Sunday Rewind: K-State 53, Texas A&M 50

Overall Assessment:
Kansas State was without one of its top offensive playmakers, its quarterback was clearly in pain when the game began and several of its defensive players had to fight through injuries in the second half.

Not an ideal combination for a team trying to bounce back from disappointing losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

But, in typical K-State fashion, the Wildcats found a way to win. In four overtimes! Yes, I just used an exclamation mark.

Saturday’s game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium was one of the strangest and most exciting of the season. Combined with last week’s entertaining 52-45 loss at Oklahoma State, the Wildcats are delivering must-see TV to ABC/ESPN.

At 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Big 12 play, plenty of bowl games are starting to look at them. With a strong finish, they could end up in the Cotton Bowl.

K-State still has plenty to work on if it hopes to get an invitation to the Big 12’s top non BCS bowl. It continues to start games slowly, and was once again unable to sack the opposing quarterback. But as long as it continues to play with the resolve it has all season, K-State will have a shot at a 10-win season.

“With the exception of one ballgame, they’ve done it week in, week out,” Snyder said. “… It’s all about how we respond to things, and I think with the exception of kind of getting a little full of ourselves prior to the Oklahoma ballgame, I think we’ve responded quite well.”

Against Texas A&M, the Wildcats rallied from a 14-0 deficit, a 31-21 deficit and won in quadruple overtime. It was a fitting end to the series before the Aggies jump to the SEC. The only other overtime game K-State has played came against Texas A&M in the 1998 Big 12 championship game.

Collin Klein once again led K-State’s offense to the victory, and the defense came through with big plays when it had to behind Nigel Malone and Emmanuel Lamur. Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
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This week’s player to watch: Jeff Fuller

Jeff Fuller could have entered the NFL Draft last spring and found himself playing on Sundays this year.

Instead, the senior wide receiver decided to stay at Texas A&M and try to set as many school records as possible. So far, he hasn’t had much trouble in that department.

Fuller sits atop the Aggies’ record books in three major categories. He is Texas A&M’s career receptions leader with 213, career receiving yards leader with 2,786 and career receiving touchdowns leader with 31.

He has battled injuries this season, but they haven’t slowed him down all that much. As a senior, he has grabbed 50 passes for 522 yards and three touchdowns. Along with Ryan Swope, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has two highly reliable receivers to target in the passing game.

If K-State’s secondary is to redeem itself after allowing more than 500 passing yards in back-to-back games, it will need to find a way to effectively defend Fuller.

A few minutes with … ESPN’s Chris Fowler

A few days ago, I got an e-mail out of the blue from an ESPN publicist. She said she saw my blog post last week about how the city of Manhattan was catching “College Gameday” fever, and that Chris Fowler was interested in speaking with me.

As the longtime host of one of ESPN’s most popular shows, Fowler can offer insight into “Gameday’s” decision to head to Southern California this week for its game against Stanford when it appeared destined for Manhattan. So, I told her to have him give me a call.

The first thing he said to me today was, “I’ve heard from a lot of angry K-State people. Maybe I can explain our decision a little bit.”

We’ll go into Q&A form the rest of the way, though Fowler did most of the talking.

Why don’t we just start there with that request. What explanation would you like to offer those K-State fans?

We were disappointed. Obviously Oklahoma and Kansas State had been No. 1 on our grid for a few weeks, and the hype was building. We fully expected the Wildcats to take care of the Jayhawks and the Sooners to win. It was almost a foregone conclusion. And we’re sitting in the bus last Saturday night in disbelief, watching Oklahoma fall. When that happens, it forces you to hastily reconsider.

We don’t ever pick the “Gameday” sites until the results of the previous Saturday are in. There is no upside to doing that. Through the years we have had plenty of last-minute changes in location due to upsets. It seems to happen a lot in the Big 12. I can remember times when we were supposed to be at Texas A&M but they lost to Baylor. It happens from time to time.

This one, though, was among the most surprising. I mean, we were there. We had the location. The director of the show had been there. We had looked at locations for the set. We were set to go. But when you lose the angle of having a top 5 team, unbeaten, on the road. The game nationally takes a hit.

Now, nobody on the set makes the decision. That is handled at a management level. We are no longer given much input. But based on what happened, the idea of Stanford against a USC team that not many expected to beat Notre Dame looked pretty good.
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K-State issues statement on Big 12

Kansas State officials said they were committed to the Big 12 when Texas A&M was considering a move to the SEC, and their stance hasn’t changed now that the Aggies are officially on their way out of the Big 12.

“K-State remains fully committed to the Big 12 Conference and continues to be excited about its future,” said K-State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie in a joint statement.

“There is great solidarity among the nine league institutions and an eagerness to achieve the stability our students, fans and alumni deserve. We remain actively engaged with our conference administration and fellow presidents and athletic directors in proactively determining our next steps.”

Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman and University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton released a similar statement this afternoon.

“The chancellors and presidents of the Big 12 are committed to keeping our conference competitively and academically strong,” Deaton said. “We have a process in place that enables us to move aggressively regarding the possible expansion of the conference and to assure our members and student-athletes that we will take advantage of the most productive opportunities in the best interests of all.”

And here’s one more statement from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe:

“The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12. As previously stated, the Conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options.”

Regent feels ‘real good’ about Big 12 future

When the Kansas Board of Regents meet in Arcadia on Monday for their annual three-day retreat, Dan Lykins is certain conference realignment will be discussed.

