MANHATTAN, Kan. — For nearly a year, the Kansas State Wildcats have tried to suppress images of Joel Klatt.
They can’t stomach memories of the Colorado Buffaloes quarterback scrambling out of the shotgun with 16 seconds left, spotting since-graduated receiver Ron Monteilh, and throwing the truest, most perfect pass of his career right through the middle of KSU’s prevent defense.
The play, coming seconds after K-State
had rallied to tie the game, set fire to the Buffs, giving them enough momentum to steal the North Division title after losing four of their first five conference games. The same play doused the Wildcats, who didn’t finish with enough wins to play in a bowl.
So even though Kansas State isn’t eyeing a conference championship in the teams’ rematch today at noon, there isn’t anything it would like better than to make the Buffs feel how the Wildcats did last November.
This week, KSU coach Bill Snyder recounted the heartbreak.
“Words probably can’t describe it,” he said. “Here we are, a team that still had total control over whether we won the championship or not. Then to go in, lay an egg, make a tremendous comeback then all of a sudden lose it in the last heartbeat of a ball game.
“I think it had a major impact on everybody in our program, and we didn’t totally recover from it.”
Despite a 1-3 Big 12 mark, the Wildcats are starting to get it together. After a season and a half of uncertainty at quarterback, they appear to have found their man in redshirt freshman lefty Allan Evridge. They also field a serviceable defense, although it’s vulnerable to the run.
And because they will be motivated by what happened last season, CU knows not to take them lightly.
“We’re walking into a hostile environment, and they’re going to give us the best they’ve got,” junior linebacker Thaddaeus Washington said. “We know they always play us tough. We know once we get in there, it’s going to be a dogfight.”
The Buffs can’t afford to be unprepared.
Although they are tied with inconsistent Missouri for the division lead, one loss could change that landscape dramatical-
ly, because it would let Nebraska — third with a 2-2 conference record — back in the hunt.
“With the things shaking out the way they have in the North, this game is like a playoff for us,” CU coach Gary Barnett said. “Every one of these games looms huge.”
Also, the Buffs are far from invulnerable. Although the team has shown it is capable of excelling in every facet this season, its pass defense has drifted to 11th in the Big 12 (249 yards per game) after starting the season strong. CU has also had trouble running the ball the past two weeks, gaining 45 yards against Texas and 104 against Kansas.
However, CU has its own emotional edge. In 2003, the last time the Buffs played in Manhattan, KSU quarterback Eli Roberson scored a touchdown from the 1-yard line with 38 seconds in the game to make the final score 49-20 — an insult CU has not forgiven despite what happened last season.
“There was some bad blood at the end of that game, and those of us who were there don’t forget that,” Klatt said. “But I’m sure on their side, they have last year’s game sticking in the back of their head.
“We understand that, so we’re looking to go out there and start playing the type of Colorado football