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October 22, 2011

Seems like old times for Wildcats

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The lack of Jock Jams playing on the Memorial Stadium sound system reminded everyone that it wasn't the 1990s, but if No. 12 Kansas State's 59-21 win over in-state rival Kansas was played in a vacuum, it sure would have seemed like it.

The score was on point. The purple-dominated stands fit the theme, and the stream of Jayhawk supporters headed for the exits early in the third quarter was reminiscent of the golden age of Wildcat football. There was even a little guy in a Lockett jersey scoring on a kickoff.

"It was like the old games," said defensive end Jordan Voelker, a Kansas native. "It was like the ones I remember growing up. I remember they always used to go the way that I wanted them to."

Freshman Tyler Lockett's third-quarter kickoff return score helped blow open what as a 17-point game at halftime. K-State scored 21 points in the period while its defense the stood solid, locking down to the tune of 286 total yards. No, the scene wasn't pretty in the eyes of the home crowd, but the events that caused it were old hat for a team many say "shouldn't be" 4-0 in Big 12 play and 7-0 overall.

Quarterback Collin Klein notched career highs in both rushing touchdowns (4) and passing yards (194) while flirting with the 100-yard mark on the ground. And with two of his top wide receivers out of action, he turned to Lockett.

The freshman legacy caught five passes for 110 yards against the Jayhawks on Saturday. The 19-yard touchdown he hauled in late in third quarter was a nice way to top off his best day at the office, but the memorable moment here was the return, a dance he's seen his father, Kevin and uncle, Aaron do a dozen times over the years.

"Tyler helped. He jumpstarted us," Klein said of the true freshman receiver, who became the first player in school history to score on kickoff returns in back-to-back games.

K-State's first three touchdowns of the afternoon runs came from inside the five-yard line and served as a reminder of how this team's dream start was created. The trademarks were scattered all over the field like dirt. The Wildcats dominated the time of possession and moved the ball 261 yard on the ground. Running back John Hubert carried 17 times, and David Garrett, an undersized defensive back, racked up 11 tackles.

The victory was vintage. And so was the sight of Memorial Stadium emptying before the final quarter.

"I noticed how quiet it got," linebacker Tre Walker said. "We didn’t really care about all those fans leaving, though, because we saw all the purpled stayed. I want to thank our fans for staying."

Already playing in front of a patchy and mostly-purple crowd, Klein put K-State up 45-14 on a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. From there, the backups got their due.

And now -- finally -- so might the undefeated Wildcats.

When Snyder's team hosts No. 3 Oklahoma next week, all eyes will be on Manhattan, Kan., as one of the nation's most important games will take place inside its limits. The attention is sure to be unlike anything this K-State squad, which views itself as a perpetual underdog, has seen.

It's not 2003 in the Sunflower State. It just feels a lot like it. Snyder, true to form, is finding all kinds of reasons to challenge his nationally ranked squad. The more wins start to pile up, the more problems Snyder seems to find with his team. It's an act those familiar with the program have seen before.

So what did the veteran coach enjoy about Saturday's victory, an outcome that saw his team dominate its most despised rival from start to finish?

"We had some great fans here, and the band was super," Snyder said with some smile.

The quote was almost certainly an ego-managing device, but for a squad who has thumped the drum of overlooked underdog with a tire iron all season long, it doesn't seem as though a we've-arrived mentality is very high on the list of worries. So when the nation tunes in to watch a pair of top-10 teams duke it out next Saturday, the chips that have taken up residence on the shoulders of nearly every Wildcat will remain in place.

"It's not about people knowing us. I think a lot of people think that's what its about," Walker said. "At the end of the day, it's about you knowing yourself."

And don't look now, but this K-State team is starting to "know" that what's going on in Manhattan is no fluke or short-term ride.







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