When the two teams kickoff this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Memorial Stadium, KU (5-3) will be looking to win its third straight game over the Wildcats (4-4) and extend the series lead to 65-36-5. Heck, that hasn’t happened since 1988-90. KU has also won three of its last four games against K-State.
Once called “America’s most hapless team”
by Sports Illustrated before Bill Snyder took over the program in 1989,
KSU won 11 straight games over the Jayhawks (1993-2003) on their way to
national prominence and 11 consecutive bowl appearances.
While Snyder gets credit for the “Miracle in
Manhattan,” it was a young assistant coach named Mangino who
also deserves props for the program’s rise since he joined
the staff in 1991. He watched the miracle take place for eight years at
K-State, serving as recruiting coordinator from 1991-96, running game
coordinator/offensive line coach (1997), and assistant head coach in
1998 before leaving the program to become an assistant at Oklahoma.
In Mangino’s eight years at K-State, the Wildcats went
71-23-1, recorded six-straight nine-plus wins seasons, and went to six
consecutive bowl games.
Mangino then served three seasons in Norman, and was honored in 2000
(OU won the national championship) with the Frank Broyles Award as the
top assistant coach in college football.
When Mangino accepted the Kansas job in December of 2001, he was thrust
back into the KU-KSU rivalry and determined to establish the Jayhawks
as the premier team in the state after previous head coach Terry
Allen’s five years of failure at Mount Oread.
Snyder, for one, thought Mangino could turn the program around.
“Mark is a very good hire for the University of
Kansas,” Snyder said at the time. “He is very
intelligent and a hard worker. Mark knows what it takes to develop a
successful program, having been part of that both here at Kansas State
and at Oklahoma.”
Mangino gave Snyder props for helping prepare him for the KU head
“I have a great deal of respect for Coach Snyder,”
Mangino said at his introductory press conference at Kansas on Dec. 4,
2001. “Let me make this perfectly clear, if it
wasn’t for my eight years at Kansas State, I
wouldn’t be sitting here in front of you. He has done a great
deal for me. I just think that I owe him a lot. Coach Snyder is someone
I care about a great deal.”
Snyder and the Wildcats didn’t show much love for Mangino
during the new KU head coach’s first game against KSU. The
No. 14 Wildcats crushed KU 64-0 in Lawrence in 2002. KU, which went
just 2-10 that season, didn’t fare much better in Manhattan
the following year in a 42-6 loss. But KU was gradually getting better,
evidenced by its 6-7 record and trip to the Tangerine Bowl, the
Jayhawks’ first bowl game since 1995.
And then it happened.
After 11 long years of heartache and frustration, Kansas finally beat
the Wildcats, 31-28, on Oct. 9, 2004 in Lawrence. It was the biggest
crowd at Memorial Stadium (50, 152) since that dark night against
Nebraska three years earlier on Nov. 3, 2001, when then-KU athletics
director Al Bohl fired Allen after the Jayhawks’ 51-7 loss to
While Kansas fell to K-State at Manhattan the next year, 12-3, you
could see the momentum beginning to shift KU’s way. The
Jayhawks went 7-5 in 2005, winning four of their last five games,
including a resounding 42-13 victory over Houston in the Fort Worth
Bowl. K-State, meanwhile, suffered back-to-back losing seasons and won
just two games in conference play (5-6 overall).
Snyder wound up retiring after 17 years at KSU.
Ron Prince took over at K-State, and Kansas gave him a rude awakening
with a 39-20 victory in Lawrence on Nov. 18, 2006. And then, after
cruising through its nonconference schedule with four straight wins
last season, KU won a defining game over the No. 24 ‘Cats
(30-24) on Oct 6, 2007. It was the Jayhawks’ first win in
Manhattan since Glen Mason’s second year as head coach in
KU proved to the country and themselves they could beat a ranked team
on the road. The team’s confidence grew after that game, and
KU wound up winning a school-record 12 games, capped off with a sweet
Orange Bowl victory.
After 11 years of K-State superiority, Mangino’s Jayhawks are
now beating the Wildcats on the field and off the field in recruiting.
A stellar recruiter, Mangino has been signing the best players in
Kansas basically since he got the job, including guys like Mike Rivera,
Caleb Blakesley, Jake Sharp, and Darrell Stuckey.
While he learned the coaching trade under Snyder, Mangino has helped
build the Jayhawk program in his own image. However, he is still quick
to credit Snyder for his success, though adding that it’s not
as simple as taking the blueprint from KSU’s program and
“applying it here.”
“One of the things that’s really a challenge is you
can be an assistant coach at a really good program or around really
good people, but each university has its own circumstances,”
Mangino said. “Everything from resources, infrastructure,
academic restrictions, geography, recruiting base — there are
so many things that are different.
“You can’t say, ‘OK,
‘I’m going to take this blueprint from this program
and apply it here.’ You got to do it your own way. You got to
understand what the hurdles are, where the challenges are, what the
limitations are, and then design your program within those parameters.
When we worked for coach Snyder, he was able to do that. He was able to
find what was the proper path for the program. What a lot of us
(then-assistant coaches at K-State like current OU head coach Bob
Stoops) may have learned is what is the proper path for our
Mangino has certainly built the proper path for the Jayhawk program. He
was the consensus national coach of the year last season, and is the
only coach in school history to lead the Jayhawks to three bowl games.
With a win over K-State on Saturday, KU will have six wins and become
bowl eligible. KU will no doubt win a few more games this season and go
to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
Mangino has currently won 42 games at Kansas, just fourth behind Bert
Kennedy, Glen Mason and Jack Mitchell. Mangino needs just 12 more wins
to surpass Kennedy (53-9-4 from 1904-1910) and become the winningest
coach in KU history.
Meanwhile in Manhattan, Prince has fallen under some hard
times. Prince has just a 16-17 record in his third year with the
Wildcats, and K-State enters the Sunflower Showdown losing three of its
last four games. The K-State faithful have turned on Prince, and there
are rumors he might be fired after this season. Kansas State has the
second-lowest average home attendance in the Big 12 (45, 323).
It’s a different story in Lawrence. KU is on pace to set a
new home season average attendance record for the fourth straight year.
The Jayhawks’ home opener against lowly FIU on Aug. 30 set a
single-game attendance record (52, 112) at Memorial Stadium.
Despite losing two straight games, optimism about Mangino and KU
football is still sky high in Lawrence. The K-State game is a sellout
and expect the Jayhawks’ fans to wave the wheat and rock
Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Mangino was once part of the KSU family, and remains grateful for
everything Snyder did for him. But with a victory over K-State on
Saturday, it will be quite clear that the Jayhawk are now THE team in
Ri vera certainly wants to make that happen.
“It would be great to see the times turning,”
Rivera said. ‘”KU is the big school in Kansas. We
want to go out and have the best game we can and show that we can beat
them consistently year in and year out. We’re a solid team,
we’re tough, and we’ll fight to the
The Jayhawks could do it no other way under Mangino. When Mangino
retires, maybe KU Athletics, Inc. will even rename Memorial Stadium in
his honor, as K-State did for Snyder when they renamed KSU
Stadium/Wagner Field the new Bill Snyder Family Stadium after he
stepped down in 2005.
After a mostly lackluster 20th century of KU football, Mangino has
given KU pigskin fans reason to believe, and seems on his way to
building his own Miracle at Mount Oread.
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