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Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

K-State finally gets home opener

Wildcats play host to New Mexico State in first game since USC

September 22, 2001

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— If anyone knows how to keep going in the face of tragedy, it's Kansas State defensive coordinator Phil Bennett.

Only two years ago, Bennett's wife died after being struck by lightning while jogging near their home.

"After losing Nancy, I realize that tomorrow's never guaranteed," Bennett said as the No. 12 Wildcats prepared for today's game against New Mexico State.

Offered what amounted to a fully paid year's leave of absence by Kansas State President Jon Wefald, Bennett said no. He plunged right into the 14-hour day of a football coach.

"Your attitude sets the tone for everything," he said. "We have to value every day. The world doesn't stop because of a tragedy. People have to go to work and to school. What's happened has happened."

For the Wildcats (1-0), going to work this week means playing host to New Mexico State (0-3) in their first home game of the season.

Kansas State, which opened their season at Southern Cal, was supposed to open at home last week against Louisiana Tech. But the entire major college and NFL schedule was postponed in the wake of terrorist attacks.

Like everyone else, the Wildcats have had trouble concentrating on everyday tasks.

"You try to grasp everything you see on the television screen, but it's too difficult," Jon McGraw said. "This game will be an emotional time. People are talking about moving on, but what are we moving on to is the question. There's not a whole lot we can do, though."

Offensive coordinator Ron Hudson admitted his players' minds have not completely been in tune with football.

"It was a disturbing environment to practice in," he said. "Our mentality now is to get back to a routine. They will feel that emotion on Saturday."

It will be New Mexico State's fourth straight game against a team ranked in the Top 25.

"We're going against stiff competition," New Mexico State coach Tony Samuel said. "Our team is in great shape. The best word for last week was distracted. My energy level was down. I think we are refocused, and I think we are fresher."

Making his home debut will be sophomore quarterback Ell Roberson, said by some to be the most talented player of coach Bill Snyder's coaching career.

Often visibly nervous during the 10-6 victory at USC, fans were hoping Roberson might benefit from an extra week of practice.

"You still need the practice time. What you do on Saturday is not going to be effective under any circumstances if you don't have any opportunities to put it to good use on the practice field," Snyder said. "You need that, but he also needs game-day experience."

The Wildcats have not had a home opener this late in the season since 1979. Since first gathering for two-a-days, they have had 36 days of practice.

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