Monday, October 31, 2005

Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder And I Are Starting To Think A Lot Alike--He, Too, Believes Iowa State Is Better Now Than It Was in 2004

There was a time when Bill Snyder and I didn't agree on much of anything.

But now, the older Snyder [pictured on the left] and I get, the more we think alike.

Like me, Snyder feels Iowa State is a better football team this year than it was last year.

The Kansas State coach doesn't need to tell me that.

The way I look at it--and you read it here yesterday--Iowa State is headed for an 8-3 regular-season record, a 5-3 finish in the Big 12 Conference and a very nice bowl game.

"I think that's a fair assessment," Snyder said today when asked if Iowa State is better now than it was in 2004. "They came back and beat us [toward] the end of last season, when I thought they were an awfully good team."


Snyder, a former offensive coordinator at Iowa under Hayden Fry, is in his 17th season as Kansas State's coach.

Naturally, I got to see a lot more of Snyder when he worked in Iowa City.

But I admire what the man has done at Kansas State.

He's done a job there that many [certainly me] who pay attention to college football thought was impossible. At one time, Kansas State--stuck in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as Manhattan, Kan.--was regarded as the worst major-college program in the nation.

But Snyder somehow has been able to recruit well enough to have a 135-66-1 record.

Maybe he told prospects they'd be playing in Manhattan, without being specific about where the Kansas State version of Manhattan was.


But miracles sometimes don't last forever.

Snyder has fallen on some hard times lately. His 2004 team had only a 4-7 record overall and was 2-6 in the Big 12 Conference.

Four-and-seven in some years at Kansas State would be reason to schedule a celebration and a contract extension.

Four-and-seven these days has some people saying, "Well, we figured it wouldn't last. How soon is the old boy planning to retire?"

This year's K-State team is 4-4, 1-4 and tied with Kansas for last place in the Big 12 North.

The Wildcats go into Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Iowa State as 7 1/2-point underdogs. If I know Snyder--and I think I know a few things about him--he's not wasting any time wondering how the Cyclones are going to get that half-point.


Like Snyder, Cyclone coach Dan McCarney is a former Iowa assistant. Bobby Elliott, Snyder's defensive coordinator, is a former Iowa player and assistant coach and a former Iowa State assistant.

Kansas State offensive coordinator Del Miller is a former Iowa assistant who, for part of a day in late-1994, thought he might be the Cyclones' next head coach.

But Gene Smith, then Iowa State's athletic director, did a reversal and chose McCarney for the job.

No surprise there. Nobody could ever figure out what Smith was going to do next.


I've heard that Bobby Elliott's next coaching stop might be Wisconsin, where he'd be the defensive coordinator.

Don't forget, Elliott and Bret Bielema, the former Iowa player and assistant coach who will be the Badgers' head coach next season, were co-defensive coordinators on Snyder's Kansas State staff.

Or would Elliott be considered a candidate for Snyder's job at K-State?

Stay tuned.


Snyder said Iowa State this season "is a very balanced team. I thought they really put it together against Texas A&M [in a 42-14 victory last week] in College Station, which isn't an easy place to play.

"When you look back and see a 5-3 Iowa State record, you're looking at three losses [to Nebraska, Missouri and Baylor] that were by very, very marginal or close scores. We're certainly going to have our hands full, and we haven't been necessarily great on the road this year.

"Iowa State is a more experienced team than last year. The quarterback [Bret Meyer] is a year older, and they've settled on a couple of pretty good specialists They rank 10th or 11th nationally in kickoff returns, and they do a nice job of protecting the football."


McCarney beat Snyder for the first time in 10 tries last season, 37-23. The Cyclones trailed, 23-9, in the fourth quarter, but scored three touchdowns in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the game.

Iowa State became bowl-eligible with that victory, and can do the same by beating the Wildcats this week.

"There's no doubt Kanas State is one of the best-coached teams in the country," McCarney said today. "They always have been, they always will be. It goes right back to head coach Bill Snyder. They're tough, they're physical, they're getting better.

"With the exception of last year, Kansas State has really had their way with Iowa State for a lot of years."


McCarney said it's "almost hard to put into words what Stevie Hicks means to our football team."

Hicks, who has been injured most of the season, ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns in 25 carries against Texas A&M.

"Honestly, we didn't know coming out of last Thursday's practice if he would even play in the game," McCarney said. "It was a complete game-time decision. Stevie said, 'I'm ready. I'm starting. I'm playing.'

"We didn't know if he'd last two plays like he did at Nebraska. Based on practice last night, it looks like he's got a chance to go again this week."


McCarney evidently misunderstood Randy Peterson's question on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference this morning.

Peterson asked, "Are you getting the respect from the television networks during the Big 12 season that you deserve?"

"I have no idea," McCarney answered. "I honestly have no idea. I have not listened to one minute of it. We watch all our videotape that's exchanged.....We're in a world right now, trying to get ready for Kansas State, and I'll just give you an honest answer--I don't know. You probably could answer that better than I could."

Then Peterson said, "Are enough of your games on TV? That's kind of what I meant."

"We're going to be on obviously against Kansas," McCarney said. "I think we're in the hunt for possibly the Colorado game. That's what our athletic director, Jamie Pollard, mentioned to me. Anytime you get on TV, it's great for the whole department, as you know. Hopefully, the Kansas game won't be the only one [that's on TV] in the next few weeks."

Iowa State has never been a network TV darling, and won't be on the tube this week either.


Vol. 4, No. 402
Oct. 31, 2005