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.
September 21st 2002 – #25 KSU 27, #11 USC 20
This was the first non-conference game the Wildcats had played against a ranked opponent since 1991. The two teams had actually met at the Coliseum in LA the prior year (with KSU prevailing 10-6), however both would finish the year just 6-6 overall. The stakes were much higher this time around, with the Trojans ranked #11 after beating Auburn and flattening #18 Colorado in Boulder by 37 points. Their roster included an astounding 45 players who would (at the very least) get a cup of coffee in the NFL. Headlining those names were eventual Heisman-winning quarterback Carson Palmer and All-Americans Mike Williams and Troy Polamalu.
The squads touted two of the nation’s best defenses, though USC’s was viewed as the very best coming in – so it was no surprise that the game’s first score didn’t occur until partway through the 2nd quarter (on a Wildcat field goal). Quarterback Ell Roberson had come off the bench to begin the quarter (after starter Marc Dunn was rendered completely ineffective) and that decision would pay off with his 1 yard rushing TD. Unfortunately, he followed that up with a potentially massive mistake on the next drive just before the break – fumbling the ball toward his own endzone after being sacked, and defensive tackle Mike Patterson picked it up for an easy score. The Wildcat special teams unit would block the PAT, however, and Terence Newman (yes, THAT Terence Newman) would return it all the way back the other direction for 2 points, swinging the momentum back to KSU and electrifying all 49,000+ in attendance.
The purple would continue to stuff the Trojans for most of the 2nd half, and the running game finally got going a bit. Darren Sproles tallied the only points of the 3rd quarter on a 10 yard scamper and James Terry would catch a TD from Roberson early in the 4th to extend the lead to a virtually insurmountable three scores. USC wouldn’t quit though, adding a pair of TDs and driving all the way inside the KSU 35 yard line before finally coming up short. Palmer, who was averaging over 270 yards a game, finished with a season-low of 186.
The win held a great deal of significance, as it was the first victory ever at home over a ranked non-conference foe for the Wildcats and over one of the greatest programs in college football history to boot (the Trojans would go on to win 8 of their final 9 games – 7 of which were against ranked opponents – and would conclude the year ranked in the top 5, with their incredible run of 34 consecutive wins beginning the very next season). The game all but solidified Ell Roberson as the starter, where he would go on to have an absurd final two seasons in Manhattan as the next great signal-caller under Coach Snyder. It also indicated that the Wildcats had rebounded from a rough 2001 campaign (following four consecutive 11 win seasons) and were back in the conference title hunt once again.
***Full game can be found below***
Jake is also a writer at www.big12country.com. Find his other stuff plus much more by clicking the link.