Now that I’ve mentioned the Pinstripe Bowl, I might as well get into it and my feelings on it. I hate that the game is defined by a flag. I don’t want to be labeled as a complainer. All my life I’ve rolled my eyes at those who continue to complain about a bad call in years past and that’s exactly what’s going to happen with this game. Nebraska fans always complain about the facemask in 1998 of quarterback Eric Crouch against K-State. Granted, it was one of the most obvious facemasks ever, but it wasn’t called. That was 4th down for Nebraska and K-State took over. However, Nebraska still got the ball back and had another chance to win the game, only down 34-30, but Crouch threw an interception and K-State returned it for a touchdown to seal the victory, their first over the Huskers in more than 40 years and keeping K-State undefeated, making it the biggest win in the 100 year history of K-State football up to that point.
However, if Nebraska wanted to win, regardless of the facemask, they should have scored on that last drive or prevented K-State from scoring 40 points, or prevented Michael Bishop from running and passing all over them in the second half. The same can be said for the Pinstripe Bowl. If K-State really wanted to win, then Josh Cherry should have made his field goal, or they shouldn’t have gone for a fake field goal (actually I was okay with the fake, the play they ran was awful though), or they should have prevented Syracuse from gaining 400+ yards, including 198 yards to a mediocre running back. Yet no matter what I say, people are still going to complain. This bowl will be forever remembered for the salute that Adrian Hillburn offered after scoring a touchdown to put K-State within two at 36-34. A flag followed that salute, making K-State’s two-point conversion from the 18 instead of the 3, and Carson Coffman’s pass sailed over Aubrey Quarles’ head (another note here – if they really wanted to tie it, Coffman should have hit Quarles WHO WAS WIDE OPEN IN THE END ZONE. Unfortunately, Coffman just isn’t that good, despite having one of his best games of his career).
Ok, so now we all know what happened and what I think about it. However, I still haven’t said why this offers more evidence for the point of my post, or even what the point of my post is. So here it is. It wasn’t the Big 10 official’s fault that we didn’t tie that game, who so many people want to blame; it wasn’t even the 2010 wildcats, who others want to blame. It was fate. Fate threw that flag. It was fate that prevented K-State from playing overtime and after reading the rest of this (if you aren’t bored already, that is) you may just agree with that silly statement.
I’m sorry in advance for bringing up one of the most painful moments in K-State sports history, but in the end, it’s really integral. It’s 1998 and K-State is 11-0, including their first victory over Nebraska in 40+ years (see previous). They are playing a decent Texas A&M team, who is 9-2, for the Big XII Championship. At the beginning of the game, K-State is on the outside looking in as far as the National Championship went, which was only in its very first year of BCS existence. UCLA and Tennessee were both undefeated and ranked ahead of K-State in the BCS standings (despite being ranked #1 by the coaches). UCLA was playing a 7-3 Miami team that didn’t look like anything special, though it was at Miami and Tennessee was playing Mississippi State in the SEC Championship. It didn’t look like K-State was going to even get a chance to play for a National Championship, despite having a fast, physical defense, and a quarterback who was good enough to finish second in the Heisman race to Ricky Williams, who set the record that year for most rushing yards in a career in NCAA history. It actually reminds me of a Boise State or TCU situation. Granted, K-State was in a BCS conference, but they were still looked down upon like those mid-majors are, having played a soft schedule and having a less-than-respectable football history (actually they had the second most losses of any football program in the nation). So K-State wasn’t getting in, but they still wanted to take care of business against A&M. All the way up to the fourth quarter, they seemed to be doing that. K-State was up 27-12 going into the fourth quarter, Bishop having his usual fantastic day and the defense really roughing up the Aggies. Here’s where things started to go awry. The inexplicable was about to happen, in more than one way. First, UCLA and Tennessee had been losing for their entire games, and they continued to show the score in the Trans World Dome where the game was being played in St. Louis, Missouri. Tennessee wrapped up a comeback, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 24-14, ending sometime in the first half of the Big XII Championship. UCLA, however, continued to struggle and lost to Miami, 49-45. K-State didn’t find this out until they were up 15 in the fourth quarter and victory seemed all but guaranteed, and now a National Championship berth was as well. Everyone went crazy. Players jumped up and down, fans hugged and kissed, the unthinkable was going to happen. Unfortunately for K-State, the unthinkable did happen, but in a way no one but the Aggies of Texas A&M wanted. Bishop threw an interception that led to an Aggie touchdown with 9 minutes left in the quarter, leaving K-State still ahead 27-19. K-State and A&M would trade possessions until K-State got the ball back with just a few minutes left, with the opportunity to run out the clock with just a few first downs. Bishop dropped back and took off as he had done so many times in the game. He was on his way to a first down – K-State was going to win after all – and then he fumbled. A&M recovered. A&M scored with one minute left, complete with a two point conversion to tie it (no salute was apparently given). K-State and A&M go into overtime. A&M is held to a field goal. So is K-State. A second overtime. K-State is held to a field goal. A&M isn’t. The Aggies score a touchdown, capping the biggest comeback in the three-year history of the Big XII Championship, and winning 36-33. K-State fans are heartbroken. There will be no National Championship.
