"Keep ‘Em In Front of Ya"
Kansas State 35 vs. Oklahoma 7
Big XII Championship
Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, MO
December 6, 2003
"Keep ‘Em In Front of Ya"
WooooHoooo!!!!! Was that a blast or what? Ya know when I was a kid and went to Sunday School we sang that song that goes…."I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart…" I don't know about y'all but I'm feelin' that joy today. I've had a smile on my face all day and I just can't seem to wipe it away.
So we get this whole thing got started a couple of weeks ago when the ‘Ol Prez called and said, "I've got a deal for you. Four tickets to the game, do you wanna go?" Well, of course I can't pass up that deal. The ‘Ol Prez is a longtime Nebraska diehard and he's never been to a Big XII championship game, but he wants to see this one. So he talks The Boss into goin'. Now The Boss is an Iowa State grad…so along with the Better Half it's an interestin' mix for this one. On the way out the door I grab a couple extra purple caps just to see if they'll wear ‘em…they don't disappoint and it's a purple foursome lendin' what support we can.
Even better….a couple days after the ‘Ol Prez calls, my Mom says she'll watch the kids if we wanna go to the game….so all the stars are alignin'. Well, on last Tuesday I'm out on the road and I get to hear all the buzz comin' outta the Vanier Complex on media day….and I could just feel it in their voices…..these boys believed. On the way to the game the better half and I are just talkin' it up and I don't know what it was, but I just felt like it was gonna be our day.
So we meet the others for a bite to eat and we're chattin' it up. The Boss asks me what I think we need to do to win. And I say, "Ya know I've been thinkin' about that. I posted on a message board earlier in the week that the key was to shut down the run and make Oklahoma have controlled drives on us, because eventually they'll make a mistake. We had to prevent the big play…give ‘em their catches, but keep ‘em in front of ya'. The way I see it they haven't had to drive the ball all year, they've been hittin' folks big and then people are playin' from behind. At least that's the way I see it." Then he says, "But, can K-State do that?" I said, "We're gonna find out in about an hour and a half."
So we get into Arrowhead and it's electric in there. Ya can tell right away that the ‘Cat fans are gonna be outnumbered, but that just helps that whole underdog mentality. So we find our seats and who sits down next to us but a great K-Stater, Senator Sam Brownback…..who woulda thunk it.
So OU wins the flip and defers…so the O's gotta get it goin' quick. DiCarlo boots it in the endzone and we're startin' from the 20. The O huddles on the sideline and comes out and here comes that Sooner noise….and it's loud. We go Sproles on first for one and then Sproles again for one and then it's incomplete to Polite (Po – lete)…and that's not the kinda rhyme I like. So we three and out and kick. Brite hits a sweet hanger 46 yards and we get good coverage with Mo Mack layin' down the smack and Perkins gets nowhere. But, the field position battle starts in favor of the Sooners.
On first down they run Jones and we're stackin' for that, we stuff it. On second down they complete one for 11 and then hit a 12 yarder. On the fourth play of the drive all K-Staters get a little pit in their stomach. We blitz and Jones is loose in the secondary…they block us and he takes it the distance. On the fourth OU offensive play they're in the endzone.
So we gotta comeback. We're startin' from our own 24 after Sproles brings it back 23. We go back to Darren on first and he loses a yard. Now Roberson keeps it for seven and we got a third and relatively short, but we bonehead it up with a false start and we're long to convert. Ell gets nothin' on third and we're kickin' again. Brite hits a 36 yarder that Perkins gets back to the 49 and OU's in business….the field position battle is bein' waged and won by the Crimson.
So now the Mob is back out defendin' half the field. White is incomplete on first and hits Works for 8 out of the backfield. On third and short Works is stuffed by Buhl and the run is not workin' for ‘em. Bobby wants to keep up the field position game so he sends Ferguson out there and he hits a beauty sidewinder outta bounds at the 6….so now we're in a hole and we gotta move this thing. We need a first down.
We go to Sproles three straight times and can't move the chains…We bonehead it up on fourth down and now Brite is backed up. Well, at this point in the game Jared Brite is the MVP….he booms a sweet 56 yard spiral over Perkins head…..and Perkins runs backwards for awhile until Rashad Washington and Scott Edmonds smack him for a 2 yard loss and we stem the tide on the field position for a while.
They start with Jones and we've shut down the run. White goes to Wilson for six and then Clayton for ten. They come back to the run with Jones for six and then one and then White is incomplete. Oklahoma's puntin' again and that defense is keepin' us in the ballgame. This time Sproles faircatches the ball at the seven and it's tough to overcome.
