Strange season for Wildcats still ends up with bowl trip

By Steve Sell
December 08, 2015

It couldn’t have worked out any better for the Kansas State football team.

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome — a harrowing 24-23 victory over West Virginia — the Wildcats were expected to go bowling, even had they finished 5-7 as that unlikely scenario did play out this year for a few teams.

Instead of, say, the Famous Potato Bowl or the Poinsettia Bowl, the Wildcats parachuted to the Jan. 2 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, one of the oldest and most-respected bowl games on the menu.

The Wildcats will take on Arkansas, which is a quality matchup as the Wildcats are out of the wide-open Big 12 and Arkansas is from the puffed-out-chest SEC.

In fact when looking at the glut of bowl games, this has a chance to be among the Top 10 in terms of competitiveness.

I’m sure while the venerable Bill Snyder is pleased to be bowling again, he’s more pleased about all those extra practices the Wildcats are going to get. Snyder can work during this time with one eye on Arkansas, the other on next year.

For a while, it appeared the Wildcats were going to spend the offseason with Kansas and Iowa State taking part in the bowl season only as spectators. They were 3-6, their only wins coming in non-conference play and none of them brought distinction. True, Louisiana Tech is a bowl team (isn’t everybody these days?), but the Wildcats needed extra football to pull off the three-overtime win at home.

The other two non-cons were against South Dakota and Texas-San Antonio, hardly resume-stuffers.

The Wildcats actually were at their best in some of their losses. They put up tremendous fights against Top 20 teams Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor, scaring each at a time they were in the national championship picture.

The clunker performances though against Oklahoma and, especially Texas, made up the quizzical portion of the season.

The Wildcats’ fate appeared to be sealed when it hosted Iowa State, but in perhaps the biggest giveaway of the entire college football season the Cyclones suffered a total last-minute meltdown and basically handed the game to the Wildcats. That would have been seven straight losses if for the Miracle in Manhattan, otherwise known as Paul Rhoades’ ticket out of Ames as that game cost him his job.

The Wildcats as expected treated KU like an ornery little brother by knocking the stuffings out of the Jayhawks. They saved their best for last with the one-point win over West Virginia, which was playing good football at the end of the season.

The final tally was 6-6, though it was a head-scratching season. The performances against Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor indicated the Wildcats were on the cusp of being really good. The flops against Oklahoma and Texas cast doubt about their prowess. At least the West Virginia win verified their rightful bowl place. And given KSU's loyal fan support, the Liberty Bowl will probably feel like a home game.