The Wildcats’ next big showdown came on the road against the Mountaineers, at the time one of the top teams in the country. Kansas State grounded Geno Smith and Co. in a 55-14 blowout.
Remarkably consistent all season, the Wildcats finally cracked on a Saturday night in Waco, Texas. They had climbed to No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history after Alabama’s stunning loss to Texas A&M, but were done in by turnovers and blown assignments in a 52-24 loss to the Bears that dashed the Wildcats’ national championship dreams.
Never more was Snyder’s even keel more valuable.
After a week off, the Wildcats returned to the field for their season finale Saturday night against Texas. They needed a victory to wrap up their first Big 12 title since 2003, and scored 35 second-half points in a 42-24 victory on senior night.
Snyder even allowed a little smile to slip in the postgame celebration.
“It means an awful lot to all of us,” he said. “A great deal to the young people in our program — they were excited about it. Obviously I speak for everybody in our football family, I think it’s significant and important for each and every one of us.”
The turnaround from a five-win team in the final year of Ron Prince’s first tenure to the opportunity for the first 12-win season in school history with a victory in the Fiesta Bowl mirrors in many ways Snyder’s initial turnaround, dubbed by many the “Miracle in Manhattan.”
Kansas State had been winless the two seasons before his arrival in 1989, but slowly became one of the most gritty, consistent and well-coached programs in college football.
It all culminated with the Wildcats’ first Big 12 title in 2003.
“I think I’ve addressed this team, when I first came back, they were in position to maybe — not totally replicate that, but become maybe the second-greatest turnaround,” Snyder said of his return from retirement, when he promised to “calm the waters” for a program that had backslid.