The scariest moment of the 1995 season for the Wildcats didn't
take place on the field. It occurred in the locker room just
before the kickoff of the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Though
coach Bill Snyder had just completed his pregame speech, the
players were still moping around staring at their cleats. Snyder
was nervous, and the players were worried. Suddenly sophomore
cornerback Chris Canty stood up and launched into an uncanny,
histrionic impersonation of Snyder. Arms flailing, voice
cracking, Canty had Snyder's voice and gestures down cold. When
he was done, the locker room hung in a dead calm.
"We were stunned," says senior Joe Gordon, a fellow cornerback
who is accustomed to playing second banana to Canty, an AP
All-America and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. "Everybody
looked around to see what to do, and all of a sudden Coach
Snyder started laughing, then we all started laughing." Snyder
clapped his hands and sent his team onto the field, where it
whipped Colorado State 54-21 and finished 10-2, ranked seventh
in the country. Now, with two bowl victories and a 32-4-1 home
record during the '90s, Kansas State rides into the Big 12 on a
wave of optimism.
Junior quarterback Brian Kavanagh, who completed 18 of 24 passes
for 242 yards and four TDs after replacing injured starter Matt
Miller in the Holiday Bowl, will lead the offense. The Wildcats
have only one starting receiver back, but he is senior wideout
Kevin Lockett, who led the Big Eight with 56 catches for 797
yards and a school-record 13 touchdowns. Another returnee,
though new to the wideout spot, is Canty, who will likely see
some snaps on offense this season. The veteran interior line,
featuring senior center Jason Johnson (6'3", 275 pounds) and
guards Kendyl Jacox, a 6'2", 320-pound junior, and Ross
Greenwood, a 6'4", 300-pound senior, should match up well with
the other big boys of the Big 12.
There are six starters back on a defensive unit that led the
nation in total defense (250.8 yards per game) and held six
opponents to seven points or less. Up front, senior end Nyle
Wiren (eight sacks in '95) pairs with Big Eight defensive
freshman of the year, linebacker Travis Ochs, who made 73
tackles last fall.
Led by Canty, Gordon and safety Mario Smith, the Holiday Bowl
defensive MVP, the backfield may be the best in college
football. Gordon allowed 12 completions in 332 man-coverage
situations last season, and Canty's eight interceptions tied him
for tops in the nation. "I'm the admiral keeping the ship
steady," says Gordon, "while Canty rocks the boat. He's the
joker, a real comedian."
That's not to say that any levity will be needed in the locker
room of some bowl game this season. The Wildcats are starting to
feel right at home there.