Cats missed opportunity for big win


Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Were we expecting you?

I guess not. Maybe I'm lost.

K-State had its best chance in a long time to beat Nebraska Saturday. The setting was perfect.

The game was at home ... the Wildcats hadn't been beaten at KSU Stadium in 16 contests ... Nebraska was down to a third-string quarterback ... K-State's offense was clicking ... The stadium was packed with mostly purple.

But somehow, some way, it wasn't meant to be.

For the 26th-straight time, the Cornhuskers put more points on the board than the Wildcats, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter en route to the 17-6 victory.

This loss was different from the others, though. For the first time in many years, Wildcat fans and players knew they had the ability to break the streak.

"We knew it was right there, smack in the face," K-State running back J.J. Smith said. "We expected to win but didn't get the job done."

"All losses hurt," Coach Bill Snyder said. "The greater the investment, the greater the loss -- the greater the pain."

But what is important now has nothing to do with Nebraska. The question is whether the Cats will be able to pick themselves up and regroup for the game at Colorado Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN at 5:30 p.m., and the Cats are 3-0 on the network.

However, the Cats haven't escaped Boulder, Colo., with a victory since 1973. Add to that the fact that Colorado jumped from No. 4 to No. 2 with a 45-7 shellacking of Oklahoma last Saturday at home. The Buffaloes bumped the Cornhuskers from the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press Poll.

"We just really have to suck it up," Smith said. "We have to suck it up now probably more than we ever have. We have a pretty tough team. This will show how we can bounce back."

So, can the Wildcats beat the Buffaloes?

That's iffy. Really iffy. If K-State can dramatically improve its special teams play, establish a running game and eliminate mental mistakes, then it is possible.

Not probable, but possible.

Don't think for a minute that Colorado will be looking past K-State to its Oct. 29 showdown with Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb.

Sure, the game will probably decide the Big Eight's Orange Bowl representative, but the Buffaloes will be foaming at the mouth to get back at the Cats for the 16-16 tie in Manhattan last year.

"I think it's going to show a lot of character of our team," quarterback Chad May said of the upcoming game with Colorado. "We're going to have to bounce back and play well.

"I think next week is going to tell where this team is going."

A win would do wonders.

If K-State could pull off the upset and win its remaining league games, and if Colorado could travel to Nebraska and win, the Wildcats would still make it to the Orange Bowl.

Yes, the Orange Bowl. The way the contract is set up, the team which has the longest drought of appearances in the bowl game receives the bid. Of course, that would be the Cats since they have never been to the Orange Bowl.

I'm not sure the Wildcats can beat the Buffaloes; in fact, I'm not sure anyone can beat them.

But what I really want to know is if anyone can beat those meddling Cornhuskers.

"That team can be beat," May said. "They are going to get beat this year, I know that. It's going to happen, probably in the Big Eight Conference."

I hope May's prediction turns out better than mine have.

Copyright 1994, Student Publications Inc. All rights reserved.
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