For What it’s Worth---The Sunflower Showdown---
At the very least I find it interesting that after two years Charlie Weis has one less win than his predecessor Turner Gill, who was fired after five wins in two seasons. One of those wins, remember, was an upset of then nationally ranked Georgia Tech at home.
Different point of view---
When I asked Bill Snyder if it was fair to say that he was happy with the win over KU, if not pleased with the way that his team did it---he immediately agreed. For Snyder it’s all about whether or not his team improved in a game and he clearly felt that they had not. He wasn’t the only one—every K-Stater we talked to lamented the way they played in a 21 point win. In the KU locker room, Weis was noting that even when they were down 21-0 early he never felt out of touch or overwhelmed in the game as they had been last year. He, rightfully, sees this as progress and while it may be a few parts spin—the Jayhawks did look better. The improvement hasn’t come easily or in very big steps. Jake Heaps didn’t even start the game, but when he wasn’t throwing to the guys in purple—he was, at least, better than serviceable and pretty decent at times. He has good arm strength, but makes questionable decisions—is he the type of guy you move forward with?
That’s the difference between players on the roster who hail from Kansas at K-State and KU. No, the state of Kansas still isn’t very fertile recruiting ground, but it’s a lot better than it used to be and Bill Snyder is consistently winning in living rooms across the state. Mark Mangino is the only KU coach during the Snyder era (which was punctuated by three years of Ron Prince) to have made recruiting inroads in Kansas and he went to an Orange Bowl.
Here’s the thing you can’t buy—with the exception of three years—Bill Snyder has roamed the sidelines at Kansas State since 1989. In that time he’s dealt with Glen Mason, Terry Allen, Mangino, Turner Gill and now Weis. While Snyder has built great consistency, KU has done things in fits and starts. Did you know that over the last 47 years KU has had ten different head coaches? During that time only Mangino has posted a winning record.
A point of emphasis---
With a good half of their roster from Kansas, the importance of this game at K-State is self-evident. It’s always been a focus for Snyder who’s won 17 of the last 18 meetings with their rivals by an average of 28 points. For so many years Missouri has been the rival of choice for KU, now that the Tigers have bolted for the SEC the Jayhawks have nowhere else to turn. To his credit, Weis was quick to identify the ‘Cats as the program he had to beat, gaining the traction to do so is the challenge.
Changing the culture---
Weis faces a time honored challenge at KU—making football relevant at a school which is largely defined by its basketball program. Football ends when basketball starts in Lawrence, of course a lot of that is because football hasn’t given its fans much reason to stay with them. Ironically, KU has the blueprint for success in football sitting less than 100 miles away down I-70---Charlie Weis said as much after last year’s loss to Snyder and his Wildcats. Can imitation be the most sincere form of flattery? We’ll see.