You are hereKansas State vs. Nebraska in Japan? Oh, it happened
Kansas State vs. Nebraska in Japan? Oh, it happened
The last time Kansas State played a regular-season conference football game on a neutral field, it traveled a long, long way to do so.
Halfway around the world to be exact.
Back in 1992, before Bill Snyder had ever led the Wildcats to a bowl game and before the long-time coach started insisting that every possible game on the schedule be played in Manhattan, he agreed to move K-State’s final game of the season to Tokyo, Japan.
The opponent was No. 11 Nebraska, and they faced off in the now defunct Coca-Cola Bowl.
Both teams traveled on the same plane to and from the game, stayed in the same hotel in downtown Tokyo and spent an entire week overseas promoting American football.
For some reason, people at the time were very big on selling football to that part of the world. In total, eight Coca-Cola Bowls were played at Tokyo Stadium (where the Yoiuri Giants play baseball) and the NFL brought several preseason games over there.
The way K-State radio analyst Stan Weber remembers it, a near sellout crowd of locals attended the event, which kicked off locally at 1 p.m. on Sunday and in Kansas at 9 p.m. on Saturday, and the Wildcats played one of their best games in a 38-24 losing effort.
In many ways, it paved the way for what K-State was about to face in its upcoming string of bowl appearances.
“It was really an introduction to what a bowl trip might be like,” said Weber. “In 1992, K-State hadn’t been to a bowl yet. But that was a little like a bowl game even though it was an opponent we knew about. Going to a neutral site location, having festivities for a whole week and making a long trip to get there. It was a great way to end the season, and I think everyone really enjoyed it.”
Snyder said he too remembers that game going fairly well. Considering the Wildcats weren’t a powerhouse back then, hanging within 14 of the Cornhuskers wasn’t too shabby.
“They (the Coca-Cola Bowl) weren’t after us,” Snyder said. “They sought out Nebraska. And Nebraska, if they were going to travel all night and do those sorts of things, they might as well do it against us. We were a rag doll at the time.”
Looking back at the Coca-Cola Bowl game program, Snyder has a point. Nebraska is displayed much more prominently than K-State. Aside from a lone, faceless player on the bottom left of the program it is all Cornhuskers.
The game itself went like this:
Behind legendary quarterback Tommy Frazier (remember that guy?) Nebraska jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the game. And the 50 or so Huskers fans who Weber said paid loads of money to make the trip with the team were very pleased. K-State, though, behind quarterback Matt Garber and wide receiver Andre Coleman came back to make the score 21-10 at halftime.
Nebraska regrouped in the locker room and scored a field goal and touchdown to go up 31-10, but Garber ran in an 8-yard touchdown on the next drive to make the score 31-17.
The Wildcats could get no closer, and both teams traded touchdowns to close out the game.
Frazier amassed 179 yards of offense and Garber threw for 246 yards.
But the details of the game mean little compared to the stories that came off the field.
For example, several people told me that Snyder arranged for the Cornhuskers to sit on the sunny side of the plane both coming and going. That way, his players could sleep much more easily and be better rested for the game than the Cornhuskers.
Weber remembers the plane itself being bigger than any he’d ever seen.
“It was giant,” he said. “There were three or so seats on each side and five or six more in the middle. That’s how wide it was. But I guess it had to be for that long, long trip. We watched multiple movies, ate a bunch of times and they brought around hot towels for everyone.”
Weber also remembers the Nebraska contingent of fans having a social hour in the back.
When they touched down in Japan, they realized the beds in their hotels were very short — only about six feet long. That must have been rough on some of the 6-foot-5 football players.
Other random details: A Wendy’s hamburger in Tokyo tastes like fish. Former K-State president Jon Wefald’s wife spoke fluent Japanese, hosts in Japan like to refill their guests drinks at every opportunity and a suit large enough to fit a football player is impossible to find in Tokyo.
Weber also said he remembers seeing his first HDTV on display on that trip, which is incredible seeing as how most Web sites claim the invention of HDTV didn’t come until 1997. But Japan is rather good at inventing new electronics technology.
“It’s what I saw,” Weber saw. “We were just walking along and I saw a big rectangular stand of a TV. I don’t know what kind of display it was, but we walked up and said ‘Oh my gosh that TV is different.’ It was just like the HDTV’s you see today.”
Weber won’t see anything that groundbreaking on his way to Arrowhead Stadium for Saturday’s game between Kansas State and Iowa State in Kansas City.
Neither will any of the fans who come out to watch the Wildcats and Cyclones.
But if the game ends up paying major dividends for K-State the way that trip to Japan did in 1992, I’m guessing they’ll be OK with that.
“I went to the next 11 bowls with Kansas State, and they all really reminded me of that trip,” Weber said. “I think it helped to show everyone what the experience was like.”