By Ashley Dunkak
The Associated Press
MANHATTAN, Kan. — The college football landscape has changed dramatically since 1998.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, and that’s a good reason why the second-ranked Wildcats look strikingly similar to the team he had in ’98.
“He was really all about accountability and being consistent and being able to play at your highest potential,” said wide receiver Aaron Lockett, who was a freshman on that team.
“He wasn’t really into the individual superstar or the stats,” Lockett said. “It was all about momentum and all about feeding on one another — work your hardest not to be the weakest link, and if you did that everybody would be successful.”
They rolled to an 11-0 record and won the Big 12 North, and had a big fourth-quarter lead on Texas A&M in the conference title game before losing in overtime.
This Kansas State, ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, are off to the first 10-0 start since that ballyhooed team led by Michael Bishop. The current team has another Heisman candidate in quarterback Collin Klein, and a rugged defense led by talented linebackers.
But these guys want to finish the job. The Wildcats (7-0 in Big 12) play at Baylor on Saturday before a week off, and then a high-profile season-finale against Texas.
“You know, they lost a game, we’re not trying to do that,” said wide receiver Chris Harper. “We’re trying to set ourselves apart. We want to come out of the shadow of that ‘98 team.”
Lockett’s nephew is sophomore wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who also has a propensity for returning kickoffs for touchdowns.
Linebacker Arthur Brown Jr. leads the current team in tackles, earning the nickname “The Judge,” while the ’98 team had future NFL draft picks such as Mark Simoneau — who will soon be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame — patrolling the field.
Bishop set the school record for pass efficiency, and his 2,844 yards through the air made him one of college football’s most dynamic players. It was little wonder he was invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, finishing second to Texas running back Ricky Williams.
“Michael was a quality leader for that team in a far different way than Collin is,” Snyder said. “Still, his teammates responded to him quite well in a positive way. People responded to him because he made plays.”
Klein has put up pass efficiency numbers similar to Bishop, and he’s proven to be more elusive on the ground. The result has been record-setting touchdown totals and frontrunner status for college football’s most coveted individual award.
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