By Mark Janssen
Normally, Kansas State's players listen intently to their head coach. But this week is a touch different.
Yes, Bill Snyder likes the spirit and the enthusiasm of his football team entering tonight's 6:30 p.m. kickoff against Nebraska at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, but the coach says, "I would like to think when this one is over that we understand that we have seven more to go."
Defensive end Antonio Felder said, "This is a game that can lead us to where we want to end up."
Zach Kendall added, "We're just out to prove that we're a good team. We're not worried about being No. 25 or No. 15, but we know that we will be judged by how we play on this game, and we want people to look at us as a good team."
OK, on paper this one goes to the guys in red.
• Nebraska is the No. 6 rated team in the nation.
• Nebraska is the No. 4 rushing team in the nation.
• Nebraska is the No. 1 team in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
• Nebraska is the No. 7 team in the nation in scoring defense.
But that's on paper.
Here are five reasons "K-State Sports Extra" says Kansas State will be in it until the end, if not victorious at the end.
1) Bill Snyder is 11-4 in games after a bye week. Give the master 10 days to prepare a game plan that is sure to display never-seen-before diversity.
2) Any defense can take away a team's No. 1 weapon. Nebraska can slow Daniel Thomas as a dasher. BUT, K-State can negate Taylor Martinez, who is both NU's leading rusher and passer.
3) Nebraska has been prone to dropping the football. The Cornhuskers have fumbled 16 times in four games and lost seven of those. K-State has only six fumbles all season and lost three.
4) K-State has been amazingly playing flag-free football this season with just 19 penalties in four games for an average of 42 yards a game. Nebraska, on the other hand, has been flagged 29 times for 73 yards per game.
5) K-State ranks fourth in scoring points once moving inside the 20-yard line (11-of-13, .846) with eight TDs and three field goals. NU ranks 12th in the league inside the 20 (13-of-18, .722) with 11 TDs and two field goals.
Check the box score after the game and see if these five areas don't determine the winner: 1) The better game plan; 2) An unsung hero will emerge from this game; 3) The team that wins the turnover-margin; 4) The team with the fewest penalties; and 5) The team that scores more sevens than threes once inside the 20-yard-line.
K-State's key will be staying in the game early. Nebraska has out-scored its opponents 31-7 in the collective first quarters, and 94-17 in the combined first halves. K-State has won the first period 17-7 and the first halves 44-31.
Kansas State (4-0): K-State 31, UCLA 22; K-State 48, Missouri State 24; K-State 27, Iowa State 20; K-State 17, Central Florida 13.
Nebraska (4-0): Nebraska 49, Western Kentucky 10; Nebraska 38, Idaho 17; Nebraska 56, Washington 21; Nebraska 17, South Dakota State 3.
SERIES NOTES: NU 77, K-State 15, 2 Ties. The Cornhuskers have won the last five games by an average of 21 points. This followed a three-year (2002-03-04) run of K-State victories by an average of 30 points per game. In the last 12 years, NU's advantage is only 7-5.
On losing Nebraska to the Big Ten Conference after this season, Snyder said, "I hate to see them go. I am proud of the 10 remaining schools that they chose to make the decision that they did, but I am disappointed and saddened by Nebraska not being in the conference."
Snyder is 5-13 in all-time games against the Cornhuskers, while Bo Pelini is 2-0 against the Wildcats.
PLAYING THE BEST: Kansas State has played 61 games against teams ranked No. 6 or better. The Wildcats are 2-59 in those games with the wins coming over No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-7, in the 2003 Big 12 title game, and in 2000 with a 29-28 victory over No. 4 Nebraska.
K-State, by the way, enters the game as the second highest team among "other receiving votes" in the Associated Press poll and fourth in the coaches.
UPDATING MR. THOMAS: Not for himself, but for the K-State team, Daniel Thomas said of tonight's game with Nebraska, "I am looking forward to it. It is a big game. It is going to be on ESPN and our fans are looking forward to it."
