MALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Darren Sproles
Runner-Up: Ell Roberson
It's hard to argue the all-everything junior from Olathe, Kan. shouldn't have been a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and winner of the Doak Walker Award. Sproles piled up 1,948 yards to lead the nation, broke K-State single-season and single-game rushing records (273 yards against Missouri), and on national television, ABC, had 235 yards against Oklahoma.
And he has another year to go.
The real test for Sproles, however, comes next season, when he doesn't have weapons Roberson and James Terry to take the load off. Defenses will undoubtedly focus on the diminutive back, making a run at the Heisman even more difficult than it was this season.
FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nicole Ohlde
Runner-up: Amy Mortimer (K-State Track, XC)
Ohlde narrowly beat out K-State track and cross country phenom Amy Mortimor by breaking the Wildcats' all-time scoring mark against Purdue in K-State's opening game this season, becoming Big 12 Player of the Year, an All-American and among those rumored for the 2004 Wade Trophy, considered the Naismith Award of women's basketball. Oh, by the way, she's also in the running for the first annual women's Naismith.
A native of Clay Center, Kan., Ohlde was one of Coach Deb Patterson's building-block recruits, in the same class as Laurie Koehn, and over the last four seasons the 6-foot-4 center has shouldered the load as the Wildcats made two consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.
BEST GAME: 2003 Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship
Runner-Up: 2003 Holiday Bowl
In the most dominating performance by, perhaps, any Kansas State football team, the Wildcats gave up an early touchdown to a team billed as the best ever, Oklahoma, before burying the Sooners behind five unanswered touchdowns. After heartbreaks in the Cats' previous two trips to the Big 12 title game, and in a rematch of the 2000 Big 12 Championship -- a 27-24 loss to Oklahoma -- Kansas State made amends in a landmark victory for Coach Bill Snyder.
WORST GAME: Women's NCAA Tournament, 2nd Round
Runner-Up: Football against Marshall
It wasn't supposed to go this way for Kansas State, the Big 12 regular season co-champions which spent most of the season ranked among the top five teams in the entire nation. After advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2002, 2003 was supposed to be the year Kendra Wecker, Megan Mahoney, Laurie Koehn and Ohlde took the Cats to the promised land.
But the luck of the Irish got the better of the Cats. Unable to establish any sort of inside presence, Notre Dame upset No. 2-seeded Kansas State 59-53 in Manhattan. Fighting double- and triple-teams, Ohlde and Wecker were unable to get things going offensively and a short bench coupled with foul problems and fatigue compounded problems. When the Cats entered the post-game media conference, teary eyes red, the squad vowed to make amends in 2003-04. The entire team would be returning.
BEST SINGLE MOMENT: Nov. 15 in Lincoln, Neb.
Runner-Up: Dec. 6 in Kansas City, Mo.
While it's impossible to discount the Wildcats' 2003 Big 12 Football title, it would be remiss to not remember what got them there -- a win in Lincoln, 38-9, for the first time in 35 years. Roberson had talked smack all week about Jamaal Lord, and he and linebacker Demorrio Williams dished it right back at the Wildcats' senior signal-caller. The single greatest moment was Roberson prancing along the edge of the field, shaking hands with the five thousand or so purple-clad fans who made the trip north from Manhattan.
In a game that could have gone either way at halftime, Kansas State came out and scorched one of the most dominating programs in college football history -- and helped contribute to the ultimate firing of Coach Frank Solich. In two corners of Memorial Stadium are boards put up in the 1970s that display yardage gained -- so that Nebraska faithful could keep track of how badly they were dominating their opponents. In 2003, the proverbial shoe was on the other foot.
WORST SINGLE MOMENT: The Walk
Runner-Up: The Season
After a promising season in 2002, the 2003 baseball team struggled through one of the worst seasons in the tenure of Mike Clark, ultimately resulting in his resignation. But all of those losses fail to make up for just one: Pervis Pasco's blunder which cost the Cats a first-round win in the Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament.
Late in the game against Colorado, Kansas State led by two. A Buffalo turnover into the hands of Pasco with under two seconds remaining nearly sealed the deal for the Cats. But Pasco, with a finger raised as if K-State were "Number One," walked off the court and got called for traveling, giving Colorado one last chance. An inbound, a turn-and-shoot, and an improbable, impossible loss ended Pasco's career and K-State's season.
BEST SEASON: Football, Volleyball (tie)
In one season, Kansas State crowned two Big 12 Champions in the most high-profiled sports of the fall season. The football team will attempt to kick off the 2004 year with a win on Jan. 2 against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, but to get there the Cats won six games in the Big 12 and 11 games this season -- the sixth time in seven years.
Under the direction of Suzie Fritz, the volleyball team beat Nebraska -- the Big 12's most dominant program -- twice, en route to its first conference title and a run to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament before the sixth-ranked Cats lost to No. 10 Penn State. K-State won 30 matches and had several All-American and All-Conference performers, including Gabby Guerre and Lauren Goerhing.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Snyder
Runner-Up: Suzie Fritz
For the same reasons as above, Snyder and Fritz deserve to be made a note of. Snyder, who had to exorcise demons of Big 12 campaigns past, put together a remarkable season after gut-wrenching disappointments against Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats, showing the same resolve as their beleagured leader, shocked the nation and threw a wrench into the Bowl Championship Series in one fell swoop.
As for Fritz, even a pregnancy couldn't slow down the Big 12 Coach of the Year. Climbing as high as No. 5 at one point and losing just two Big 12 matches, the Wildcats knocked the Cornhuskers off the pedestal they have held for more than a dozen years.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Cedrick Williams
Runner-Up: Claire Coggins
Williams, a transfer from Garden City Community College, was expected to take over for Terrence Newman opposite Randy Jordan at cornerback for the Wildcats. Wearing No. 4, Newman's number, Williams got off to a slow start before becoming one of the top cover-corners in the Big 12. His lock-down play helped the Wildcats shut down the vaunted Oklahoma passing attack at Arrowhead in the Big 12 title game, and while players like Ted Sims may be able to make a case here, Williams gets the nod.
It's early in Kansas State's 2003-04 women's basketball season, but Coggins, a 5-foot-10 swing out of Lee's Summit, Mo. appears to be the next coming of Kendra Wecker. Full of hustle, a bubbly and addictive demeanor, Coggins has Bramlage up in arms -- Claire Coggins for THREEEEE. There is nowhere to go but up for the super-frosh.
EMERGING STAR: James Terry
Runner-Up: Marquis Hayden
Ell Roberson was a Heisman Trophy candidate early in the season, and while injuries knocked him from contention, he found on of the most prolific receivers in Kansas State history to help ease his pain. Questions abounded at receiver when Taco Wallace graduated and Derrick Evans was booted from the team, but Terry proved game-in and game-out that he could make the big play when the Cats needed it most. He dazzled against Nebraska and had by far his greatest moments against Oklahoma. In doing so, he put himself in the record books along with the likes of Darnell McDonald, Quincy Morgan and Kevin Lockett -- and assured himself a spot in the NFL Draft.
While the 2002-03 men's basketball season was full of disappointment, Hayden was one bright glow the emanated from a dark and dreary Bramlage Coliseum. Dropping 35 pounds over the summer, the more agile, athletic and complete Hayden has broken through this fall/winter to help lead Kansas State's resurrection.
Indeed, it was a great year for Wildcat athletics, setting the table for a 2004 that could suprass everything the past year has been.
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