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Five Minute Guide to '99

23 Kansas State

An inexperienced offense means the Wildcats will have to score with defense

Sports Illustrated
  Mark Simoneau
K-State lost most of its offense, but Butkus candidate Simoneau and six other defensive starters are back.  John Biever
A decade ago, newly hired Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was asked where he hoped his team would be 10 years down the road. He replied that he wanted to build a program that would improve consistently and win seven or eight games a year. "And," he added, "every once in a while, if the chips fall right, maybe we'll jump up and compete for a national championship." That optimism seemed bizarre then -- K-State was riding a 27-game winless streak -- but here we are 10 years down the road, and Snyder has gotten everything he wished for. His Wildcats have averaged 7.7 wins a season, and last year he had a great chance to win it all. Alas, by January the only chips he held were of the cow variety.

A fourth-quarter collapse against Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game knocked the Wildcats out of the national title game and into the lowly Alamo Bowl -- where they were beaten by unranked Purdue. Now Snyder can only hope that last year's run wasn't his chance of a lifetime. Gone from that team are the Heisman runner-up (quarterback Michael Bishop), the school's alltime leading rusher (Eric Hickson) and four all-conference players.

The only starter coming back at a skill position is Aaron Lockett, who had 44 receptions for 928 yards as a freshman. Opposing defenders might want to get rough with the 5'7", 155-pound Lockett at the line of scrimmage because if they let him get up to speed, they'll be in big trouble -- he finished fourth in the 60-meter dash in the Big 12 indoor track and field championships. He is not, however, the fastest player on the team. That would be senior Frank Murphy, whom K-State touts as the fastest player in the history of the program. Murphy will battle junior David Allen, the nation's top punt returner last year, to replace Hickson at tailback.

Snyder's toughest task will be to replace Bishop. He will call on senior Adam Helm, a pocket passer, or scrambling junior Jonathan Beasley. The Wildcats have a Butkus Award candidate in senior Mark Simoneau, who is one of the defense's seven starters who are coming back. With all that experience, the Wildcats have the potential to return to the Big 12 championship game, and Snyder hopes to use last season's disappointing finish as motivation. "We have to try to find the good in everything," says Snyder. "But it can be pretty doggone hard to do sometimes."

Sounds like Snyder has a little chip on his shoulder.

-- Mark Bechtel

Fast Facts

1998 record: 11-2 (8-0, 1st in Big 12 North)
Final ranking: No. 10 AP, No. 9 coaches' poll

1998 Averages Offense Defense
Scoring 48.0 13.3
Rushing Yards 224.9 98.3
Passing Yards 253.6 170.1
Total Yards 478.5 268.3

Key Games
Schedule strength: 68th of 114

Nov. 6 vs. Colorado
The Wildcats' first tough test. The Buffaloes put a scare into K-State last year and are fully capable of doing it again.

Nov. 13 at Nebraska
Beating Nebraska, as K-State did last year at home, is one thing. Winning in Lincoln, which it hasn't done since 1968, is another.

Bottom Line

K-State is no one-year wonder and could go to a New Year's Day bowl, but its best chance to win a national title came -- and went -- last year.

Top 25 | The Master List | Lower Divisions
Five Minute Guide to '99

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