That includes the Kansas State student body, he said, who have been unofficially banned from wearing the color red on campus this week.
"I think it would be a big confidence booster for us. Nebraska is a great team," he said. "They are ranked in the top-10, and I think it will be a great test to see where we are as a team and where we are headed for the rest of the season."
While saying the victory over UCLA was his biggest K-State win to date, Thomas said. "This (NU) would by far be our biggest win. This game would put us on the map by beating a Top 10 team. Nobody knows about K-State right now."
Thomas now ranks ninth in K-State history with 1,893 rushing yards.
Next in line are: 8th - Eric Gallon, 1,960; 7th - Josh Scobey, 1,981; 6th - Isaac Jackson, 2,182.
In a two-year career, Thomas is on pace to rank second only to Darren Sproles (4,979) in career rushing yards.
Thomas has had eight games of at least 100 yards, only to be out-done in K-State history by Sproles (24), Eric Hickson (10), J.J. Smith (10) and Josh Scobey (9).
Thomas's per-game average of 157.0 yards ranks fifth in the nation.
QUOTEABLE QUOTE: Bill Snyder opened his Tuesday press conference by advertising the Kansas vs. Nebraska mentoring contest that goes on each year in conjunction with the Wildcat game with the Cornhuskers.
Snyder in Kansas and former coach and current AD Tom Osborne in Nebraska, are both mentoring leaders in their respective states.
Snyder reports that Kansas has increased by over 10,000 mentors and added, "This is exciting stuff, but the rest today will be boring."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Yup, it was 71 years ago today that Bill Snyder was born.
IN THE PRIMETIME: ESPN's cameras - including the first ever appearance of SkyCam in Manhattan - are in town to televise the matchup. It will be the Wildcats' 125th televised game in their history and fourth of the season. The game is also available online at www.espn3.com or by clicking here.
The K-State/Nebraska series also has significance in televised college football history. The Cats' 1939 homecoming football game against the Huskers was just the second college football game ever televised, following the Fordham-Waynesburg contest in New York earlier that fall.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 4-0 - K-State has been 4-0 15 times in its history. Of those, 10 have been under the watch of Bill Snyder.
• 8 - William Powell is eighth in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 31.88 yards.
• 33-of-35 - NU has won its Big 8/12 opener in 33 of the last 35 years.
• 126-23 - That's K-State record in games where it scored first dating back to the 1990 season.
• 168 - Kansas State has scored in 168 consecutive games dating back to a 12-0 loss to Colorado in 1996. It's the 10th longest scoring streak in NCAA football.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
• RB DANIEL THOMAS (#8) will be the primary focus of Nebraska's defense, but still must be a significant factor in the game for K-State to win.
• WR BRODRICK SMITH (#5) AND CHRIS HARPER (#3) may play a significant role in this game with their versatility as former quarterbacks.
• DE BRANDON HAROLD (#91) will be one of those in charge of controlling NU's run-first, pass-second QB in Taylor Martinez.
• QB TAYLOR MARTINEZ (#3) has accounted for 10 touchdowns - eight rushing, two passing - and averages 124 rushing yards.
• LB LAVONTE DAVID (#4) leads the Big 12 in tackles with 44, or 11.0 per game. He has one sack, five passes broken up and three QB hurries.
• DT JARED CRICK (#94) has 20 tackles, which includes five for negative yardage.
• CB PRINCE AMUKAMARA (#21) is listed as a Top 10 NFL draft choice. He has four passes broken up this year.
NEXT WEEK: Kansas State again plays on Thursday night against the 2-3 Kansas Jayhawks in a 6:30 p.m. start at Memorial Stadium on the KU campus.
The Wildcats will then travel to Baylor for an Oct. 23 contest, followed by coming home to Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 30 when K-State entertains Oklahoma State on Homecoming weekend.
Beginning with the Kansas game, K-State concludes the season with five out of its last seven games outside of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at email@example.com, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at firstname.lastname@example.org.