From the 1970-79 period (when Marshall went 23-83 games, and K-State was a similar 36-74) to today, the Herd and the Wildcats represent two great turnarounds of programs that had no coaches with career winning record between 1950 and the mid-to-late 1980s. The programs also have a bit of a personnel history. Stan Parrish was the first MU coach to have a winning season in 20 years in 1984 and first coach with a career winning percentage at Marshall since Cam Henderson retired (following the 1949 season) when Parrish left the Herd for Kansas State in 1985, after a two-year mark at MU of 13-8-1. He would on to post a 2-30 mark in three seasons at K-State.
Lee Moon came to Marshall from his post as assistant athletic director with the Wildcats to become Marshall's Director of Athletics from 1988-1996. Moon even coached the Wildcats for the final nine games before Parrish took over, going 1-8 in a 1-10 season in 1985. Moon hired former Kansas State assistant Dana Altman to be Marshall's basketball coach for 1989-90, with Altman returning to K-State in 1990 to become head coach of the Wildcats.
The coach of Kansas State football since 1989 is Bill Snyder, who has posted a 120-51-1 mark with the Wildcats. After suffering three losing seasons in his first four, Snyder is 113-25-1 since 1993. His teams have finished the season ranked in the Top 20/25 in nine of ten years since 1993, winning three North Division championships in that period and finishing 6th in the nation in both 1999 and 1995. Bob Pruett and Snyder are 1/2 in wins since 1997 (66/65), while Pruett is number one in winning percentage for coaches with at least five years coaching in D-IA and Snyder is fourth.
The K-State offense is in a bit of disarray as Marshall makes only its eighth trip to play football on the western side of the Mississippi River (1-6 in those games, with the win at McNeese State in Louisiana in 1995, in the I-AA semi-finals). Quarterback and Heisman candidate Ell Roberson suffered a broken left hand or wrist in the game against those same Cowboys of McNeese State and may be lost through mid-October or later. No one at K-State will say when, or even if, it is broken and if surgery has been performed. Roberson, a 6-1, 190 pound senior, was a second-team pre-season All American coming into 2003. He had thrown for 2,554 yards, including 1,580 last year, and ran for 1,780 (1,032 in 2002) in his career. He is fifth on K-State's all-time total offense list and pass efficiency list.
He has been replaced at quarterback by senior Jeff Schwinn (6-2, 188), who had throw only 12 passes in his K-State career until Roberson was hurt in the second quarter of the McNeese State game. It will be his first career start for the Wildcats. Against McNeese State, Schwinn hit five of 14 passes for 83 yards passing and ran seven times for eight yards and a touchdown. Just this weekend against another I-AA foe, Schwinn hit for 17-of-26 against the Minutemen of UMass. He totaled 228 yards while throwing for one touchdown and one interception in leading the Wildcats to a come-from-behind 38-7 win. In two games, Schwinn's first action in five years, he is 23-of-41, 332 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Backing up Schwinn is red-shirt freshman Dylan Meier (6-4, 190), who ran for a 14-yard touchdown against McNeese State. He was one-of-two late against UMass, for 27 yards, and ran for an eight yard score. He had 74 yards rushing on six carries.
Another injured star for the Wildcats returned to form in the McNeese State game. Darren Sproles, a junior running back who goes only 5-7, 170 pounds, injured an ankle in the win over Troy State. Sproles played only the first half against the Cowboys, but rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries, including a 34-yard touchdown. He was named as a first team, pre-season All-American by both Athlon and The Sporting News, and may also be a Heisman candidate for the Wildcats. He has rushed for 1,675 yards in two years and has 2,010 all-purpose yards in his career. 1,465 rushing yards in 2002 set a Wildcat record for season rushing yards and Sproles and Roberson became the first pair to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season in Kansas State history. Sproles has rung up 477 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns, including 28 for 152 and three touchdowns against the Minutemen. His 17 touchdowns in 2002 is second most for a year in K-State history and 24 in his career put him at eighth all-time in scoring at K-State.
Fullback Travis Wilson (6-4, 240 senior) had an average of 6.0 yards per carry last year after sitting out as a transfer from Michigan State. He was honorable mention All-Big 12, clearing the way for Sproles and Roberson. He has only four carries for 11 yards so far, with four catches for 50 yards and one score, and backup fullback, Ayo Saba (6-0, 260 sophomore) has five carries for 27 yards. Backups at running back include red-shirt freshman Donnie Anders (5-10, 180), who has rushed for 53 yards on ten carries with one score, sophomores Carlos Alsup (6-1, 195), Danny Morris (6-1, 195) and Victor Mann (6-2, 230).
The offensive line returns two starters and seven lettermen, but lost two four-year letter winners. Senior Nick Leckey (6-4, 285) anchors the line at center and is a Outland (top interior lineman), Remington (top center) and Lombardi (top down lineman) candidate. At right guard, junior Mike Johnson is a second-year starter, but after that it is a "work in progess," according to line coach Bob Stanley. Right tackle will be sophomore Jeromey Clary (6-7, 290), left guard Ben Rettele (6-7, 308) and left tackle is Jon Doty (6-8, 270). Tight end Brian Casey (6-7, 270 junior) is a "sixth" lineman in the running game, although through the first four games he caught four passes for 82 yards and one score.
The wide receivers are senior James Terry (6-5, 180), with 17 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns, and true freshman Jermaine Moreira (5-10, 190), with eight catches for 137 yards. They are backed up by sophomore Davin Dennis (6-1, 175), who has two scores in only five catches, and junior Antoine Polite (6-2, 180). K-State averages about ten completions per game, for 18.9 yards per catch and six touchdowns in four games.
Up Tuesday, we look at the defensive side of the Wildcats, where running games go to die…but, there is life in the air up above.