When coach Bill Snyder came to Manhattan, Kans., in November
1988, the Wildcats had gone nearly 800 days without winning a
game. K-State had just become the first program ever to amass
500 defeats, and the average attendance at KSU Stadium had
sagged below 20,000. As Snyder surveyed the losing landscape
before him, he told his players, "We have an opportunity to
create one of the greatest turnarounds in college football."

And that is precisely what K-State has done. In just seven
years, Snyder, the former offensive coordinator at Iowa, has
taken a team that was dumped 26-22 by Austin Peay the season
before he arrived and sculpted it into a national power. The
Wildcats have gone to a bowl game in each of the last two
seasons--thereby lifting the total bowl appearances in their
98-year history to three--and their 18 wins since '93 are a
school record for a two-year period.

So, Bill, just exactly what did you do?

"The major task was to get our youngsters to expect more out of
themselves than what they actually expected," says Snyder.
Translation: Snyder had to create a winning tradition by fanning
dreams and desires. It's hardly the sort of complex blueprint
you might expect, but it has worked quite nicely in Manhattan.

Snyder still hasn't defeated Nebraska or Colorado--when that
happens, it will be yet another high-water mark in the program's
ascent--but his Wildcats have a good shot at doing it this
season. Though quarterback Chad May, who set 10 Big Eight
records in the last two years, has gone on to the NFL, there
shouldn't be an appreciable drop in offensive production. The
attack has seven starters returning and a host of young, quick
players who will fill in at key positions.

The quarterback will probably be senior Matt Miller, a transfer
from Texas A&M who served as a seldom-used backup last season.
While he lacks the cannon arm that May possesses, Miller is
familiar with the offense and nimble in the pocket. Perhaps the
best measure of just how far Kansas State has come since '89 is
its current depth at running back. The Wildcats lost their
alltime leading rusher, J.J. Smith, to graduation. But waiting
to replace him in Snyder's one-back set are two promising
sophomores from Florida: Mike Lawrence, a slashing runner, and
Eric Hickson, a 4.38 speed merchant. K-State will be deeper--if
not stronger--at tailback in '95.

The purple people-eating defense that finished 23rd in the
country last year has eight starters returning. The key to the
defense is the man-to-man coverage skills of cornerbacks Joe
Gordon and Chris Canty; while they blanket the perimeter, the
Wildcats push their safeties up toward the line of scrimmage to
suffocate opponents' running games. Senior safety Chuck Marlowe
led the team with 96 tackles last season and is a candidate for
the Thorpe Award, while 6'1", 275-pound senior tackle Tim
Colston is in the hunt for the Lombardi, and outside linebacker
Percell Gaskins, a 6'1", 215-pound senior, will make a run at
the Butkus.

With a favorable schedule that includes seven home games, the
Wildcats should continue to inch their way closer to the elite
programs of college football. That kind of success would have
been a far-fetched dream even for Snyder seven years ago.

--Lars Anderson

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Gaskins (9) and the Wildcat D will take aim at Nebraska. [Percell Gaskins tackling University of Nebraska football player]

THE DATA BOX

Head coach: Bill Snyder
Career college record: 36-31-1
Seventh year at Kansas State (36-31-1)
1994 record: 9-3
Big Eight record: 5-2 (third)

W Southwestern Louisiana 34-6
W Rice 27-18
W Minnesota 35-0
W at Kansas 21-13
L Nebraska 17-6
L at Colorado 35-21
W at Oklahoma 37-20
W Iowa State 38-20
W at Missouri 21-18
W Oklahoma State 23-6
W at UNLV 42-3
L Boston College 12-7 (Aloha Bowl)

Final '94 ranking: 19 AP, 16 USA Today/CNN

Lettermen lost: 17
Lettermen returning: 36
Returning starters, offense: 7
Returning starters, defense: 8

KEY GAMES:
Oct. 21 at Nebraska
Nov. 4 Oklahoma
Nov. 18 Colorado

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)