also 0-7-1 against division rival Colorado.

This summer, with the start of the Big 12 Conference season still months away, I got a taste of what the Wildcat coach faces each year, and will continue to encounter until he gets the monkey - or in this case a Husker - off his back.

During a seemingly safe "CatBacker" fundraiser at The Highlands Golf Club in Hutchinson, Kan., in June, "The Question" struck again. Just minutes after opening up the floor to questions, a "loyal" K-State fan boldly asked, "Coach, when are we finally going to have the kind of football team that can beat Nebraska?"

Ouch.

Snyder's response was most gracious, but you know the guy had to be about ready to chuck a drumstick at the guy. After all, who knows the frustration of losing to Nebraska better than Snyder? Heck, a few more years of this and he'll be a shoo-in for the Wile E. Coyote Hall of Fame.

The frustration is 10-fold for lifetime K-State fans who've watched Nebraska's winning streak over the Wildcats grow to 29 years. The last time the Wildcats beat the Big Red was 1968 in Lincoln.

Many of those past K-State teams didn't have a chance. But that hasn't been the case for several of Snyder's recent teams, who've at least appeared to have the talent level to make a game of it and sometimes have.

However, every year some part of the K-State engine seems to fail. That scenario played out again in front of 75, 856 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

After Kansas State's first touchdown, the Wildcats botched the point-after attempt. It marked the third time on four seasons that KSU has missed an extra-point attempt against the Huskers.

After stopping Nebraska in its own territory Kansas State roughed punter Jesse Kosch, giving NU new life. Nebraska went on to drive for a 31-yard Kris Brown field goal and a 10-6 lead.

On what looked to be a decent chance to complete a slant pass, Nebraska cornerback Ralph Brown broke up a Michael Bishop pass and then tipped the ball a second time into the hands of teammate Eric Warfield. The turnover set up a 32-yard field goal by Brown.

Trailing 20-6, Kansas State desperately needed a sustained drive to open the second half. Instead, the Wildcats were forced to punt - twice after being penalized - from deep in their own territory. Nebraska took advantage, driving a short field of 34 yards to score on Ahman Green's 7-yard run and go ahead 27-6.

With 11:13 left in the third quarter, KSU's Gavan Peries drops a pass that would have been at least a 30-yard gainer into Husker territory. The Wildcats are eventually forced to punt again. Nebraska responded quickly as Green ripped off a 59-yard TD run on the next play.

And the Wildcat jinx lives on.

"Tonight, our special teams were not very good," Snyder said. "Special teams have seemed to be a big nemesis for us when we play Nebraska the past few years. "But all in all, it was just a pretty shoddy performance on our part."

Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne said there's really no explanation for his team's long-standing trend of taking the Wildcats out behind the woodshed for their annual reminder of who's boss.

"When somebody has beaten us a couple of times in a row, I usually pay more attention to that team," Osborne said. "Bill is a very good coach and I am sure they put a lot of time into this game. There's really nothing that they don't work at very hard."

Osborne can empathize with his counterpart. He too, had an albatross hanging over his head when it came to Barry Switzer, Oklahoma and national championship games.

But until the day when Snyder's Wildcats finally derail the Big Red Express, he'll have to settle for the title of "good coach" rather than "God of the Purple Nation."


Terry Douglass is the sports editor for The Independent.

 
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