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<font size=2>JASON WHITLOCK:</font><br>Lessons learned: K-State's ready; Huskers notJASON WHITLOCK:
Lessons learned: K-State's ready; Huskers not

Send e-mail to JASON WHITLOCK

Date: 10/30/99 23:49

LAWRENCE and MANHATTAN, Kan. -- If the old coaching adage "you're either getting better or you're getting worse" is true, then today I wouldn't want to be a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.

Kansas State should roll past the Huskers this season.

The Wildcats sent the first message Saturday afternoon, and the message was clear:

With K-State's showdown against Nebraska just two Saturdays away and the Cornhuskers just 70 miles to the east, Wildcats coach Bill Snyder has gone to his whip. Meanwhile, Nebraska coach Frank Solich has resorted to begging.

A week after losing to Texas, Solich, his ninth-ranked Huskers and about 30,000 Nebraska fans took over Kansas' Memorial Stadium but were unable to subdue the unranked, unrespected Jayhawks until late in the fourth quarter.

The Cornhuskers escaped Lawrence with a 24-17 victory thanks to a 49-yard Eric Crouch-to-Bobby Newcombe connection with 3 minutes, 24 seconds to play.

Following the game, the most positive thing Solich could say about his 7-1 Huskers was "that we did what we needed to do to win the game."

What Nebraska did Saturday won't be nearly good enough to beat Snyder's 8-0 Wildcats.

Hours before the Cornhuskers got entangled in the Jayhawks' web, the sixth-ranked Wildcats steamrolled the Baylor Bears 48-7.

The Wildcats were as close to full gallop Saturday as they have been all season. With the exception of running back Frank Murphy, who suited up for the first time since the Wildcats played Texas, Snyder unloaded all of his weapons at the lowly Bears.

He pounded running back Joe "Big Punisher" Hall at the Baylor defense. Snyder let quarterback Jonathan Beasley do his thing, which is mixing a few QB draws with several lightning-bolt throws. Snyder loosed defensive end Darren Howard in the Baylor backfield. And Snyder re-unveiled All-America punt returner David Allen, causing more panic than the Baylor Bear Witch Project.

The result was K-State's most complete performance of the season.

Snyder didn't have to show all of his weapons. There was no need to suit up Murphy, who has been sidelined because of a high ankle sprain. There was no need to play Allen, who missed the previous two games because of a right-knee injury. And there was no need to ram the 280-pound "Big Punisher" Hall at the Bears 17 times in the first quarter.

The Bears, 1-7, had lost their previous four Big 12 games by a combined score of 183-30.

But Snyder wanted to make a point to his team and the Cornhuskers.

By the time the Wildcats hit Lincoln, Neb., come Nov. 13, all of K-State's weapons will be greased, cocked, functioning smoothly and pushed into a never-before-seen emotional high.

I don't think the Cornhuskers are anywhere near prepared for what's about to hit them.

Yes, Kansas gave a gutty performance, and KU coach Terry Allen and his players deserve some praise. But I've contended all along that this isn't an overpowering Nebraska team. Solich's squad lacks an identity or any semblance of confidence.

After the game, I asked Solich whether his team was improving. He answered evasively. He talked about what a tough game this was emotionally because of his team's loss to Texas. And he repeated something about his team showing character by overcoming a 9-0 deficit and making key plays in the second half.

His team isn't improving. Solich knows it. And I'm not sure he knows what to do about it.

Meanwhile, Snyder stalked K-State's sideline on Saturday like the second coming of Gunther Cunningham.

The 1999 Wildcats have developed an ugly habit of not showing up until after halftime. Bad teams have built good leads on Kansas State. Snyder's Wildcats are in love with the snooze button.

On Saturday, Snyder began the process of shaking and waking the Wildcats out of this annoying habit.

You can't spot Nebraska 21 points. So Snyder ranted Saturday.

On his first snap as a running back, David Allen fumbled the ball, and a teammate recovered it, causing Snyder to orally unload on running-backs coach Michael Smith, which caused Smith to unload on Allen.

Twice in the same possession, K-State left tackle Damion McIntosh moved before the snap, costing the Wildcats 10 yards. Snyder ripped into McIntosh as if he had cost the Wildcats the game.

Baylor was the last of K-State's cupcakes. The Wildcats have finally hit the meat of their schedule. They've hit the homestretch, and Snyder has gone to his whip.

Colorado will visit Manhattan next Saturday, and Snyder knows the Buffaloes will bring their "A" game. And then there's Nebraska, and winning in Lincoln is a virtual impossibility without a flawless performance.

"We have to be ready to beat Colorado first because that's a good team, too," K-State's Quincy Morgan said. "I think we can go in and play Colorado and beat Colorado. Then be ready to beat Nebraska."

K-State's march toward perfection began in earnest Saturday. The Cornhuskers are marching toward a Kansas State thumping and a second-tier bowl bid.

Jason Whitlock's column normally appears Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. To reach him, call (816) 889-7827 and enter 7934 or send e-mail to jwhitlock@kcstar.com

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