Despite all the turnovers, the turnaround is complete at Kansas State.
Michael Bishop ran for two touchdowns and threw for two, including an 11-yarder with 5:25 to go, and the second-ranked Wildcats finally tossed aside once-mighty Nebraska 40-30 on Saturday.
The momentous victory kept the Wildcats (10-0, 7-0 Big 12) on track for their first national title and ended a 29-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers (8-3, 4-3). It also clinched the Big 12 North title for the Wildcats, their first football crown of any kind since 1934.
"I am happy, I can assure you of that, no matter what you may think," said Wildcats coach Bill Snyder in his usual unemotional tone. "I am humbled by it, in all honesty. I'm so happy and proud, not only of the youngsters who played in this game, but all the youngsters who laid the foundation."
The Wildcats' 18th consecutive victory puts the school among college football's elite after a miracle 10-year turnaround orchestrated by coach Bill Snyder. Until last month, the Wildcats had the most losses of any major college team in history with 546. But Northwestern passed them on Oct. 24 with its 547th loss.
Now, people no longer can criticize Kansas State's weak schedule through its rebuilding years. Under Snyder, the Wildcats are 76-37-1. In the four years before he arrived. they were 3-40-1 and being pressured to abandon I-A football.
For the sixth week in a row, Bishop was not made available for interviews. The flashy 6-foot-1, 205-pound quarterback lost three first-half fumbles and threw an interception -- only his second of the season. He was 19-of-33 for 306 yards and ran for 140 yards on 25 carries.
"Maybe we were all a little to emotional in that first half," K-State guard Jeremy Martin said of an opening 30 minutes that saw the Wildcats trail for the first time this season. "We had never been behind before, but I think it shows this team has a lot of character ... the way we came back and met the challenge. People wondered if we could do that."
Linebacker Jeff Kelly capped the victory with a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown with three seconds left as thousands of frenzied purple-clad fans poured onto the KSU Stadium field.
After the field was cleared and K-State failed on a 2-point conversion when Bishop took a knee, the fans stormed the field again, only to be shooed away again so the Wildcats could kick off and end the game K-State has been calling the most important in its 103-year football history.
About 30 minutes after the game, the fans finally tore down the north goal post and carried it to Aggieville, a student area near campus.
"I love it, I won't lie to you," said Kelly, who also had an interception. "I love it for our fans. I love it for our players. I love it for all our former players and for out coaching staff.. But we still have games to go."
Bishop, who was alternately terrific and terrible, was 19-of-33 for 306 yards and carried 24 times for 136 yards. However, he lost three fumbles and threw an interception -- only his second of the season.
The loss gave Nebraska three regular-season defeats for the first time since 1977, and further soured Frank Solich's first season as Tom Osborne's replacement.
"At times we played tremendously well, but not quite well enough," Solich said.
Victory wasn't easy, as Bishop kept giving the Cornhuskers chances with his eagerness to avenge the only loss he has endured in college. Last season's 56-26 loss at Nebraska was Bishop's only defeat in 46 college starts, including
| Michael Bishop's scrambling hurts Nebraska all day long. (AP) |
The Huskers took a 30-27 lead with 8:22 left on Eric Crouch's 9-yard pass to tight end Sheldon Jackson. Kris Brown missed the extra point after tying an NCAA record with his 216th consecutive conversion a few minutes earlier. Bishop, who lost three fumbles in the first half to set up 10 Nebraska points and stop his team at the Huskers 1, fought off his mistakes in the second half.
He completed passes of 24 and 13 yards to McDonald and, after a 10-yard holding penalty against Nebraska, the ball was at the Huskers 11, Bishop rolled right and found McDonald alone in the middle of the end zone. K-State had a 34-30 lead and the record crowd of 44,298 got ready to party
"He's a strong kid, he believes in himself," tight end Justin Swift said of Bishop. "And this whole team believes in him. We are going to follow him wherever he takes us."
Crouch, who was 10-of-21 for 139 yards and three TDs and ran for 103 in his fourth career start, tried to rally the Huskers, but K-State's defense finally played liked the top unit it has been all season.
On fourth-and-8 from the Nebraska 42, Crouch was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Travis Ochs, who appeared to pull down the quarterback by the facemask. But no penalty was called and K-State took over.
"That's was one of the worst, blatant calls I've ever experienced," linebacker Jay Foreman said.
And finally, when the Huskers got the ball back, Crouch fumbled, Kelly picked up the ball and just made it to the end zone to clinch the victory.
Kansas State took its first lead of the game at 21-17 on Bishop's 17-yard TD pass to McDonald with 8:20 left in the third quarter. Martin Gramatica added a 25-yard field goal to extend the advantage to 24-17. But the Huskers tied it when Frank Murphy fumbled and Ralph Brown scooped it up and ran 74 yards for a TD.
Gramatica's 21-yard field goal with 10:57 left put K-State ahead 27-24 before Crouch had runs of 20 and 19 yards to set up his 9-yard TD strike to Jackson.
Nebraska took a 17-14 lead at the half thanks to Bishop's generosity.
The Huskers stunned the Wildcats, who came into the game allowing just 7.7 points per game, by taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards on eight plays, taking a 7-0 lead on Crouch's 8-yard TD pass to Jackson.
K-State tied it on Bishop's 2-yard run with 3:32 left in the period, before the Huskers moved to a 17-7 lead. Bishop's second fumble was recovered at the K-State 44, and three plays later, Crouch hit Kenny Cheatham with a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Brown added an 18-yard field goal before Bishop scored from 1 yard out with 49 seconds left in the half.
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