No. 2 K-State bears resemblance to '98 team
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The college football landscape has changed dramatically since 1998.
The legacy of Joe Paterno is viewed far differently now. The system for deciding a national champion has been massaged. The very rules of the game, even some altered just this year, have created a different product on the field.
One thing that hasn't changed is Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, and that's a good reason why the second-ranked Wildcats look strikingly similar to the team he had in '98.
"He was really all about accountability and being consistent and being able to play at your highest potential," said wide receiver Aaron Lockett, who was a freshman on that team.
"He wasn't really into the individual superstar or the stats," Lockett said. "It was all about momentum and all about feeding on one another — work your hardest not to be the weakest link, and if you did that everybody would be successful."
The Wildcats certainly were successful that year.
They rolled to an 11-0 record and won the Big 12 North, and had a big fourth-quarter lead on Texas A&M in the conference title game. They were that close to playing for a national championship, but the Aggies staged a dramatic comeback and won in overtime.
That's where this group of Wildcats want the similarities to stop.
Kansas State, ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, are off to the first 10-0 start since that ballyhooed team led by Michael Bishop, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The current team has another Heisman candidate in quarterback Collin Klein, and the same kind of rugged defense led by a talented linebacker corps that terrorized opposing offenses in the late '90s.
But these guys want to finish the job. The Wildcats (7-0 in Big 12) play at Baylor on Saturday before a week off, and then a high-profile season-finale against Texas.
"You know, they lost a game, we're not trying to do that," said wide receiver Chris Harper. "We're trying to set ourselves apart. We want to come out of the shadow of that '98 team."
It's a big shadow, to be sure, and the ties that bind the '98 team to the current one run deep — Lockett's nephew, for example, is sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who has made just like his uncle with his propensity for returning kickoffs for touchdowns.
Brown leads the current team in tackles, earning the nickname "The Judge," while the '98 team had future NFL draft picks such as Mark Simoneau — who will soon be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame — patrolling the field.