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WILDCATS HIT THE 'BIG D'

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View Saturday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Saturday


By Mark Janssen

DALLAS, Texas - First off, Happy New Year from the "Big D."

All Wildcats arrived safe and sound via a couple charters out of Manhattan on Saturday and then were treated to a Cowboys Stadium Welcome last night to open the 76th AT&T Cotton Bowl festivities.

So far, spectacular is the word.


That applies to the lavish Gaylord Texan Resort where the team is calling home for the next week, and then Cowboys Stadium ... well, as K-State legend Ernie Barrett said, "Words can't describe this place."

For the western Kansas folks coming into Dallas, yes indeed, a lot of bushels of wheat could be stored in this facility that is the largest enclosed NFL stadium in the world.

How large is that? Large!

Two arches 292 feet above the playing field support a retractable roof that is the longest single span roof structure in the world. Each panel can open/close in 12 minutes. From directly above, the entire field can be seen and the opening is visible from an elevation of five miles.

The scoreboard? It's so big it will make you laugh ... laugh out loud.

It hangs 90 feet above the field and spans from the 20- to the 20-yard line ... yes, nearly 60 yards of scoreboard. The boards facing the sidelines measure 72 feet tall by 160 feet wide, while those facing the end zones are 27 feet by 48 feet wide.

The high definition color is absolutely pristine ... seemingly more than real life, which the images are.

The evening included a Texas-sized buffet spread (Yes, I took part), and ... AND ... the opportunity to have a picture taken with members of the Dallas Cheerleading squad.  (No ... I didn't!)

The evening concluded with video highlights of Cotton Bowl pasts, plus highlights of the 10-2 seasons enjoyed by the K-State Wildcats and Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Cotton Bowl bills its 76-year-old event as being "Amazing Then, And More Amazing now." The bowl is one of just four original New Year's Day bowl games ... none of which are being played on New Year's Day this year.

The Wildcats' team resort is around a 30-minute drive to Cowboys Stadium ... but that's with a multi-motorcycle police escort.

The travel roster of 116 Wildcats was allowed to bring in the New Year as curfew wasn't until 12:30 a.m.

KEVIN LOCKETT'S FAVORTE BOWL MEMORY: My favorite bowl memory was when Brian Kavanagh audibled on the last offensive play of my career to throw an interception in the Cotton Bowl against BYU.

To this day, I continue to give him a hard time about riding the horse that got him to the show and then jumping off and trying to be the hero that gunned down the opponent.


When we trotted off the field and arrived on the sidelines the coaches said, "YOU NEVER AUDIBLE AWAY FROM A PLAY DESIGNED TO GO TO KEVIN!"


We still laugh about it, but on a serious note, we would have never been in the Cotton Bowl had Brian not played the way he did all year. Playing in a January bowl game was an awesome experience.


TODAY'S FESTIVITIES: One thing is for sure, no one in the travel party should get bored this week.

On the agenda today is a Kids' Day Out with Shrek the Halls being brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures, followed by a "Main Event" evening happening that will include bowling, billiards, laser tag, shuffleboard, darts ... and a bunch more ... for the team.

The day for the players will have a 9 a.m. wakeup, two chapel services, meetings and a practice at Cowboys Stadium in the afternoon. Prior to practice there will also be a media/photo day.

BACK TO ERNIE: Ernie Barrett goes back into the early-1950s as a Wildcat All-American basketball standout, and of this football year he says, "I've never seen one like it. To win so many games the way we did was just phenomenal. (Bill) Snyder deserves so much credit."

That's all for now.  Hope you had a happy one!

mj