So we come back to Sproles and get a little push for three. Ell is incomplete on second down and then gets Darren loose on a screen pass for 26. Darren gets hammered on the play but we get our first firstdown with about two minutes left in the first quarter. Now Ell comes back for five and then is incomplete twice and we are puntin' again. I'm feelin' okay because the defense is playin' and we've finally changed some of the field position….but no….. the punt snap hits the upback and we don't get the punt off. It's a turnover on fourth down and Oklahoma has sweet field position on our 36. At this point it's lookin' pretty bleak…and I exchanged frustrated looks with the Senator…and it just hit me, I told him, "We're comin' back in this one. We're gonna turn it around and get this goin' in the right direction, right now."
White comes out and hits Clayton for 13 and Sims brings him down. I'm yellin', "It's okay, just keep ‘em in front of ya!" Then he goes incomplete, Buhl smacks Works for a loss of two on second down and I'm yellin', "Keep stuffin' that run!" On third down the swing pass to Works didn't work because Andrew Shull was keepin' ‘em in front. So it's fourth down and the quarter is over. So after all that went wrong in the first quarter with the field position and the poor offense I was feelin' decent at this point…if we can just keep it in reach we got a chance….keep on keepin' ‘em in front of us.
Well, the second quarter started with a good omen. OU's kicker, who hadn't missed in forever, pushed it wide and we don't get hurt by the big special team mistake.
We're starting from our own 27. Ya know I think sometimes Darren Sproles just hitches this team on his shoulders and says, "let's go." On first down he's offset to the left behind Ell. On the snap Roberson pitches it to him for a sweep left. Well, OU walked a safety up and blitzed him on the play. Right after Darren caught the pitch that safety was there…in his face…..well, Darren Sproles did a 360 degree spin move and the OU defender whiffed. After the spin move Darren pointed it south and was flyin' up the sideline. Perkins had the angle on him and shoved him outta bounds 55 yards later. Well, that was the spark that lit the fire. Three plays later Ell finds Brian Casey on a 19 yarder for the touchdown and here we are….it's 7-all at the 13:57 mark in the second quarter.
Rheem hits a high kick down to the two and Buhl and Archer stop Perkins at the 23. Now the Mob is back out and fired up. White goes to Peoples for seven on first down. They come back to Jones on second down for two and then it's third and short. They try and muscle it up to get the first…but we're stuffin' the run tonight and makin' these Sooners one-dimensional. It's Oklahoma's turn to go three and out and we're gettin' some MO. Ferguson only gets a 31 yarder and we're in business at our own 37.
Since we got ‘em reelin' a little bit and we can tell they're comin' after us…it's time to go after them. James Terry runs a hitch and go and Ell lays it up there. The ball is underthrown, but Terry's got his man beat and all that defender is worried about is tryin' to catch up. Terry can see the ball and slows down to get it….he does and runs through an arm tackle and high-steps into the end zone. It's a 63 yard bomb for six and after the kick….the ‘Cats are up 14-7 with 11:34 left in the half.
Rheem hits a hanger in the corner on the kick that Rankins takes. Danny Morris and Lance Kramer corral him at the 26 and here comes that Mob again. They've got their groove goin' now. They're startin' to bring the heat to White and he can only complete one pass for seven yards and I'm screamin', "Good job! Keep ‘em in front of ya." It's a three and out and Ferguson gets another short punt.
We can't get anything goin' on our series and we're puntin' too. Brite hits a sweet high 46 yarder down to the 16. We got Perkins covered in our lanes and one of their guys tries to spring him with a block in the back….well, that puts their O in a little bit of a hole.
Now they're gonna try and get somethin' goin'. But they can't do it on the ground, Jones is stuffed on first down. So they come back to the air...White hits Jones for 10 and then Wilson for 14…"that's okay, keep ‘em in front of ya. They'll make a mistake." They come back to the rush and get stuffed. Now they get a fifteen yard gain on a pass interference call and they're movin' a little. White hits Clayton for 38 yards and they're down to the 13. They come back to the rush and that ain't gonna happen today…Jones is stuffed. On second down we give ‘em three more downs from half the distance on a roughing call. On first down White is flushed and he ain't fast enough. Second down is incomplete.
Well, folks I think little Darren Sproles started the fire for the ‘Cats, James Terry and Ell added some fuel, and the Lynch Mob poured on some gas…..the defensive line flushes White outta the pocket on third down and Houchin is puttin' on the heat….White throws late over the middle and that's a mistake….James McGill is right there and that's the end of that little drive…..and folks, probably the game.
We're startin' on the twenty and Ell is tryin' the QB run game. He gets hit for a loss of five and then gets loose on a QB counter for ten on second down on a sweet block by Travis Wilson. On third down he finds Thomas Hill for nine yards and the first down. He comes back for six and now it's time for pandemonium….