Furthermore, K-State wouldn’t even get a consolation prize. Nowadays undefeated teams who lose their conference championships are nearly guaranteed a BCS or at least prestigious bowl berth. Not so for the 1998 Wildcats. Due to pre-arranged bowl deals that there would later be a rule against, K-State would fall to the Alamo Bowl, which back in those days picked fourth in the Big XII order. The team would be so upset with just having to be there that they would lose to the Drew Brees-led Purdue Boilermakers 37-34, putting the finishing awful touches on the greatest season in K-State history.
So what does this all mean? Just because K-State played one bad overtime game, fate decided they wouldn’t play another one in the Pinstripe Bowl? Well, what if I told you that fate decided they would NEVER play another overtime? Indeed, K-State has only played one overtime game in the history of its program. Granted, the overtime rule has only been in effect in college football since 1996, but nonetheless, 395 overtime games have been played, an average of just over 3 per team. There are others like K-State who have only played one overtime game, all under strange and even disheartening conditions as well. One of those teams is the University of Texas of all schools. Their single overtime game was against Oklahoma in 1996, the first overtime game in the young history of the Big XII and the first overtime game in the incredible lengthy history of the Red River Shootout between OU and Texas (though it’s interesting to note that in the previous year, OU and Texas did tie). OU would win that overtime game and Texas hasn’t played one since. The only other two FBS (formerly 1-A) schools who have played only one overtime game was actually played against each other – North Texas and Florida International. If that isn’t odd enough, the game they played in 2006 went into SEVEN OVERTIMES and included a slew of missed field goals and turnovers that ended in an ugly 25-22 North Texas victory. Florida International would finish the season winless.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 OT [ 5 6 7 8 91011 ] Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -- [ - - - - - - - ] -----
Fla. International.. 0 0 13 3 6 [ 0 0 3 0 0 3 0 ] - 22
North Texas......... 5 0 0 11 9 [ 0 3 0 0 0 3 3 ] - 25
So what makes K-State special if there are three other teams who have only played one overtime game? First of all, none of those overtime games meant as much as that 1998 Big XII Championship. Secondly, though the extent of my research is limited, I doubt that those other three teams have played in as many weird games as K-State that should have gone to overtime and didn’t (especially since FIU has only been FBS for five years). Following now are some examples.
The first game that comes to mind is 2002 against USC. K-State won 27-20 against Pete Carroll and Carson Palmer in Manhattan, another one of the greatest wins in the history of K-State. Maybe these circumstances weren’t unusual, as plenty of games are decided by one touchdown, but what I remember from this game is USC driving at the end. My brother sat next to me and kept saying, “They’re going to tie it and we’re going to overtime.” And with Carson Palmer, it was a distinct possibility. However, USC came up to fourth down and didn’t convert, giving K-State the victory, no overtime needed.
Later that year, K-State played Texas in Manhattan in another duel of two ranked teams. Despite K-State’s history of “owning Texas,” this was not a good example of that. Texas was up 17-14 and K-State was driving towards the end. The drive stalled and K-State was forced to try a field goal. Jared Brite wasn’t the best of kickers and asking him to kick a 50-yarder with four seconds left may have been asking a lot. Nevertheless, Texas would block the field goal and win the game 17-14. No overtime needed.
The final game of 2002 was a close one as well. K-State played Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl and trailed the Sun Devils for most of the game. They would rally, however, and the game would be tied with just a few minutes left. Lo and behold, K-State would go on a game-defining drive, score the game winning touchdown with just over a minute left and win the game 34-27. No overtime needed.
In 2003 K-State played Marshall in Manhattan. Ell Roberson, one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in K-State history, was out with a wrist injury, and so was his backup. The duty to lead the #6 Wildcats was left to third-stringer Jeff Schwinn (but really it was up to the greatest running back in K-State history Darren Sproles). Schwinn didn’t play well, turning the ball over three times, and Marshall would hold the advantage 27-20 with just 3 minutes left. Schwinn would lead K-State on a furious drive, getting down to the 3 yard line with 25 seconds left. But guess what? K-State wouldn’t convert and lose 27-20. No overtime needed.
In 2004 K-State played Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. The game was wild, with each team trading scores back and forth, both desperate for bowl eligibility as CU sat on 5 wins and K-State with 4 (and two games left). With just over a minute left the score was tied at 31. Colorado took over deep in their own territory and had little chance of scoring. Inexplicably, however, K-State’s prevent defense would falter and give up play after play. Colorado was still more than 40 yards out with just a few seconds left, too far for a field goal. Instead the Buffalo quarterback lofted his pass to a wide open receiver, giving Colorado the win 38-31. No overtime needed.
In 2005 K-State played Colorado in another close game, this time in Manhattan. With less than a minute left, the game was tied at 20. K-State stopped Colorado and the Buffaloes punted to K-State receiver Jermaine Moreira. Moreira would fumble to punt and Colorado would recover. Outstanding Colorado kicker Mason Crosby would kick the 52 yard field goal with ease, giving Colorado the win 23-20. No overtime needed.
The first game of 2006, Coach Ron Prince’s very first game, was played against Illinois State in Manhattan. K-State would trail the entire game until finding touchdowns late with special teams and defense and lead 24-17 with just a few minutes left. The Redbirds would go on a late drive and actually scored a touchdown with less than a minute left. However, the coach of the Redbirds would inexplicably go for two and fail to get it, giving K-State the victory 24-23. No overtime needed.
In 2007 K-State played Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was another crazy game, as Ron Prince’s teams could score at will yet couldn’t stop a baby in a stroller on defense. Oklahoma State led 38-31 with just a few minutes left. K-State took over and drove to score a touchdown with just over a minute left. Oddly, K-State would go for two and actually get it to lead 39-38. The Cowboys would drive right back down the field however, and kick a field goal as time expired to win 41-39. This one might be a stretch as it was never tied, but that’s the point right? No overtime needed.
In 2009 K-State played Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. K-State led 24-17 with just a few minutes left when the Cyclones took over and drove on the K-State defense. They scored a touchdown with 32 seconds left, all but guaranteeing overtime. But I bet at this point you can guess what happened. K-State inexplicably blocked the extra point and won 24-23. No overtime needed.
And then the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. Another crazy game trading scores back and forth, K-State scoring with just over a minute left, needing a two-point conversion to tie it. The salute. The penalty. The failed conversion. But it was no surprise to me.
So what does this all mean? That a 1998 game has cursed K-State for all time from playing overtime? Not necessarily. I’m not saying that K-State will never play another overtime game, that’s just ridiculous. But it is worthy of note that the most heartbreaking, and thus most defining, game in K-State history was played in overtime and that no overtime game has been played since. And I doubt K-State really wants to play overtime. Any time a game is played in overtime, it’s compared to past overtime games in the school’s history, and Lord knows no one at K-State wants to be reminded of that fateful day in 1998.