Lykins, a Topeka attorney and Kansas State alum who serves on the board, said he is looking forward to hearing about the topic from both K-State president Kirk Schulz and Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

As long as Texas A&M is considering a move to the SEC, he says the status of the Big 12 “is a critical issue that the regents are very concerned about.”

However, he is feeling much better about the league’s future than he was during last summer’s conference realignment scare, when he openly wondered at times if the Big 12 was going to survive.

Though he and the other regents have not been actively involved in any realignment discussions, such as the conference calls that Big 12 athletic directors and presidents participated in Saturday afternoon, he says administrators from both K-State and KU have kept them informed.

So far, he likes what he hears.

“No one can force Texas A&M to do anything,” Lykins said. “Right now, it’s in their corner. So it’s a waiting game. But I feel comfortable that whatever happens, KU and K-State will still be in the Big 12 and will continue working together to make this a better conference … I feel real good about what’s going on.”

Looking ahead to gameday: Texas A&M

Editor’s note: In preparation of the upcoming football season, K-Stated will look ahead to all 12 games on the Wildcats’ 2011 schedule. Next up, at Oklahoma State.

Texas A&M is making headlines all across the country today, because it is contemplating a move to the SEC. But let’s, at least for a moment, put aside the topic of conference realignment and take a look at the Aggies’ football team.

A&M is coming off a breakthrough year of sorts, in which it ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, beat both Oklahoma and Texas and played in the Cotton Bowl. Because of a poor start, the Aggies only finished with an 9-4 record, but for a program that has been down in the dumps lately it was a definite step in the right direction.

A mid-season quarterback switch to Ryan Tannehill sparked the strong finish, and the 6-foot-4 senior will start from Day 1 this time around. That, along with Mike Sherman appearing to settle in after three years as coach, has the Aggies ranked in the Top 10 of preseason polls.

With the losses of leading tackler Michael Hodges, sack master Von Miller and a difficult early schedule, Texas A&M may be a bit overrated at this point, but it definitely has the potential to make a run at a second-place finish in the Big 12. It will have to win a lot of tough games for that to happen, though.

One of those tough games could be on Nov. 12 at Kansas State. It’s a game most Aggies fans have probably already circled as a win, but, remember, the last time A&M came to Manhattan it left on the wrong side of a 62-14 beatdown.
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What John Currie learned from the first conference realignment scare

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with Kansas State athletic director John Currie about what it was like for him dealing with the conference realignment scare of 2010.

How did he handle it? How stressful was that time? What did he learn? Those type of questions.

The conversation came near the end of June, when he was so confident about the makeup of a 10-team Big 12 that he said, “We emerged stronger than ever as a league and we have a great, great future.”

Today, I’m guessing he would say something a little different. Now that the rumblings of Texas A&M plotting a move to the SEC have gone national, there is concern across the Big 12.

A lot of dominoes need to fall in just the right way before panic sets in as it did last summer, when it briefly looked like teams such as Kansas, Missouri, K-State, Baylor and Iowa State would be left without a conference to call home.

This whole act could be nothing more than a bluff from the Aggies, the SEC expanding to 13 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and there’s a decent chance the Big 12 could survive the loss of A&M and continue as a nine-team league.

Still conference realignment is once again a topic of conversation.

One thing that should help everyone involved this time around, should serious negotiations need to be made, is that they’ve been through this dance before. Here is how Currie remembers it:
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Postgame: Texas A&M 64, K-State 56

On the day Curtis Kelly finally came through with a big game for Kansas State, Rodney McGruder disappeared.

That wasn’t the only reason why the Wildcats fell to Texas A&M 64-56 on Saturday at Reed Arena, but it certainly was a factor.

Kelly looked like the senior forward everyone was hyping in the preseason. He scored 15 points on eight shots, snared 11 rebounds and blocked six shots. He was a true force inside. Had he been eligible and played like that a few more times this season, K-State may not be in its current predicament.

Add his day on to 21 points from Jacob Pullen and a decent afternoon from McGruder, who has been the Wildcats’ most consistent player all year, and K-State is likely feeling good about a win today. But the sophomore guard was not himself.
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When will Nebraska, K-State meet again?

Don’t expect Kansas State and Nebraska to play a football game against each other anytime soon.

With the Cornhuskers on their way out of the Big 12, scheduling unknowns and hurt feelings will put an end to their rivalry with the Wildcats for at least a few years.

I asked K-State athletic director John Currie last month about the possibility of continuing the series as nonconference opponents, and he said he had a long list of priorities that ranked higher than wondering about that.

Earlier this week football coach Bill Snyder said he wouldn’t be opposed to facing Nebraska again at some point, but he wouldn’t anticipate it happening in the near future.

But they have to meet somewhere down the line, don’t they? The schools are less than three hours away from each other, and fans regularly attend games at both locations. According to USA Today and The Oklahoman, Nebraska is open to facing Oklahoma in nonconference play. Why not K-State?
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Comparing Kansas State to other undefeated teams across the nation

A loyal reader passed along an interesting question this morning:

“How does Kansas State compare to all the other undefeated teams across the country?”

Well, there are 25 teams with perfect records out there and they can be grouped into four categories.

Eighteen are ranked in both the AP and USA Today Top 25 Polls. Three are ranked in only one of the polls. Two are receiving votes in both polls. Two more are being ignored by the voters completely.

The Wildcats are grouped with Northwestern in the “others receiving votes” category. Read More »