Surging Wildcats welcome back TCU's Patterson
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)
The road leading to town wasn't known as Coach Bill Snyder Highway the last time Gary Patterson exited north off Interstate 70 and headed toward the Kansas State campus.
The football stadium didn't bear Snyder's name, either.
In fact, when the current TCU coach and native of tiny Rozel, Kan., returns to his alma mater for the first time in three decades Saturday, the old Wildcat linebacker might be surprised at the building boom on campus and the expansive - and expensive - additions to the stadium.
''I don't think I'll have time to worry about it, except for probably standing before the game and maybe after the game,'' Patterson said. ''It's been a long time since I was on that field.''
Patterson began his playing career at Dodge City Community College in southwest Kansas, and transferred to Kansas State for the 1980 season. He played his final two years for the Wildcats, back when the program was mostly a laughingstock in the old Big Eight.
It wasn't until Snyder arrived before the 1989 season that things turned around, and the entire school began a renaissance. For the past two decades, save for Snyder's brief retirement, he's somehow managed to keep Kansas State in the upper echelon of college football.
''Coach Snyder has done a great job,'' Patterson said, ''and there have been a lot of good coaches and good players who have come through since then.''
The job that Patterson has done at TCU has been impressive in its own right.
The Horned Frogs were already on the upswing under Dennis Franchione, but reached new heights when Patterson took over. He led them to an unbeaten season a couple years ago, and that made the school attractive enough that the Big 12 snapped up the Horned Frogs during the latest conference reshuffle.
Now, Patterson gets to travel over some familiar roads when he leads TCU (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) against the Wildcats (5-4, 3-3) in a game between two teams fighting for bowl eligibility.
''All of our players are interested in that,'' Snyder said. ''But you have to realize, too, that there is an equal amount of motivation on the other side because TCU is going through the exact same thing. They are fighting for their lives in a bowl game as well.''
The Wildcats, riding a three-game winning streak, can assure their spot in a bowl game with a win. The Horned Frogs need to beat Kansas State and then upset fourth-ranked Baylor.
Here are five things to keep in mind as they meet at Bill Snyder Family Stadium:
QUARTERBACK ROTATION: After struggling to find a balance between run-first QB Daniel Sams and pass-first option Jake Waters earlier in the season, Kansas State appears to have finally figured out its rotation. Both of them have been playing at a high level. ''We were so close at the beginning of the year and we're finally starting to put the pieces together,'' Waters said.
PACHALL PRODUCING: Horned Frogs QB Casey Pachall threw for 245 yards in a close win over Iowa State, and 394 yards and three TDs the week before against West Virginia. His presence allows TCU to use athletic backup Trevone Boykin as a runner and wide receiver. ''Trevone is a great athlete and we need to get him the ball more,'' Patterson said.
DEFENSIVE WILDCATS: Kansas State's defense was criticized when it allowed North Dakota State to march the length of the field for a winning touchdown in its season opener. But the Wildcats have been vastly improved the past few weeks, shutting down Texas Tech last week.
HURT FROGS: TCU has weathered a litany of injuries this season, including one to running back B.J. Catalon. Fellow running back Waymon James is also expected to miss the game while serving a suspension, which means Nebraska transfer Aaron Green will likely get another start.
MOMENTUM: The Wildcats are starting to look like defending Big 12 champions with three straight wins after a miserable start to the season, while TCU is trying to string together a second consecutive win for the first time this season. ''We just truly believe that we have been getting better and taking steps forward each day and each week,'' Kansas State linebacker Jonathan Truman said. ''So the momentum we are carrying into this game is pretty high.''