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 30th 1989 – KSU 20, North Texas State 17
The win that started it all.
Kansas State was mired in a 30 game non-winning streak dating back to 1986 and were on the verge of having their Big 8 membership revoked (which likely would have killed the program altogether if it’d occurred). The now-infamous “Futility U” article (run by Sports Illustrated) had been published less than a month before, referring to the Wildcats as “America’s most hapless team.” They were, after all, the least successful program in the history of the sport (by a vast margin).
But things weren’t *quite* as bleak as they appeared on the surface. KSU was in its first season under new Head Coach Bill Snyder (previously Iowa’s offensive coordinator) and had looked much more competitive than they had in the previous few seasons, playing Arizona State close for a half to open the year and coming up just short in a 2-point loss to Northern Iowa the following weekend. But they’d follow that up with a 17 point loss at home to Northern Illinois and seemed as if they’d slipped back to square one as they headed into the North Texas matchup at 0-3. The Mean Green, meanwhile, had actually transformed into a respectable program under coach Corky Nelson. They’d finished with winning seasons each of the prior three seasons (including an 8-4 campaign in 1988). They were well on their way again, opening 1989 3-0 and facing Futility U.
It was a low-scoring affair, and late in the 4th quarter KSU clung to 14-10 lead, with the Mean Green facing a 4th and 19 from the Wildcat 47 yard line. The purple were just one play away from finally breaking through.
But quarterback Scott Davis threw up a prayer that was answered, with his receiver making a seemingly impossible catch in the endzone over three KSU defenders. It was happening again.
There was still 1:31 left, however, and the Cats got the back at their own 15. After taking a 1st down sack, quarterback Carl Straw threw a pass intended for receiver Michael Smith near midfield. Yellow flags soared into the air, and the officials ruled Smith had been interfered with. Smith would then make an impressive four consecutive first down grabs to move KSU down to the NTSU 12 yard line with under 15 seconds to play. After a pair of incomplete passes and four seconds remaining, it looked as though the game would be decided on the final play.
After a Wildcat timeout, Straw would take the snap and another six steps back before firing the ball toward receiver Frank Hernandez, who was running an out route to the left side of the field. He reeled in the pass and snuck just inside the pylon as time expired, sending the entire stadium into delirious pandemonium.
Fans swarmed the players on the sideline between both tears and yells of triumph before commencing the removal of both goalposts.
It was Coach Snyder’s first career victory, and the streak had finally been snapped. It would be the only win of the year, but it had already set the wheels in motion – the Cats would win five games in 1990, and the rest is history.
I hope all of you have enjoyed reminiscing as much as I have during this countdown. I cherished every second writing it and hopefully I’ve given each game it’s proper due. I’ll be adding much more Wildcat-related content throughout the rest of the season, so be sure to follow along on twitter (@jake_b12c) and here on The Tailgate Society.
***The Final Drive can be found below***
Jake is also a writer at www.big12country.com. Find his other stuff plus much more by clicking the link.