Ya know folks they call a screen pass because the offensive line lets the defensive rushers through and "sets the screen" at the next level. It's a great play against a very aggressive and fast defense. Well it's a great play at the right time and it catches Oklahoma. K-State sets the screen for little Darren Sproles and when he catches the ball I yell, "HE'S GONE!!" From where I was sittin' you could see this thing before the ball was thrown….it was textbook. We had our linemen and all of our receivers against their three d-backs…plus we had Darren Sproles in the open field. He took the pass sixty yards to the house…and I was slappin' five and huggin' K-State fans I didn't know. It's 21-7 with 3:18 left in the half. After I catch my breath I tell the Boss, "Ya know, I haven't heard Boomer Sooner in quite awhile…that's kinda nice." He says, "Tell me about it."
So Rheem hits another sweet high one down to the four and Rankins brings it back 14 yards where he finds out that Mo Mack can lay down the smack….and there're a couple of Olathe North Eagles layin' the wood to the Oklahoma Sooners….isn't that sweet.
White's still got some in him. They're givin up on the run. White hits Jones for 11 and then comes back to Donley for 16. I say, "that's okay, just keep ‘em in front of ya." The Boss says, "that's not what ya have in mind is it?" And I say, "Yep, they'll make a mistake soon enough." Now he gets it complete to Peoples for 11. Then on first down it's incomplete and OU's holdin' and there's the mistake I'm talkin' about. White is incomplete on second down…and the Mob is bringin' the heat. On third and 20 Peoples gets free for 19 and it's fourth and short. Bobby decides to go for it….and he goes for it big. It's a play action pass that White can't get to his receiver…and there's no Sooner Magic on this night.
We get the ball and try and run out the clock. OU decides to use their timeouts figgerin' they'll get the ball back with a chance. Well, we go three and out and now it's time for Brite to shine….and he shone "Britely." He hit a beautiful high hanger down to the OU 24….we bulldogged Perkins for a loss of ten on the return and OU decided to stop their first half whippin'.
At this point I'm feelin' real good. The ghosts of 1998 are always with me, so I'm not allowin' myself to be convinced that we got it in the bag, but I know we're a second half team and I'm tellin' everybody about it. I'm feelin' real good, but I know there's work to be done and I still got some voice left.
So OU gets the ball to start the second and we're gonna see how it goes. OU comes out with the pass…because they KNOW they can't run. They're startin' on their own 26. White hits Peoples on first down for 14…I'm yellin', "Just keep ‘em in front." Now they go incomplete and then Shull and Sims stuff Jones for a loss. On third down, White converts to Jones for 22 yards. On first down, they pull out some trickery with a reverse pass by Clayton, but the rush is there. Clayton is slippery and he gets away with a little help of some holding….the net result after the penalty is that it's first and twelve. Now Works runs for 11 and then gets stuffed for a loss of five. White finds Clayton for 11 and the first down. Now he goes incomplete and then finds Clayton again for 8. Jones comes back for a run of three and the first down to the K-State 14. On first down, Clayton is open in the endzone, but the ball is tipped at the line. On second down the statement is made by the Lynch Mob that the Sooners aren't gonna get any rushin' touchdowns when they're in the redzone, as they stuff Jones. On third down, Clayton gets a short gain on a pass and it's fourth down. Well, it's a 15 play 63 yard drive to the K-State 11 yard line that takes 7:00 minutes off the clock and OU's kicker has the shanks. DiCarlo misses the short field goal attempt and they get nothin' except a lot of heartbreak.
At this point I look at the ‘Ol Prez and he says, "They're finished. This thing is over." Now y'all gotta understand he's a Husker…so he may not understand what it's like for K-State fans…but, I was feelin' pretty good at this point too.
So we come out and we're gonna see how we adjusted. We go to Sproles for three. Then Ell runs option and he cuts right behind the guard…and that's somethin' they musta saw at half…because there wasn't a defender in the middle….the defense flew out to the edge when we showed option action. Anyway Ell runs for 12 and the first down. We come back to Sproles for 15 and the ball is at midfield. I'm yellin', "Run it right at ‘em." We come back to Sproles for 13 and then Sproles for six. Then Ell goes for 6 and then another 18….he gets popped and the ball comes out….but the bounces are goin' K-State's way. Clary and a bunch of other linemen are hustlin' downfield, he jumps on the ball and we're still goin'. Come back to Sproles for 5 then Ell for 1. It's third and four from the nine and it's time to drive the dagger in the heart. Ell rolls out right, sets his feet, and rifles a throw ten yards…..it's complete to Polite….and that's a rhyme I like. It's 28-7 with 3:02 left in the third quarter and y'all could feel it right then couldn't ya?
