The last time Texas won in Manhattan, Kansas, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was learning to write cursive, head coach Charlie Strong was at South Carolina and people were listening to music on Walkmans.
Chris Simms threw two touchdown passes, Dusty Mangum hit the go-ahead field goal and Marcus Tubbs, who currently works on Strong’s staff, blocked a last-second Wildcat kick to seal a 17-14 victory back in 2002.
The Longhorns haven’t won in “The Little Apple” since.
“We hope to change that,” senior wide receiver John Harris said. “It was just tough for Coach Brown to beat. Maybe it’s because, when the leagues were split, the two teams didn’t play each other as much.”
The Longhorns have only been to Manhattan three times in the 12 years since they last won there. But, that alone doesn’t explain how a program like Texas, which was revered as one of the top teams in the nation for much of that span, has struggled so much against a school like Kansas State, known for its 75-year-old coach and his love of walk-ons.
In those three visiting losses to the Wildcats, the Longhorns have surrendered an average of 42 points per game, with the two most recent defeats coming by an average margin of 21.5 points.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing for the Texas team that’s been there,” Harris said. “Knowing that you haven’t won there or knowing that this team kind of has you rattled mentally is the thing we have to get over.”
This year’s trip to Manhattan, especially being Strong’s first, may be the toughest yet for the Longhorns. Kansas State comes into the game ranked No. 11 in the country and sits atop the Big 12 standings as the only team that remains undefeated in conference play.
“You admire that program because they’re just tough, smart and dependable,” Strong said. “When I say dependable — they’re a very disciplined football team: not many penalties, not many turnovers.”
As always, head coach Bill Snyder has the Wildcats playing mistake-free, hard-nosed football again in 2014.
Fresh off a 31-30 win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma last weekend, Kansas State comes into its matchup against Texas ranked 13th in the nation in scoring offense, thanks in large part to senior quarterback Jake Waters.
Waters, a prototypical dual-threat who spent two years in junior college before joining the Wildcats, has thrown for 1,431 yards and nine touchdowns this season while rushing for another 371 yards and seven scores.
“Right now, he’s playing like he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “It’s just another opportunity to go out and play against a great quarterback.”
Diggs will get that opportunity Saturday, and, if all goes to plan, he and his teammates will leave Manhattan with a rare win.