On Wednesday, SB Nation New York looked at the Syracuse Orange's journey from Bank One Ball Park in Phoenix, AZ to Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY -- In 2001, the Orangemen defeated the Kansas St. Wildcats, 26-3, in the Insight.com Bowl.
SB Nation New York now examines the Wildcats' nine-year history before it was invited to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30 (3:30 p.m. on ESPN).
Kansas State Wildcats From Bank One Ballpark To Yankee Stadium
In 1997, Kansas State junior quarterback Michael Bishop out played Syracuse junior quarterback Donovan McNabb by tossing four touchdowns, running for another and leading his Wildcat team to a 35-18 beat down of the Orangemen on New Year's Eve in the Fiesta Bowl.
Four years later, SU earned redemption by defeating KSU in the Insight.com Bowl -- yes, Insight.com still exists.
That season, the Wildcats lost four straight games in the middle of the year but won four out of its last five games. The only loss during that five-game span came against the No. 2 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskiers.
The Insight.com Bowl is a game that most Wildcat fans would like to forget.
That day, Kansas State were 5 1/2-point favorites but rushed for just 33 yards on 34 attempts and allowed SU to turn two fumbles into TDs. Game. Set. Match.
However, unlike Syracuse, KSU turned that bowl loss into building blocks for the next two seasons, which featured the Wildcats winning 11 games and extending their bowl streak to 11 straight years.
In '02, junior QB Ell Roberson rushed and passed for 1,000-plus yards to propel KSU to an 11-2 overall record and a 34-27, come-from-behind, Holiday Bowl victory against the Arizona St. Sun Devils.
Roberson won the game's MVP honors after tossing a game-winning TD pass to Derrick Evans with 1:15 remaining.
The next season, it was junior, All-American running back Darren Sproles leading the Wildcats to a 11-4 record and possibly the greatest season in program history.
Sproles dashed for a total of 1,986 yards and produced back-to-back 200-plus yard games, against the Missouri Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners, late in the year.
In the last game of the regular season, Sproles ran for 273 yards and two TDs against the Tigers.
The next week, in the Big 12 Championship game, the "Lightning Bug" ran for 235 yards, a championship record, against the No. 1 ranked Sooners, which lost a laugher, 35-7.
Roberson tossed for three TDs and helped KSU earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio St. Buckeyes.
However, the biggest accomplishment in the programs history was overshadowed by pre-bowl troubles from Roberson, who was accused of sexual assault a day before the game.
Head coach Bill Snyder decided to still allow Roberson to play but it didn't matter. Ohio State won 35-28 and sent the program in downward spiral.
In '04, the Wildcats went 4-7 and missed their first bowl game in 11 seasons.
The next year ('05), KSU finished 5-6 and, again, did not make a bowl. Worse than that, Snyder's 17-year run in Manhattan, KS came to an end when he announced his retirement.
Kansas State responded by hiring Ron Prince, who became the university's first black head coach.
Prince, who was the Virginia Cavilers offensive coordinator, said he wanted to lead the Wildcats back to their former national status. But that didn't happen.
In Prince's first season ('06), KSU earned a 7-6 record but lost to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 35-10, in the Texas Bowl.
The next two seasons ('07 and '08) featured an impressive offense led by QB Josh Freeman, who passed for a program-best 8,078 yards in his three seasons, but the Wildcats posted 5-7 records.
Three months after signing a five-year extension, Prince was fired by the university.
"It's a decision that we arrived at in the best interest in the institution and the program," KSU athletic director Bob Krause said during a conference call. "All along I've looked at understanding we're in a performance-based profession, and in the final analysis, we're at a point that while our goal remains the same, a change is necessary."
Just weeks later, KSU announced that Snyder would return as head coach.
"The Kansas State family is in flux right now," Snyder said at a news conference Monday. "I want to be able to help. I want to be able to soothe the waters. I've learned some lessons and there are some things I will do to encompass my family."
In Snyder's first season back ('09), the Wildcats went just 6-6 overall and didn't earn a bowl invite.
But this season has been a step in the right direction.
Led by senior running back Daniel Thomas, KSU began the year by winning four straight games.
|2010 - Daniel Thomas||12||276||1495||124.6||5.4||16||26||163||13.6||6.3||0|
The season began with a 31-22 victory against UCLA, which featured Thomas running for 234 yards and two TDs.
Three weeks later, the Wildcats defeated the Central Florida Knights, 17-13.
From there, KSU has struggled, losing five of its last eight games, but was still good enough to earn an invite to NYC.
Wildcats Football Schedule
|UCLA||Sat 09/04||W 31 - 22|
|Missouri St.||Sat 09/11||W 48 - 24|
|Iowa St.||Sat 09/18||W 27 - 20|
|Central Florida||Sat 09/25||W 17 - 13|
|Nebraska||Thu 10/07||L 13 - 48|
|@ Kansas||Thu 10/14||W 59 - 7|
|@ Baylor||Sat 10/23||L 42 - 47|
|Oklahoma St.||Sat 10/30||L 14 - 24|
|Texas||Sat 11/06||W 39 - 14|
|@ Missouri||Sat 11/13||L 28 - 38|
|@ Colorado||Sat 11/20||L 36 - 44|
|@ North Texas||Sat 11/27||W 49 - 41|
|@ Syracuse||Thu 12/30||3:37 PM EST|
It's been a different, more successful, journey for Kansas State. However, the past four seasons have been tough to stomach for Wildcat nation.
Much like Syracuse fans, the KSU faithful want badly to return to the glory years; when Michael Bishop was out playing future All-Pro QBs and Darren Sproles was gashing some of the best defenses in college football history.
A win next Thursday, would grow the legend of Bill Snyder and make that bumpy journey from Bank One Ball Park to Yankee Stadium worth it.