November 12, 2006

Return of the Cat

With 53 seconds remaining before Kansas State would realize a dream that nobody including first-year head coach Ron Prince could have scripted to the ball's final snap, university president Jon Wefald, standing alongside a wall of officials packed tightly on the sideline late Saturday night, was asked to put his thoughts into words. All he could do was watch the clock. "Can I talk?" he repeated. "Not now. Are you kidding?"

About that time, quarterback Josh Freeman, a true freshman who amid near-freezing temperatures proved tougher than a Kansas winter, found star junior wide receiver Jordy Nelson across the middle. With some maneuvering, Nelson stretched for six yards on third down, giving the Wildcats a first down to set off an all-night celebration and secure one of the biggest wins in school history.

Kansas State 45, No. 4 Texas 42.

Upon taking a final knee, the 6-foot-6, 238-pound Freeman, the eventual Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week honoree after he completed 19 of 31 passes for 269 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and ran for another score, was mobbed by thousands of fans. A purple pit of young and old alike from the crowd of 47, 933 stormed the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. They formally re-welcomed a proud program back to the spotlight in front of a national audience on ABC as the young Wildcats posted their first regular-season win over a Top 10 opponent in six years to the night.

The previous win -- a 29-28 victory over Nebraska - came on Nov. 11, 2000 during a TV night game in Manhattan against the fourth-ranked team in the country.

That night ended with snowfall. This one concluded with a shower of camera flashes accompanied by severe flooding around the north end zone goal post. The goal post withstood the ensuing 45-minute battle, which included a couple young fans that scaled the uprights. Likewise, even in taking a 21-point lead on Freeman's one-yard keeper with less than 20 minutes remaining, it took the Wildcats a full 60-minute battle to withstand the defending national champions, who crept to within 42-35 on a 33-yard scoring toss from true freshman Jevan Snead to wide receiver Limas Sweed with 12 minutes, 52 seconds to go.

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