Curtis Kitchen has followed the Big 12, Kansas State and national college basketball beat including K-State's run to the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 in 2010. You can currently follow his work at his blog: KitchenKC.com In the past, he also covered the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting KC) for Major League Soccer's mlsnet.com site as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals for the other sports station in town. His freelance portfolio ranges media outlets and publications, including gopowercat.com (part of the Rivals network), collegehoopsnet.com and the Miami Herald.
Curtis Kitchen: Time For K-State To Return The Favor
by Curtis Kitchen,posted Oct 28 2011 11:33AM
Negators, here's your chance to click off this page right now. We aren't serving your kind here because this week, this Kansas State-Oklahoma game isn't about what can't happen. Its about what can.
Saturday will mark the 11-year, 2-week and a day anniversary of another "can happen." In Manhattan, on Oct. 14, 2000, an upstart, freshly-minted, underestimated Top 10 Oklahoma Sooners team stepped on the field with the No. 2 Wildcats.
The undefeated Sooners were led by a physically unimpressive but scheme-smart quarterback in Josh Heupel. He had one pretty darn good receiver in Mark Clayton and several other decent ones. He had a small, shifty, hard-working running back in Quentin Griffin.
On defense, there were some extremely young and talented players (like freshmen Teddy Lehmen, Derrick Strait, Jimmy Wilkerson and Brandon Everage) that would one day become household names. They were led by by the Rocky Bright and J.T. Thatcher. Oh, and they had a nasty lightning bolt of a linebacker named Torrance Marshall.
That defense, which ended the 2000 season ranked eighth in the nation (third in the Big 12 behind K-State and Texas), didn't get by on talent. It fed on its emotion, and as the wins came, confidence.
The Sooners went into Manhattan 11 years ago and shocked the nation by upending the second-ranked Wildcats 41-31 in a game that OU exploited K-State's eagerness to intimidate the line of scrimmage (Griffin ran for 23 yards on 19 carries; OU finished with 11 rushing yards as a team). Heupel took to the air and threw for 374 yards while getting five different receivers at least three catches apiece. But, it wasn't his effort alone.
Thatcher averaged 37.5 yards per kickoff return that day. Kicker Tim Duncan didn't miss either of his two field goals or five extra points.
The defense forced a couple of turnovers and bothered normally stalwart KSU quarterback Jonathan Beasley into a 14-of-36, 211-yard passing day. OU's defense choked the life out of the passing game as Beasley managed just 5.9 yards per attempt.
The sum of that defense was much greated than its parts. The same was true for that team, which would go on the next week to knock off No. 1 Nebraska in Norman before rolling through the rest of that year to win a national championship.
It took more than a decade, but this is the best opportunity K-State has had to return that favor.
Now, we're not talking a national championship. Though, if KSU and its fans aren't asking "why not?" by that point, then shame on them.
Instead, it is about Saturday's game. It is about a statistically frightening (for all the wrong reasons) offense that's led by a bull-headed runner of a quarterback in Collin Klein who happens to lead the conference in touchdowns and scoring out of pure necessity. It is about a defense that had one or two names in Arthur Brown and David Garrett at the beginning of the year, but now has several pieces popping up as crucial cogs to defensive coordinator Chris Cosh's engine.
If any one of those pieces goes down, one wonders: Would the conference's top defense run the same?
It is about a true freshman in Tyler Lockett who has emerged on special teams. With each electric return, he's tapped into the collective K-State memory to conjure images of two families - his personal one and his football one.
And, finally, just like it was for Oklahoma's upstart coaching staff all those years ago, Bill Snyder (albeit at age 72) has somehow made us all believe that even he has a little upstart to him. He's constantly wringing consistent, winning play out of his team in a college landscape that doesn't play nice when it comes to outsiders trying to crash the BCS national championship convention.
This Saturday, Bill Snyder Family Stadium will be sold out to see the most important K-State game in about a decade. When the noise booms out of the stadium and echoes out across Manhattan to the south and across the hills to the north, it will not be about can't happen.