MANHATTAN, Kan. — He said what he said, and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. Regardless, Tre Walker knows how football omerta works: Once it goes up on the bulletin board, there’s no taking it back. You don’t get a mulligan on a line drawn in the sand.
That said, the Kansas State Wildcats’ senior linebacker would like to, ahem, clarify things a bit.
“First and foremost, I want to correct a false report at the Big 12 Media Days,” Walker told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “I didn’t say at all that Texas was soft, by any means.”
Walker on the Longhorns, circa July: “They kind of laid down a little bit. That’s nothing to say about their character. That’s just what they do.”
Walker on the Longhorns, circa September: “We have great respect for Texas. I have a number of friends that play for Texas, so I wouldn’t dare go and disrespect them. I had to make a lot of phone calls, but you know, it was worth it to save your name and your reputation.”
Of course, he knows the first quote, dropped during Big 12 Media Days, is the one that’s going to stick, the one that’ll be trotted out and pasted around greater Austin this week. The Wildcats (2-1), poster boys for the Big 12’s Scrappy Have-Nots, are winners of five straight matchups against the Longhorns (1-2), a bunch that practically prints its own money. Walker allegedly calling out the ‘Horns for a lack of effort was just more salt poured onto a program that, as of late, can’t stop taking on flesh wounds.
“People are always looking for locker-room material; I wasn’t surprised,” said Walker, whose Wildcats visit Austin Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both schools. “But I’m definitely glad coach Mack Brown called and we got the issues resolved and the matter resolved. And I’m glad the truth finally came out.”
He said what he said. Or he didn’t. Regardless, the Olathe native also wanted to point out he made a number of phone calls to Austin recently — including one very big one to Brown, the Longhorns’ embattled coach, in order to clear the air.
“If anybody ever accuses you of anything, the first thing to do is go and try to make the situation right,” said Walker, who’s been credited with seven tackles, one for a loss, so far this season. “And he was understanding. Coach Mack Brown, he understands. He was there. I’m glad he understood the truth of the matter.”
And the truth is, the series can’t stop swaying in K-State’s direction. During this current five-game run, the average margin of victory has been 13.6 points; the ‘Cats have won in their two most recent trips to Austin by an average of 12 points, including a 17-13 squeaker during their last visit to Darrell K Royal- Texas Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2011.
Given the disparity in budgets and (alleged) talent between the two programs, the current momentum swing has become a subject of befuddlement in the Lone Star State and a point of immense, intense pride in the Little Apple. It would probably be a bridge too far to refer to the Texas game as K-State’s Super Bowl. And yet …
“We take that game as a high priority — whether it be Texas or anybody,” Walker said. “You go down to Texas and make a big win happen, that’s big for Kansas State. That really kicks off the season, no matter where we’re at within our schedule.”
So the prevailing theory is that the Wildcats have just wanted it more. They’ve been the hungrier team, the more physical team, taking out millions of dollars of frustration over the span of a few hours.
But they’ve also been the more disciplined team: During the last five games in the series, K-State has a turnover margin of plus-13; Texas has turned it over a whopping 16 times in those five contests to the Wildcats’ three. On average, the ‘Horns have given the ball away 3.2 times per game to K-State’s 0.6, which is a pretty good recipe for getting your collective backsides handed to you.
“So we’ve been blessed, we’ve been fortunate,” Walker said. “It could have gone either way. But I’m glad we came out on top.”
They may be separated by 674 miles and several tax brackets, but as league play begins, the ‘Horns and K-State have this much in common: They’re both among the Big 12’s biggest enigmas. The Wildcats are feeling a lot better about themselves of late, having rallied from a stunning home loss to FCS power North Dakota State to throttle Louisiana and Massachusetts. The defense is forcing opportunistic turnovers again (four in the last two weeks) and learning to finish, something it didn’t do in the opener against the Bison.
Texas, meanwhile, is in burnt orange free fall, having given up 550 rushing yards in a stunning loss at BYU, fired its defensive coordinator, then surrendered 272 more on the ground in a 44-23 setback in Austin at the hands of Ole Miss. Walker’s new phone pal Brown is under fire again, and the death spiral gets faster by the week.
“Friends (in Texas) talk about how crazy it is (down there),” the K-State linebacker said. “At the end of the day, you just try to keep everything within the white lines.
“I do feel for them in that situation, because that’s tough on anybody. I don’t care what team it is, who you are, when your own fans do that to you, that can be tough. But I know that they’re not going to give up.”
With that, Walker shrugged. He said what he said. Or he didn’t. Either way, the last word on Saturday night belongs to the scoreboard.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org