As I reflect back on this spring game, I can't help but think of all the spring games I've been to in the past. Here are a few of my reflections.
The first spring game memory I have didn't involve any game. It was what happened after the game. In the past, K-State has had players greet the fans after the game, allowing them to come down on the field and get autographs and shake hands with their college-aged heroes. It was targeted at the kids of course, but the parents were quick to happily allow their children to get the autographs they wanted but felt too funny to ask for. My dad was one of those parents. I was ten in 1999 when Josh Buhl was a freshman. He'd been highly recruited and my dad knew it. The only thing I remember from the time, however, was him eagerly pushing me towards the small crowd around the massive 18-year-old, and saying, "Get his autograph, Brian. He's going to be good." He couldn't have been more right.
My next memory actually didn't take place at KSU Stadium as it used to be known. The stadium was getting a face-lift in 2002 and so the spring game took place at Manhattan High School. I remember feeling packed in with the rest of the purple people to see if K-State could improve on a disappointing 6-6 season from the year before. I don't remember any of the game - I just remember how big the football players looked on the tiny high school field and how crunched I was in the packed high school football stadium.
In 2004, K-State was coming off a Big XII Championship and hopes were high for the next season, even though we had to replace yet another great quarterback in Ell Roberson. The reason for that hope was Darren Sproles. The game was mostly boring devoid of any good quarterback play, which should have been a warning sign, but the lone bright spot was Sproles. He bursted for a 60-yard run late in the game. And I missed the beginning of it getting concessions for my dad. I was so mad at him, and I would have been more mad had I not sprinted from the stand as I heard the crowd cheering just in time to see him cross the 50-yard-line and with a wide-open field welcoming him to score the touchdown.
I'm not quite sure when the next memory comes from, except that it was from the Ron Prince era. A bad start, I know. Unfortunately it gets worse. He implemented a draft system in which his coordinators drafted players to make their teams. So instead of the first teamers playing with the guys they were familiar with, they ran plays with unadjusted rosters and odd matchups. Even Josh Freeman, Ron Prince's favorite son, couldn't adjust. Needless to say, it didn't work out well. Final score: 6-3. Most spring games are boring, I'll grant you that. This was by far the most boring game, spring or otherwise, game I've ever been to.
I remember last year's well, as might be expected, but the reason I bring it up is because of what it meant for the season. Carson Coffman slinging it around, throwing for 6 or 7 touchdowns, over 300 yards, and looking great. This might be somewhat of an indictment of our defense, which was indeed horrible last year, but it also showed that Coffman was capable. I know a lot of people were fed up with Coffman and thought Klein would have been a better option, but what game did he lose for us? I might grant you the Missouri game, but when our defense gives up 38 points, how can you really say that the quarterback lost it for us? Perhaps the Oklahoma State game too, but the entire offense was incapable that day, even the great Daniel Thomas. Coffman showed he can run the offense in that spring game and continued to show that throughout the season, getting K-State 7 wins even with the worst rushing defense in the country.
This year I think I'll remember similar things as last year. Klein had a great game, showing he is far and away the front-runner for the quarterback job. And I know he was doing it against the second-team defense, as Coffman was last year, but it still shows he has command of the offense. Does this portend for the future? We will see. What most people were looking forward to was the debuts of the Brown brothers and the celebrated transfer QB Justin Tuggle. Tuggle and Bryce had mediocre performances, though Bryce did show a bit more promise as he's been in the system for over a year now. Arthur's performance was a noteworthy 14 tackles, but making plays when there's no one else there to make them hardly speaks well for the defense. What speaks well for these Wildcats is again Klein. And I can't wait to see what that means for the coming season with years (and spring games) to come.