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Brooks: Handling Success Key This Week

Oct 20, 2009

BOULDER - So, we're watching college football scores roll in two weekends ago and this one crawls - maybe even crawls with a pronounced limp, if that's possible - across the bottom of the television screen: Texas Tech 66, Kansas State 14.

And my first thought is something like this: Bill Snyder leaves retirement for this kind of humiliation? Was washing the car twice a week, mowing the grass and playing with the grandkids really that bad?

One weekend later, Saturday's scores trickle across the lower regions of the tube, and there's this: Kansas State 62, Texas A&M 14.

For those keeping score at home, that's losing by 52 points one week, winning by 48 the next - a 100-point turnaround. Yield 60-plus in one game, score 60-plus in the next.

Load the buses and get these guys to a counseling center. Fast. If Mr. Bill is dumbfounded by the mood swing, forgive him.

Asked Monday morning on the Big 12 coaches teleconference what the two-week carnival ride reveals about his squad, Snyder answered, "It tells us we're a little goofy; we have no idea where we are, who we are . . . ."

I can't help him with the "who" part, but as for the "where," take a peek at the Big 12 North Division standings. OK, it's early and the North is showing signs of harboring six very average teams (a 4-4 league record might send one of them to Dallas in December), but for now K-State, at 2-1, is your frontrunner.

Cue that Powercat growl.

Or maybe not. Snyder, who turned 70 on Oct. 7, is a one-week-at-a-time animal. Hell, Snyder is one-meeting-at-a-time, one-drill-at-a-time. Regimented is too loose a word to describe him.

Believe him when he says he "never thought about" where his team might be in the North Division standings in mid-October. "When we chose to come back (to coaching), it was just trying to piece things together day-by-day . . . we've taken it a day at a time (and) haven't made time to focus four to five games ahead.

"We never gave any thought to where we might be at this point in time."

But here he is, back doing football 24/7, back atop the North and preparing for this week's visit by Colorado. He still has lots of questions about his team, and some of the answers he's seeking are similar to what Dan Hawkins wants to know about CU.

Here are perhaps their biggest shared queries: What do significant wins last weekend (the Buffaloes upset then-No. 17 Kansas 34-30) bode for this weekend? Which team handles its modest dose of prosperity at least reasonably well and focuses on the present?

And we'll toss this one in for the Buffs: After honorable efforts in losses at a pair of difficult road stops (West Virginia, Texas), is this the weekend for a road win? Yes, it's been awhile since that occurred; try Oct. 27, 2007 at Texas Tech (31-26).

In July, at the Big 12 preseason media gathering, Snyder explained that if he were able to merely "settle the waters" at K-State, where he began his first run in 1988 before stepping out three seasons ago, "It will have been worth the effort."

Judging from last weekend and discounting the previous one, the whitecaps are disappearing. Snyder, who inherited a team that successor/predecessor Ron Prince stocked with 19 junior college signees in his final recruiting class, said for the first "32 or 33 minutes" against A&M, the Wildcats played "the best football we've played all year."

Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman agreed: "Give them credit; everything they did was right."

Still, in their first five games, the Wildcats didn't do that much to distinguish themselves. There were wins against the traditional soft-serve September opponents (Massachusetts, 21-17, and Tennessee Tech, 49-7), losses to (ugh) Louisiana-Lafayette, 17-15, and fair-to-middling UCLA, 23-9; and a 24-23 sneak past Iowa State in the Big 12 opener.

After the opening win against UMass, Snyder signed a five-year, $9.6 million contract, retroactive to Feb. 1, 2009 and good through the end of the 2013 season. So, K-State obviously believes as much in his second coming as it did in his first, when he directed what many still call the most significant transformation ever in college football.

From 1993 through 2000, Snyder guided the Wildcats - Mildcats before his arrival - to eight consecutive seasons of nine or more victories. They made 11 consecutive bowl trips, enjoyed six Top 10 finishes and won the Big 12 in 2003.

Early in Snyder's K-State tenure, a burial of the Texas Tech magnitude wasn't abnormal. In five wins from 1988 (Snyder's Year 1) to 1992, CU flogged K-State by a combined score of 243-35. Since 2000, the Buffs hold a 5-4 edge, including a 14-13 win in Boulder last season.

After the Texas Tech debacle, Snyder believed his team would respond, but he didn't foresee the rout of A&M: "I can't tell you it was anticipated. We just played better, prepared better. We did virtually everything better. And Texas A&M didn't play as well as they are capable of playing."

In college football, said Snyder, "Everything is responsive . . . I've been around the game long enough to know things change in a heartbeat.  Young people's tendency is to get caught up in the moment.

"I would like to believe there's a prideful element a toughness to this team, the capacity to understand and deal with and respond to adversity or otherwise. Part of the growing up process is to get it all moving in the right direction (and) be able to respond to how well we played (against A&M) and the outcome of the game.

"We still have to be able to handle this week and get beyond last week . . . we'll see how capable we are of doing that."

Right about now, the Buffs should be thinking similar thoughts.

WHO SAID IT? Match this quote on his defensive line with the correct coach: "They're a bunch of young guys who want to do well. They were maligned a little over the previous five games. But they've responded well, played hard and made fewer mistakes

"They did a better job of being where they needed to be. A better pass rush played a major part in (winning on Saturday)."

Snyder or Hawkins? It's Snyder, and he could be speaking for both.

But there is a discrepancy: Saying his D-line contains "a bunch of young guys" isn't exactly accurate. A K-State depth chart released Monday shows three seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman in the front four's two-deep.

CU's front four (two deep) features one senior, one junior, two sophomores, four freshmen.

THE TAKE ON TYLER: With Prince still coaching, Snyder was a spectator for last season's K-State-CU game, which featured the debut of Buffs quarterback Tyler Hansen.

Snyder also has watched tape of Hansen's 2009 debut Saturday against Kansas, and offered this comparison: "He's playing at a higher comfort level and has had more practice experience. I'm impressed by way he moves around (and) he does have the capacity to throw.

"He's an excellent combination quarterback, and a little scary back there . . . he's an awfully good player."

And in case you missed it, KU coach Mark Mangino called Hansen "the difference maker . . . It's unfortunate they picked this week to take his redshirt off, but I think they found their quarterback, that's for sure. He's a heck of a player. He made the difference (Saturday) in my opinion.

MANGINO'S MARK: Revisiting KU and the time required for Mangino's program to get traction: His records in Years 1-3: 2-10, 6-7, 4-7. By comparison, Hawkins' record in Years 1-3 at CU: 2-10, 6-7, 5-7.

In Mangino's fourth season, KU improved to 7-5, but had to really to reach seven wins by winning four of the last five games. (Hawkins is 2-4.) In Year 5 of the Mangino reign -- the season quarterback Todd Reesing debuted against CU -- the Jayhawks finished 6-6.

 And in Year 6, taking advantage of one of their most favorable schedules, the Jayhawks went to 12-1. Last season, KU was 8-5 (4-4 Big 12). Halfway through his eighth season at KU, Mangino's record is 50-42. 

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU