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.
December 31st 1997 – #10 KSU 35, #14 Syracuse 18
It was a statement game for the Wildcats on a national stage.
The Orangemen (as they were known back then) were one of the hottest teams in the country coming in, fresh off their 8th consecutive win and a Big East title. They were led by future NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, one of the most exciting players in college football that season. He hadn’t yet met the KSU defense, however.
The Cats themselves were winners of 8 consecutive games after dropping their conference opener to eventual National Champion Nebraska. They were comprised of a number of emerging young stars, most prominently juco transfers (quarterback) Michael Bishop and (receiver) Darnell McDonald. The evening would belong to these two.
After an early Syracuse field goal, KSU would score TDs on their next three possessions – the first on a 19 yard catch by McDonald. Bishop would add a 12 yard rushing TD on the ensuing drive before hitting tight end Justin Swift for another 28 yard score. McNabb would mostly be held in check, though he would help the Orangemen claw back to within 21-15 with a pair of late TDs just before the half. That’s as close as they would get.
Both squads traded punts in the 3rd quarter before the purple would pull away in the 4th. Bishop hit McDonald for a 77 yard score down the sideline after scrambling out of the pocket to put the Cats up 28-15 before the duo would connect again for their 3rd and final TD of the night, this time from 41 yards out to seal it. Bishop would finish with a then career-high 317 yards with 4 TDs, while McDonald would tally a school-record 206 yards on 7 catches to go along with his 3 TDs. It was a New Year’s party in Glendale.
The win was the biggest in the program’s postseason history to that point, and over a red-hot, legitimate conference champion on top of that. It would serve as a springboard into their unbeaten 1998 regular season (in which they would reach their first conference title game) and jumpstart Michael Bishop’s Heisman campaign.
***Full game below***
Jake is also a writer at www.big12country.com. Find his other stuff plus much more by clicking the link.