Kansas City, Mo One only hopes that the 2003 college football season provides a few more thrills than its inaugural game did.
California and Kansas State kicked off the 2003 season Saturday in the Black Coaches Assn. Classic, and the Wildcats predictably hammered California, 42-28, in front of 50,823 predominantly purple fans at Arrowhead Stadium.
K-State built a 27-7 lead in the first half, turning the battle into nothing more than an opportunity for the Wildcats to strut their skills to a national audience. Problem is, they instead struggled late, making the inferior Golden Bears look competitive against the seventh-ranked team in the nation.
It starts what could be an extensive 2003 season for the Wildcats, with the possibility of a 15-game schedule if they can earn a spot in the Big 12 Conference championship game. They'll play Kansas University Oct. 25 in Manhattan.
"We probably kept California in it by giving up big plays," KSU coach Bill Snyder said. "It was a big-play ball game on both sides of the ball."
As expected, the Wildcats cashed in on Cal's question marks on defense, using their talented backfield to rush for 330 yards. Most of the yardage came from the phenomenal duo of halfback Darren Sproles, who rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Ell Roberson, who added 145 yards and a score.
"The offensive line really did its job," said Roberson, who also passed for 210 yards and three touchdowns. "They opened up some big holes for us."
The game never became a blowout, but it was never in doubt, either. After a lengthy California drive stalled at the one-yard line at the beginning of the second quarter, Kansas State reeled off 17 straight points, just enough of a cushion to stay comfortably on top, even when Cal kept answering with second-half scores.
The Golden Bears obviously exposed what could be K-State's one glaring weakness -- pass defense. While California rushed for just 62 total yards, it also completed 25 passes for 378 yards and four scores.
"We gave them a month and a half to throw it," Snyder grumbled. "They didn't get the kind of pressure they should've seen."
Three of Cal's four touchdowns were longer than 20 yards, and that peeved Snyder. With four cupcake games the next four weeks, it's safe to assume K-State's secondary might not get tested again until the Wildcats travel Oct. 4 to play Texas.
"No," Snyder said. "They're going to get tested (in practice) on Monday."
Snyder was in good spirits afterward, but it was obvious he was annoyed at his team's inability to close the deal Saturday.
"I tried to find out tonight if we're getting better," Snyder said. "The answer to that is no, and that's a concern."
Saturday's game was the start of 17 busy weeks of college football. Most schools, including KU, kick off Saturday, with the two best teams concluding the season after the new year in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.
It could be Kansas State there. But Snyder laughs off the thought right now.
"I don't think that there's anything that happened tonight that surprised me," he said. "We've got some work to do. That's pretty obvious."