We answer their 15 play monster that got nothin' with a sweet drive of smashmouth football that featured 9 rushes and 1 pass. It covered 80 yards and took almost 5 minutes. It was a statement…and the statement it made was, "YOU'RE DONE!!!"
After the kick they're startin' from their own 24. Jones gets loose for 24 on first down…But, OU's still one dimensional. The Mob's askin' the question now….paper or plastic? The Mob is sackin' up the quarterback….two consecutive for 3 and then 4. White goes incomplete on fourth and it's a four and out. Ferguson gets a decent punt and we're startin' from our own 9.
Sproles goes for nothin' and that's the end of that quarter. We've got 15 minutes of football left….in reality it's already over….you can see it in the body language…everybody in Arrowhead knew it. Well we start the fourth quarter with a little smashmouth. Sproles right at ‘em for six and then 8. Then Roberson is complete to Polite for 33 and we're goin' again. We move it out for field position and can't keep it goin'. Three more plays and Brite is puntin' again. He hits another sweet one down inside the ten….we had a chance to down it, but hit it inside the endzone…so OU is startin' from the twenty.
Now folks they can't get a run game goin' and they're down 21. We got them in a situation where we can play ‘em on our terms. We've been poundin' White all night and the previous series sacked him twice. Right now we know we can come after him…and more importantly he knows it. On first down he hits Peoples on a short one and we're keepin' ‘em in front of us. On second down he's incomplete so it's third and seven. We know they're gonna throw and it looks like we know where they're gonna throw….'specially old Ted Sims. The boys up front bring the heat on White and Sims steps back and snags his slant pass. Well, there's 27 yards of wide open green in front of him. He takes that one to the house and it's 35-7. I'm slappin' five and huggin' all my newfound K-State friends and it's gonna be a great day.
I walk over to the Senator and tell him, "Senator, I told ya we were gonna come back." He hoarsely replies, "Yep, you did. This is a great day….a truly great day for K-State." I said, "I hope ya don't have to make any speeches on the floor too soon." He just smiled a very gratifying smile. You could see it in his face, he had that joy in his heart too….just like all ‘Cat fans. Think about it folks…a US Senator sittin' there losin' his voice with the rest of us.
So now OU's behind the 28 ball and they haven't done squat since the first drive of this game. But, they're tryin' to get a little somethin' goin'. That Lynch Mob is keepin' in front of ‘em now. They drive it twelve plays and 48 yards to the K-State 27, but can't convert on 4th down. Ya see if ya don't let those guys get away from ya eventually the field shrinks and they can't get the ball in, because they don't have a smashmouth runnin' game.
We take over and guess what….we got a smashmouth runnin' game with a whirling dervish of a runnin' back…..that is the best one in the country. On first down, he goes 60 yards down to the OU 13…and that defense is just beat. In the next three plays we get four penalties and that takes us out of field goal range. So Brite punts it and we can't down it so OU is goin' from the 20 again. Now Oklahoma's done…they bring in the backup QB, Thompson. He moves ‘em 21 yards in 6 plays and they punt. Ferguson hits it to the 25.
Well, on first down here comes a little more smashmouth and Oklahoma's had enough….Sproles gets loose for 63 yards on an innocent play right up the middle. The ‘Ol Prez is a Husker ya know and he leans over and says, "Maybe, we oughta fire Stoops!" and winks at me. Danny Morris gets a rush and some recognition. Sproles gets a rush and some recognition and Ell finishes it off with a rush for one yard. That's the ballgame and the party's begun.
Folks, I can't tell y'all how great it was to watch that group hoist that trophy and get the invite to the Fiesta Bowl. The better half and I stood there and took it all in on that crisp cool Kansas City night. You could feel it…that joy creepin' into your heart.
Ya' know ‘Cat fans have been sufferin' in football purgatory for a long time. All the years that we were just bad, the rise to prominence, the heartbreak in 1998, the 6-6 sufferin', and the continual media bashin'. It all got washed away on this beautiful December night. This team erased so much in such a short period. The absolute demolition of Nebraska in Lincoln, the first time K-State's ever beat a #1 team, the demolition of that Oklahoma team, and conference champions.
In some weird way, this conference championship just seems so much more "right" for K-State. In 1998 we were the favorites, probably the best team in the country. We'd come so far, so fast, and it all slipped away in an instant. In hindsight, that just doesn't seem to be the way our first Big XII conference championship should've happened. I know this is rationalization, but K-State is the ultimate underdog…and on this night the ultimate underdog was facing the ultimate favorite and they were ranked #1 to boot. This is the way it should happen and this is the way it did happen. The Kansas State Wildcats Big XII Conference Football Champions.
Until next time,
Wildcat Victory is more than a song!
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