Big 8 Farewell: Kansas State

For the first 80 years that Nebraska played Kansas State in football, it was very much a one-sided affair. Only eleven times did Kansas State avoid losing, as Kansas State had traditionally been a bottom feeder in college football. From 1935 to 1988, the Wildcats had four winning seasons. In 1968, Kansas State did manage to pull of a 12-0 upset in Lincoln on Homecoming, sparking a petition drive calling for the entire Husker coaching staff to be fired.  Linebackers coach John Melton liked to joke that even he signed the petition.

Though Kansas State did manage to earn a bowl berth in 1982 (losing to Wisconsin in the Independence Bowl), apathy ran wild in Manhattan. In the 1980's, Nebraska/Kansas State games in Manhattan were de facto Husker home games, as Nebraska fans didn't mind the 2.5 hour drive down US-77 for a chance to watch the Big Red. Bring On The Cats blogger TB still resents that, though I do point out that it was never Husker fans fault that Wildcat fans were so apathetic. If you don't like Husker fans buying tickets in your stadium (and helping out YOUR athletic department), buy them yourselves.

By 1989, Kansas State football had hit rock bottom.  A 27-game winless streak placed them squarely at the bottom of division 1-A, with no where to go but up. And when the Wildcats hired Bill Snyder, up is where the Wildcats shot up.

By 1991, the Wildcats put quite a scare into Husker fans as the K-State offense started rolling up and down the field in the second half. A goalline stand late in the game allowed the ninth-ranked Huskers to hold off the upstart Wildcats, but the message was sent that the old Kansas State was dead and gone. In 1994, the Wildcats had cracked the Top 20 and were primed for the upset. Injuries to Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer forced the Huskers to start walk-on Matt Turman at quarterback, and with record-setting Chad May at the helm for the Wildcats, things looked ominous for the Huskers. But Nebraska simply overpowered the Wildcats on both sides of the ball. Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel called it "sausage-ball"; grinding it out behind that great Husker offensive line, and handing it off to Lawrence Phillips play after play. On defense, the Blackshirts were smothering, with May only completing 22 of 48 passes with 6 sacks and two fumbles. May later would complain about being poked in the eye in one of the dogpiles. When all was said and done, Husker linebacker Ed Stewart exclaimed that "Nebraska is still Nebraska, and K-State is still K-State."

A couple of tackles from games later in the 1990's have been immortalized. A tackle in the 1995 game where the Blackshirts swarmed K-State's Mike Lawrence became the inspiration for the Husker Legacy sculpture on the east side of Memorial Stadium.

K-State fans still cherish and celebrate their 1998 victory over Nebraska, which was clinched when linebacker Travis Ochs tackled Eric Crouch by the facemask. No flag was thrown on the fourth down play, and the Wildcats took control from there.

Kansas State's 38-9 victory over Nebraska in Lincoln sealed Frank Solich's fate in the eyes of some Husker fans, and more importantly Steve Pederson. With K-State leading 17-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, both coaching staffs decided to go for the juggular. The Blackshirts started trying to force turnovers, while Wildcat quarterback Ell Roberson threw deep to James Terry for two touchdowns to put the game away. The blowout loss to the then unranked Wildcats alarmed many fans, though three weeks later, the Wildcats went on to blow out undefeated Oklahoma to win their only conference football championship since the 1930's. But by that time, Pederson had already fired Solich, setting the stage for Bill Callahan's Clusterfool.

Nebraska's 27-25 victory over Kansas State in 2005 nearly set the game of football back to the days of the leather helmet, as both teams searched for ways to lose the game.  Nebraska's 2007 death spiral season took a one-week hiatus when Callahan ran up the score on Ron Prince in a 73-31 victory.

For the last 20 years, one could make the argument that Kansas State was Nebraska's primary rival. The Wildcats were more consistent than Colorado or Missouri, and while Nebraska's games with Oklahoma were more meaningful, they also were less frequent. In fact, some people had suggested that the Nebraska/K-State game was a good candidate to be played on Thanksgiving weekend. But ABC never pulled the lever on that decision, so the matchup continued to be played earlier in the season. And now, no more now that the Huskers are moving onto the Big Ten.

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