With a fair amount of static that this could be the Legend’s final season, I felt it appropriate to take a look at what I feel are the ten biggest wins between both of his tenures. I tried to choose the best games that both had a significant impact on the program and in Bill’s coaching career. Starting August 23rd, I’ll be adding the next game in the countdown every day until kickoff. Enjoy.
November 14th 1998 – #2 KSU, #11 Nebraska
The atmosphere was unparalleled, even to this day.
College Gameday was in Manhattan for the first time in history.
KSU was ranked #2 in the country.
But they “couldn’t” beat Nebraska (or so we were told).
The Cornhuskers were the Death Star of the mid-’90s, winning national crowns in 1994, 1995, and 1997. They had already lost twice in 1998, however, and were ranked just eleventh coming in – so it appeared they were vulnerable (by their standards). The Wildcats meanwhile were 9-0, steamrolling opponents by an average of 52-8. Still…they “couldn’t” beat Nebraska.
This stubborn sentiment was based on one particular piece of evidence: KSU hadn’t beaten Nebraska since 1968 (and hadn’t bested them at home since 1959). The streak wouldn’t suddenly be broken now. It just “couldn’t” be.
The Cats had a case of the jitters early on, allowing the Huskers to stroll 80 yards right down the field and score on their opening drive – marking the first occasion of the entire year that they had trailed. After a quick three and out (during which quarterback Michael Bishop fumbled the third down snap but luckily fell on it), punter James Garcia shanked his kick, leaving the Cornhusker offense in great field position near midfield. It was shortlived, however, when on the very next snap I-back Dan Alexander fumbled and Wildcat defensive back Jarrod Cooper recovered. The offense took advantage of the momentum on the back of Bishop, who would convert a pair of third downs on the ensuing drive before forging his way into the endzone from 2 yards away on 4th down.
Unfortunately on the next two Wildcat possessions, Bishop (who had a knack for turning the ball over) would fumble twice more, leading to 10 Nebraska points and a hole to dig out of. After the kickoff, Bishop carried the offense all the way to the Husker 3 yard line before losing the football AGAIN. This time the defense would force a punt and with little time left before the half, Bishop led a 76 yard TD drive, accounting for 65 of the yards and the 1 yard score. The purple were back within striking distance with 30 minutes to play.
KSU would reclaim the lead halfway through the third quarter, with Bishop finding his main target Darnell McDonald for a 17 yard TD down the sideline to polish off a 61 yard drive. After a 25 yard Martin Gramatica field goal to extend the lead to a TD on the next drive, things got weird. Bishop would throw a pick deep in Husker territory, then two plays later linebacker Jeff Kelly picked off Eric Crouch inside the NU 35. On the very next snap, running back Frank Murphy would fumble the ball right to Ralph Brown who would take it 74 yards to paydirt and a tied ballgame. It was an unbelievably deflating sequence. The “couldn’t” whispers were creeping back in.
The Wildcats would add another Gramatica field goal before the Huskers snatched the lead back midway through the 4th, this time on a 9 yard Sheldon Jackson TD grab (his second of the game). They would botch the PAT wide right, however.
Down three and needing a score, Bishop would have his Heisman moment. He led an incredible 80 yard drive, accounting for every yard and the culminating 11 yard TD to McDonald, whom he found wide open in the back of the endzone after rolling to his right. Bishop would finish with 446 total yards and 3 scores while McDonald would notch 12 catches for 183 yards and a pair of TDs.
The defense would hold Nebraska on their final two possession, and sealed the win after Eric Crouch fumbled the ball into the arms of Jeff Kelly, who returned it all the way to the pylon on the game’s final play and spurring the raucous sellout crowd into a field-storming for the ages.
It’s hard to properly articulate the magnitude of this win. It 1) proved the Big Red were mortal 2) signaled that Snyder’s program had arrived and 3) sent the Wildcats to their 14th consecutive conference victory and first conference title game appearance. Oh, and it also (finally) snapped that pesky three-nearly-four-decade losing streak. It was an unforgettable night for – as legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson dubbed it – the happiest place on earth.
***Game highlights below***
Jake is also a writer at www.big12country.com. Find his other stuff plus much more by clicking the link.