98 Days To Kansas State Football Kick-Off: The Heartbreaking Season Of 1998

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So the stage is set. K-State had finally beaten Nebraska, the 800 pound gorilla finally off its back. All the Wildcats had to do was take care of business one more time against the Aggies. And for three quarters they did. K-State jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. A&M cut into the lead with a field goal early in the 2nd quarter, but a 66-yard pass from Bishop to Darnell McDonald increased the team’s lead to 17-3. A second A&M field made the score 17-6 at the half.

K-State continued piling onto the Aggies after halftime. While Texas A&M struck first with a two yard touchdown run (and failed two point conversion), Martin Gramatica knocked in a 45 yard field goal (his second of the game from 45+), and Michael Bishop found the end zone just before the period ended to extend the lead to 27-12.

While unable to watch the game on tv, I vividly remember the draining emotion I experienced listening over the radio of my grandma’s car the rest of the contest. The K-State offense looked as unstoppable as ever over the first three quarters, but failed to garner a point in the fourth. Conversely, a desperate Texas A&M offense came alive to score two touchdowns and successfully turn a two point conversion attempt, tying the game with 1:05 left. That score would send the game into overtime, where hearts across the nation were literally left broken.

Texas A&M had the first possession in overtime, and was held to a field goal. However, K-State was held to a field goal of their own as Gramatica recorded a 22-yard kick. The score was tied 30-30 at this point.

K-State would receive first possession in the second half, and rushed four times to gain 17 yards before being halted at the eight yard line and settling for a second field goal for a 33-30 lead. However, Aggie running back Sirr Parker – a thorn in the Wildcats’ side all game – took a pass 32 yards for the touchdown as A&M went on to win 33-36.

That loss sucked. A lot. K-State was within a minute of playing Tennessee for the national championship, but ended up #3 in the BCS while Florida State assumed the #2 spot. However, the team still had high hopes. With the #3 BCS ranking, incredible wins, the best of losses, and strong showing in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, another BCS bowl invite seemed impossible not to come K-State’s way. Yet when the bowl games were revealed, the money element of the BCS showed itself as the team fell to the Alamo Bowl with a match up against unranked Purdue.

The result of this snub was a BCS rule that the #3 ranked team must receive a BCS invite, and is now known as the “Kansas State Rule” (seriously, Google it – they named a rule after how hard the team got screwed). However, the change in selection requirements was too late for a team and fanbase deeply disappointed by the bowl selection. So the team headed to San Antonio to beat up the Boilermakers and finish the season 12-1.

Unfortunately, Purdue wasn’t having it. Adding deflating insult to injury on the season, Drew Brees led the Boilermakers to a 27-13 lead after three quarters against a K-State team that appeared too dejected to win again. Yet K-State scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to take a 34-30 lead with only 1:24 left in the game. Bishop had experienced a miserable game in throwing four interceptions and fumbling once, but the four point lead meant Purdue would have to drive length of the field over the final minute and it appeared the team was ready to earn some closure to the season.

Unfortunately, not even that outcome was meant to be. The team that failed to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter couldn’t hault Drew Brees, who capped the 80-yard drive with a 19-yard pass to Isaac Jones with 30 seconds left. The 54 second drive put the Boilermakers up 37-34, and K-State was unable to respond in the most heartbreaking season the team’s ever seen.