K-State Opens Football Season Tonight

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State opens its 111th season of intercollegiate football tonight at 6:10 p.m., when the Wildcats welcome Illinois State to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. There is no live television scheduled for the game, however, the game will air live on radio across the 31-station K-State Sports Network.

The contest will mark the K-State debut of first-year head coach Ron Prince. Prince was named as the Wildcats' 33rd head football coach on Dec. 5, 2005, after serving the last three seasons as offensive coordinator at Virginia.

Tonight's contest will also feature the official dedication of Bill Snyder Family Stadium in a pre-game ceremony that is slated to begin approximately 20 minutes before kickoff. The stadium dedication will include an on-the-field ceremony, a video tribute highlighting Bill Snyder's incredible career at K-State and the public unveiling of new stadium signage.

K-State's football facility was renamed Bill Snyder Family Stadium in honor of the winningest football coach in school history by a proclamation of the Kansas Board of Regents on Nov. 16, 2005. Snyder announced his retirement as head coach on Nov. 15, 2005, after 17 years at the helm.

Kansas State, coming of back-to-back non-bowl seasons for the first time since the 1991 and 1992 seasons will be out to open the 2006 campaign with another fast start. The Wildcats, who rolled through non-conference play a year ago with a perfect 3-0 mark, enter tonight's match-up with Illinois State riding a 16-game winning streak in season openers. The winning streak is currently the longest string of consecutive season-opening wins in school history. Kansas State's 16-game winning streak in season lid-lifters dates back to the 1990 campaign, when K-State defeated Western Illinois, 27-6.

The Wildcats have also been tough on non-Big 12 competitors in recent years. Since the formation of the conference in 1996, Kansas State is a sparkling 36-6 (.857) in non-league games, with a 32-2 (.941) mark in non-conference regular-season tilts.

Kansas State enters tonight's game riding a four-game winning streak vs. non-conference opponents and have posted perfect non-conference ledgers eight times in the last 10 years.
The Wildcats have also been successful in head coaching debuts. All time, K-State's 32 previous head coaches have gone a combined 18-12-2 in their first games with the Cats.

New Kansas State head coach Ron Prince will open his debut campaign with a veteran roster that features 40 returning lettermen, including a Big 12-leading 19 starters. The Wildcats also return statistical leaders from 2005 in virtually every offensive and defensive category.

Senior quarterback Dylan Meier, who passed for 1,436 yards and nine TDs in six starts during 2004, missed all of 2005 with an injury but will get the call to open the 2006 season tonight under center after winning a heated battle with talented freshman Josh Freeman to run K-State's new-look offense.

Meier should have plenty of targets to choose from as the Wildcats return four of their top five pass-catchers from a year ago, including All-Big 12 candidate Jordy Nelson, who led the team with 45 receptions for 669 yards and eight touchdowns.

Senior Carlos Alsup will get the starting nod at running back in place of senior Thomas Clayton, K-State's leading rusher in 2005, who will sit out the season-opener for disciplinary reasons. Look for lightning-quick true freshman Leon Patton and junior college All-American James Johnson to also get some touches in the Wildcats' backfield.

Senior linebacker and team captain Brandon Archer has led the Wildcats in tackles during each of the last two seasons and will once again be expected to lead K-State's defense. The All-Big 12, Butkus and Nagurski Award candidate will make the move to the weak side for 2006, which should free him up to make even more plays in defensive coordinator Raheem Morris' pro-style defense.

Plenty of new starters are expected to dot the Wildcats defensive lineup tonight, despite the fact that K-State returns nine players with starting experience. Sophomore Reggie Walker, who came on strong late in his true freshman campaign, will man the strong side, with tackling machine Zach Diles holding down the middle. Both are expected to make their first starts in this evening's season-opener.

Also expecting to make their K-State starting debuts are defensive ends Ian Campbell and Rob Jackson and nose tackle Steven Cline. Team captain Blake Seiler, an 11-game starter last season on the end, slides over to tackle, where he will make his first start in the middle tonight.

The secondary boasts three veteran starters in corners Bryan Baldwin and Justin McKinney and strong safety Kyle Williams. Andrew Erker, who impressed the coaching staff throughout the spring and fall camps, is expected to get the nod at free safety, with returning starter Marcus Watts also projected to see action.

Kansas State will be squaring off with a battle-tested side when the Wildcats meet Illinois State in tonight's opener. Head coach Denver Johnson returns a total of 16 starters - 8 on offense and 8 on defense - from last year's 7-4 squad that tied for fourth in the Gateway Conference and just missed out on advancing to the I-AA playoffs.

The Redbird offense is expected to be led by the potent 1-2 punch of quarterback Luke Drone and running back Pierre Rembert. Drone passed for just shy of 3,000 yards (2,930) and 22 touchdowns a year ago. His favorite target, Laurnt Robinson, also returns for the Redbirds after hauling in and eye-popping 86 receptions for 1,465 yards and 12 scores last season.

Rembert, a transfer from Michigan, will lead the ground troops after rushed for 801 yards in 10 games to lead the ISU ground attack a year ago.

On defense, linebacker Cameron Siskowic, is back after leading the Gateway Conference in tackles during 2005 with 132 total stops.

Illinois State, which boasts seven former NCAA Division I-A players on its roster, is no stranger to I-A competition. When the Redbirds line up vs. the Wildcats on tonight in Bill Snyder Family Stadium it will mark the 12th straight season that ISU has played a I-A opponent.

Last year, the Redbirds opened at Iowa State and gave the Cyclones all they wanted, tying the game at 15-15 late in the third quarter before falling 32-21 in Ames.