October 28, 2008

Wildcats have had KU game circled

The red digits on the countdown clock inside the lobby of the Vanier Football Complex beamed a little bit brighter and seemed to be spin down the days, hours, minutes, seconds and tenths-of-a-seconds a little bit faster than usual on Monday afternoon. Directly below the clock, white letters "BEAT KU" and a small Jayhawk logo affixed to the wall taunted visitors as they entered the double doors. If that doesn't get the juices flowing, imagine how Kansas State players must have felt when they entered the locker room this summer.

Yes, the Jayhawk logo and countdown clock greeted players in the locker room, too, during the offseason. Except instead of counting down the days until the Wildcats' season opener against North Texas, the clock was programmed to display the number of days until the Kansas game.

"The entire offseason was the countdown -- 168 days until the KU game. The entire offseason it was KU on the board," K-State quarterback Josh Freeman said. "It's a game that's definitely been in the back of our minds. There's definitely been a huge emphasis on coming out and playing well this week."

K-State wide receiver Deon Murphy remembers the first time he spotted the countdown clock in the locker room.

"(I thought) why are we thinking about KU during the summer? It's not even the first game," Murphy said. "I recall it was like that for a while -- Beat KU -- but we had North Texas first. We were playing KU in November. I didn't understand it."

Murphy was curious about the move because K-State coach Ron Prince usually takes a one-game-at-a-time approach when addressing his players.

Murphy shrugged, "Who knows why he did it."

Entering his third season at K-State, Prince was apparently making a point.

During his weekly news conference on Monday, Prince, 16-17 and 0-2 against Kansas, sliced through any rhetoric or coach speak as he prepares his team for the 11:30 a.m. kickoff on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.

"It's the most important game of the year, not because it's the one we're playing this week," he said, "but because of the two schools and what we're about and what we're trying to accomplish."

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