November 5, 2013
By Mark Janssen
It was October 11, 2003. Kansas State had just lost to Oklahoma State, after losing to Texas the week before that, and being stunned by Marshall the Saturday before that.
Kansas State, coming off an 11-win 2002 season, was struggling and stumbling with a 4-3 record, which included an 0-2 Big 12 record.
Looking back, coach Bill Snyder said, "We never lacked confidence. We knew we could achieve more than whatever we achieved at that particular time. It was just a matter of doing things better. We knew we could be good if we did things right."
But who would have ever thought that less than two months later the Wildcats would run through the rest of the Big 12 season at 6-0, be ranked No. 13 in the nation, and be the Big 12 North champions.
Not only did K-State win those six games, but all came by at least 10 points, and the roll included wins by 29 over Colorado, 36 over Kansas, 28 over Baylor, 45 over Iowa State, 29 over Nebraska and 10 over Missouri.
Those dominating victories set up the night of Dec. 6 in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium when the Cats would defeat the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, 35-7, for the Big 12 championship.
Of that night 10 years ago Snyder said, "I think it becomes the most important win in school history as we have never won a conference championship before. Because of that, this win is maybe the most significant."
Former wide receiver coach Michael Smith said, "Coach doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve or act crazy, but he was happy. He expected to win. To him, it was supposed to happen."
Overcoming a series of early-season injuries, the offensive trifecta of quarterback Ell Roberson, running back Darren Sproles and receiver James Terry combined for a historic 5,763-yard season - Sproles rushed for 1,986 yards, Roberson passed for 2,545 and Terry caught passes for 1,232 yards.
That 5,763 yard total was nearly 1,000 yards more than Eric Hickson rushed for (902), Michael Bishop passed for (2,844), and Darnell McDonald caught passes for (1,092) during the historic 1998 campaign.
On this particular night in Kansas City before 79,451 fans, Sproles rushed for 235 yards, plus caught passes for 88 additional yards and a touchdown; Roberson passed for 227 and four touchdowns; and, Terry caught 63 yards worth of passes with a touchdown.
It was a game where the No. 1 Sooners scored in the first 2:49 of the game. To Snyder the ease of that OU score might have been the turning point.
"I think it made our kids toughen up," said Snyder. "We knew their guys would be coming at the ball hard, so we had a collection of miss-direction plays and screens that we thought would work, and they all did."
The 'Cats rolled up 519 yards in total offense and scored the final 35 points of the game. Defensively, Josh Buhl scored 10 tackles, Rashad Washington added eight, and Ted Sims seven, plus had a 27-yard interception return for a score.
Losing coach Bob Stoops said of the night, "Kansas State just came out and out-played us and out-coached us. Our hats are off to them. They really took it to us in every phase of the game."
Kansas State 35, Oklahoma 7.
"I can't describe it," said Roberson.
Even Snyder said, "There comes a certain degree of satisfaction of playing that game for the title, and playing it as well as you can play it. I valued that win because of what it meant to the many K-Staters out there who had cared so much over the years."