The most unlikely and remarkable resuscitation project in college football history commenced on Sept. 6, 1989, with Dr. Bill Snyder scrubbing in at an operating room named Sun Devil Stadium.
The patient, the Kansas State University program, was on life support, a victim of years of futility. Arizona State rolled to a 31-0 victory in Snyder’s debut as coach, but he would soon prove he had the right medicine for the Wildcats.
A well-documented KSU turnaround under Snyder has included 135 wins, 11 bowl appearances — including two Fiesta Bowl trips — and in 2003, the Big 12 championship.
But has Snyder’s life-saving touch begun to lose some of its potency? After years among the nation’s elite, the Wildcats look plain ordinary, at 4-4 and in danger of missing out on a bowl for the second straight year.
"I think it’s important for young people to understand that you don’t just float in the wind, that there is a staple, that there is something that is, for lack of a better term, grounded," Snyder said. "Understand that whatever the ups and downs are, we’ll get through it all.
"Stay the course, and something good eventually will happen."
After a disappointing 4-7 record a year ago, KSU vowed to enter this year fit and focused to function as a team. One significant change, requested by the players: No names on the back of the jerseys.
But the last two weeks have brought losses — 30-28 against Texas A&M and 23-20 against Colorado — that were partly due to damaging mental mistakes that Wildcats squads of the past avoided. KSU is minus-five in turnover ratio, with 21 giveaways.
Turnovers are not the only problem for the offense. A unit that once frightened opposing defenses with such playmakers as Michael Bishop, Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles is now averaging just 55.8 rushing yards in conference games, which will not get it done in the Big 12.
"We have (athletes), but we haven’t put them in the right situation to get the job done," fullback Victor Mann said. "We haven’t paved the way for our running backs to get one-on-one with the safeties and make them miss and make spectacular moves to give the crowd that ‘Ooh’ and ‘Ahh.’ "
With Iowa State, Nebraska and Missouri left on the schedule, it is going to be a challenge for the Wildcats to get bowl eligible. However, Dr. Snyder has performed much tougher procedures before.
"Kansas State will be Kansas State again," defensive tackle Derek Marso said. "No doubt about it."
All season, quarterback Vince Young has put Texas on his shoulders, and last week’s game against Oklahoma State was simply the latest, most scintillating chapter.
The numbers border on obscene — 267 yards rushing, 239 passing — as Young helped the Longhorns storm back from a 19-point deficit and stay in the national title chase.
"You talk about Heisman Trophy winners," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "That’s a highlight reel for a Heisman Trophy right there."
Brown has an annoying habit of telling reporters how they should vote on things, but in this case, it is justified. Young is the new Heisman favorite.
Florida’s season has been labeled a disappointment due to the fact that coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense has not taken off. The Gators mustered just 293 yards last week against Georgia, well below the gaudy totals Meyer’s squads at Bowling Green and Utah regularly posted.
But Florida has been good enough to win six games, and a victory against Vanderbilt today keeps the Gators in contention for the SEC East title — which would hardly be a disappointment.
"This is new to me, as far as being satisfied with scoring two touchdowns or three touchdowns in a game," Meyer said. "I’m not comfortable with that, but I am comfortable with winning and putting your players in the best possible position to win."
Miami (Fla.) quarterback Kyle Wright has been solid but not spectacular this season, throwing for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns. The sophomore had his worst game against North Carolina last week, throwing for just 111 yards with three interceptions.
Wright will have to raise his level of play today, as the Hurricanes visit Virginia Tech in a contest that is vital to the national title aspirations of both teams.
"You can’t worry about the outside pressure, but you also have to realize this is kind of a make-orbreak game," Wright said. "There is a lot riding on this game, but I’ve kind of been saying this all week: Big-time players step up in big games. Our guys are definitely going to show up."
This report includes information collected from other media sources.