SNYDER GOES FROM ‘MIRACLE' TO ‘MAGICAL'

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State among the nation's elite at 7-0 is hard to believe, but that's exactly where coach Bill Snyder has positioned his Wildcats heading into Saturday's 2:30 contest against Oklahoma at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The name is Bill Snyder, master of the game of football is his coaching profession. Snyder's ticket to the College Football Hall of Fame was punched long ago, but now he's thrown this 2011 season into the mix as arguably his most incredible coaching performance in his 20 Kansas State seasons.

Sure, that 11-0 start to the 1998 season carried a magic, but it was coming off an 11-win year in 1997, and the field was littered with NFL draftees.

And the Big 12 championship 2003 season will always carry a special significance, but remember, that Wildcat team was just 4-3 heading into mid-October. And, even going from one win in 1989 to five in 1990 was remarkable in the infancy of the "Miracle In Manhattan."

While a monster month of Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and at Texas await the Wildcats during the next four Saturdays, let's pause to flashback on the first seven games of 2011. All were wins; four at home, three on the road; a victory over No. 15 Baylor; four come-from-behind victories; five by a total of 22 points, plus two blowouts.

The season's not complete by any means, but no one … that's nooooo onnnne … predicted K-State to have such a start in 2011 as this one at 7-0.

The preseason magazines had K-State as a 3- to 5-win team, and the Big 12 coaches and media polls had the Wildcats no higher than eighth in the 10-team league.

Today, K-State is at seven wins, and a Top 10 team in the national Bowl Championship Series rankings.

Now consider this.

K-State's ace in the hole entering the year was to be Big 12 Preseason Offensive Newcomer of the Year in Bryce Brown. In two games, Brown carried three times for 16 yards before going AWOL.

While all the hoop-la had Brown in the spotlight, John Hubert quietly prepared in the background to be the man, and has responded with a 91-yard rushing average, netting more than five yards per carry.

Now consider this.

Fans bought into the fact that Justin Tuggle was to be the next Michael Bishop at quarterback. Instead, Collin Klein emerged as the man behind center. True, his arm is mediocre by Big 12 standards, but he does complete passes at a 60 percent clip, he does average nearly five yards per rush and 95 yards per game, he does lead the Big 12 with 14 rushing TDs, he does manage the game with an expertise far beyond his nine overall games as a starter, and most of all, he has that "it" factor in terms of leadership. No finer person has ever worn a purple and white uniform than Collin Klein.

Combined, the Klein-Hubert tandem is on pace to become only second 1,000-yard 1-2 punch in a single season along with Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles in 2002.

Now consider this.

Remember that "Crush Cosh" banter of a year ago concerning Wildcat defensive coordinator Chris Cosh? Well, today Cosh's defense ranks second in the league in scoring defense, second in rushing defense and fourth in total defense … yet Cosh is getting little mention for credit.

Arthur Brown has been plugged into the middle, and surrounded by a pair of junior college cornerbacks in Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman, not to mention 5-foot-8 David "Rat" Garrett, plus the heady co-safeties in Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman, and a vastly improved front wall.

While not playing to the famed "Lynch Mob" personality of 12 to 15 years ago, this defense has made the timely goal line stand, or come up with take-aways at the most opportune times with its 15 turnovers forced ranking second in the league.

Now consider this.

Sixty percent of K-State's offensive line was lost from last year, and of the starting-five at the beginning of the season, 40 percent of that line was lost in the first two games when Shaun Simon and Manase Foketi went down with injuries. That has left Zach Hanson, Nick Puetz, B.J. Finney, Colten Freeze and Clyde Aufner to take nearly every snap in the last five weeks.

The unit has helped K-State lead the league in time of possession by over one minute, has helped Klein to turn third-downs to first-downs 48 percent of the time, and the team to march 70 yards, or more, on 15 TD drives.

Now consider this.

For unannounced reasons, the Smiths – Brodrick and Sheldon – have missed the last the last two games at wide receiver allowing true-freshman Tyler Locket to emerge with eight receptions for 140 yards in the last two games, not to mention kickoff returns of 97 and 100 yards.

Now consider this.

When listing NFL draft candidates on this K-State roster, how long is your list? Arthur Brown, probably; ahhhhhh, Ray Kibble has emerged as a maybe; Collin Klein … as a receiver?
You get the point.

Snyder, and his staff, has molded a cast of 2- and 3-Star semi-talents, which included 12 Kansas native starters this past week, into a Top 10 team in the nation and one of just eight unbeaten teams in the nation.

K-State is a team now in the conversation for the Big 12 title; a team in the hunt for a BCS bowl invite; heck, if the ‘Cats roll-on, and the cards fell just right around the country, that Powercat logo would be on the ESPN BCS leaderboard for contending teams to be No. 1-2.

A stretch, you say?

Absolutely, but the same could be said for this 7-0 start.

Never rule anything out with Mr. Snyder punching the buttons and coaching to the basics of his "16 Commandments" to the degree of having them printed on the back of K-State's equipment trailer.

So generic to the ear they seem – work hard, never give up, improve every day, leadership, no self-limitation, etc. – yet so powerful in strength when preached each and every day in absolutely every department of the Wildcat franchise.

It's a discipline perhaps best seen in turnover yardage where K-State averages a league-low 38 yards in penalties, while opponents of the Wildcats average a league-high of 79 yards in yellow flags for a difference in 41 yards per game.

Snyder-coached teams have always played to their potential, if not a touch beyond. But in many of those years the Wildcats were expected to be good, and were.

This season is different. No one expected K-State to be a player in the Big 12; to deserve mention in the Top 25, let alone Top 10; and, unbeaten heading into the final Saturday in October.

Nobody expected a 7-0 record … except the master … Mr. Snyder.


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