December 28, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
Today's the day.
It's K-State's final game day of the year, and the day the team has been preparing for for nearly a month.
Tonight, when the lights go on in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., K-State will come out ready to show fans exactly what it's made of as it takes on the Michigan Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
"We don't know what it feels like to win a bowl game," senior running back John Hubert said, "and that's our goal, to come out and win this bowl game. This is my last year and I want to go out with a victory, with a bang. That's what I want to do; win this bowl game."
Though this is the fourth consecutive year the Wildcats have earned a bowl berth, the program hasn't picked up a bowl victory since 2002, and this team won't be satisfied with anything other than a 'W' to cap off the season.
"If I'm not mistaken, it's been about 4,018 days since the last time K-State won a bowl game - 11 years exactly from today," senior safety Ty Zimmerman said at yesterday afternoon's pep rally. "I know we're all ready for that streak to end. We've got a chance to do it tomorrow, so let's get it done."
Perhaps the perfect way to show K-State they care, Wildcat fans showed up in full-force to yesterday's pep rally.
Nearly 5,000 purple-clad fans filled the arena of Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass ready to cheer on the Wildcats one last time before tonight's game. Opening the pep rally, to many people's surprise, was none other than K-State great and Emmy award winner Eric Stonestreet.
"It's great coming and spending time with a bunch of people in purple - it feels like home. It doesn't matter if it's in Phoenix or Manhattan, it feels good," Stonestreet said after taking the stage and pumping up every person in the room. "Usually when I tell people that I went to K-State, they want to know where that is or they ask if our colors are blue and red, so it's nice to be around people that know what a special college this is."
Stonestreet said he found out the morning of the pep rally that he would have the opportunity to speak on stage, and that his pump-up speech was completely off the cuff.
"I don't ever prepare anything," he laughed. "I just try to speak from the heart and let everyone know how happy I am to be here and hopefully that's infectious and they feel the same way."
As the pep rally continued, President and CEO of the K-State Alumni Association Amy Button Renz, 1965 K-State alumni General Richard Myers, Executive Director of the Fiesta and Buffalo Wild Wings bowls Robert Shelton and K-State president Dr. Kirk Schulz also shared words of encouragement and cheer.
K-State Athletics Director John Currie was up next, and as he addressed the crowd, he reminisced over what has been among the most exciting years to be a K-Stater.
"2013 has been an incredible year," he said. "We've had championships, we've dedicated three athletics facilities, you have achieved 13 sellouts at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and, of course, we've had a bunch of graduations in Manhattan including 20 K-State football players."
Voice of the Wildcats Wyatt Thompson also spent some time shedding light on the 2013 K-State football season. From the school's first and only four-time All-Big 12 nominee, Ty Zimmerman, to the incredible breakthrough season of defensive end Ryan Mueller (Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year), 2013 has been a season to remember.
The crowed cheered, the band played and anticipation for the team to enter the building continued to grow. It wasn't long before head coach Bill Snyder and his team walked in and took the stage for themselves.
It has been a special year, to say the least, and when senior linebacker and team captain Blake Slaughter stepped up to the microphone, he summed up exactly how proud he was of his teammates.
"At the beginning of the season, the big question was whether or not this team cared," Slaughter began. "But we have guys like Ty Zimmerman coming back and playing in this bowl game, guys like Tre Walker coming back from a season-ending injury last year, we've got guys like Daniel Sams and Jake Waters who come from opposite ends of the map, but they came together like never before, those two are like brother's out there. You have got a lot to be proud of this team, and tomorrow we have the opportunity to have the greatest season turnaround in Kansas State football history. That's something that means a lot to me and something that we're going to try for."
Eleven years - or 4,018 days as Zimmerman put it - is too long to wait for a bowl victory, and tonight this dedicated football team has the opportunity to leave it all on the field.
"I will say this in closing," Snyder said before the team headed off to continue its bowl preparation, "throughout the course of the week I have heard on so many occasions how invested these young men are in wanting to succeed tomorrow evening. That is very important to me, extremely important, and I've not only heard them talk about it, but I've watched them work at it. They have demonstrated to me that they genuinely care."
With that, Coach Snyder turned his head and glanced at his team. He choked up and wiped a tear from his eye, "I'm blessed to have them."
As Snyder and the team left the stage, the faithful Wildcat fans continued to cheer on the Cats for the final time before seeing them in action in tonight's game.