Wildcats lacked that something special
Wildcats lacked that something special
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By JOE POSNANSKI - Columnist
Date: 11/13/99 22:15
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Here, in the Huskers' House, all the talk evaporates. All the smoke clears. It's all gone, all the hype, all the hope, all the hoopla, all the babble, all the nonsense, all the weak scheduling, all the chatter about respect, all the BCS, all of it. Here in the Huskers' House, where Nebraska football reigns, everything is stripped down to the bare, naked truth.
The truth is this: Kansas State is not good enough.
The truth is this: Kansas State needs to find another Michael Bishop.
You can only go so far with the Bill Snyder improve-every-day, never-give-up, eliminate-mistakes, don't-beat-yourself coaching frenzy. You can get to 9-0 playing Temple, Utah State and Baylor. You can pound your old rival, Kansas. You can go into Texas and win a huge game. You can climb way up there in the polls, way up there, so close to a national championship you can smell the champagne.
But, then, eventually, you find yourself in the roar of Lincoln -- where only three teams this decade have beaten Nebraska -- and you trail by two touchdowns, and red flaps everywhere, and you can't hear yourself breathe, and that's when you need something more, something special, someone special.
The Wildcats did not have that someone Saturday.
The Wildcats were bombed by Nebraska 41-15.
"In those tough moments," Kansas State offensive coordinator Ron Hudson said, "you look to your quarterback to make plays."
That is it, plain and simple. The Wildcats did not have the quarterback to win the game Saturday. Jonathan Beasley played quarterback. He's a good kid who has had a good season. But he was not ready to be special. He was not ready to lead Kansas State over Nebraska. After the game, the coaches were quick to point out that Beasley had been hurt -- Kansas State coaches are always quick to point out injuries after games -- and that he had not practiced throwing the ball for two weeks.
But that's no excuse. The coaches know that. They played him. Beasley hit three of 19 passes on Saturday; he missed open receivers all over the field. He threw the ball five or six feet over receivers' heads. Snyder benched Beasley and went to Adam Helm, another good kid who has had good moments as Kansas State's quarterback. He fared no better throwing the ball. He fumbled at a critical time. He fumbled again at a less-critical time.
"We had open receivers," Kansas State receiver Aaron Lockett said sadly. "But, for one reason or another, we just didn't get the passes there."
The Wildcats probably would have lost anyway. The defense could not tackle Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch. The Cats kept forgetting to cover the tight end. Two punts and a field goal were blocked. Heck, Nebraska fumbled the ball 10 times, and the Wildcats could not even get close. There are no "what ifs," this morning; Kansas State got stomped.
Still, you do wonder what it might have been like out there had Kansas State had someone like Bishop, someone who inspires everybody, fires them up, scares the crowd, that bigger-than-life player who can turn a game with a pass or a run or a few loud words and a slam on the rump. In the biggest moments Saturday, when the Wildcats needed that one big play, they just missed. They just missed.
"I can't put my finger on it," Kansas State's David Allen said. "We're all trying to step up. But something always happens."
Lockett said: "I try to step up and be the man. But let's be honest; I'm not the quarterback. I don't have the ball in my hands that much....Maybe it was different with Michael. But then, he was special."
That is the missing piece for the Wildcats this season. There were plenty of people around Manhattan who figured Kansas State might be a little bit better without Bishop because he was so unpredictable, so volatile, so uncertain. He made incredible plays, flung the ball 80 yards in the air, plowed over linebackers, but he also fumbled and threw crazy passes and ran wildly. He won the Nebraska game last season. He won, lost, won and eventually lost the Big 12 championship game against Texas A&M. He was a hero and a headache rolled into one.
Plenty of people -- maybe even Snyder among them -- thought that the Wildcats might be a little bit better with a more reliable, more predictable quarterback. For a while, it looked that way. The Wildcats won nine straight games. They looked pretty good. Everything seemed right.
But, in the Huskers' House, you find out what you're all about. The Wildcats found out. They are a good team. Hey, you look through the years, hardly anybody beats Nebraska. The Wildcats will go to a good bowl and end the season ranked pretty high in the polls, all of which is a nice thing.
But they're not good enough to win on Nebraska's stage, not this time around. They're missing that little something that separates good teams and great ones, that cloudy something that lifts football teams beyond. It's hard to describe exactly what that something is for Kansas State, but if you looked real hard, it probably would look a little bit like Michael Bishop.
Joe Posnanski's column normally appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To reach him, call (816) 234-4361 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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