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The Case for Coach Snyder

6 Dec

Bill Snyder hugs senior Sammuel Lamur before Lamur's last home game. Photo: Orlin Wagner / AP

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder is one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award. This is an honor voted on by fans, and the recipient receives $50,000 for a charity of his choice as well as $20,000 in scholarships for his university.

In 20 seasons with Kansas State, Snyder has already been Coach of the Year several times before. He deserves it again this season.

Beginning of season: The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the league. The team had nine guys starting who had never started before. The team that got seven regular-season wins in 2010 had lost its NFL-caliber running back Daniel Thomas to graduation, and heir apparent Bryce Brown never materialized. Last but not least, it is well publicized that Kansas State is not a place that usually gets 4-star or 5-star recruits. Over the years, it has been a football team known for overachieving with a roster of 2-star and 3-star and junior college players. This year, it was the same way.

End of regular season: The Wildcats (10-2) finished No. 8 in the BCS poll, barely missing out on a BCS bowl and landing in the Cotton Bowl. They won eight games by seven points or less. The only opponents they blew out were Kent State and the University of Kansas. In all the others, it went down to the wire. That kind of close-game, crunch-time survival has everything in the world to do with coaching. Persevering through a grind of a game, week after week, takes mental toughness, and Snyder has instilled that in his players. Being able to win games with little separation week after week also takes discipline, and Snyder stresses attention to detail. The coach refers to what the team needs to do as “being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there,” and throughout the season the Wildcats have minimized penalties and turnovers.

Bottom line: In reality, there have not been any Heisman contenders on this year’s team, and maybe not even any All-Americans. It’s possible that no names on this year’s roster are top-10 picks in the NFL draft. What’s beautiful about what Bill Snyder has done at Kansas State, though, is that none of that stuff has to matter. If kids buy into a program, work hard, do their best to support the success of their coaches and teammates, an awful lot can be accomplished.

Kansas State accepts invitation to Cotton Bowl: Like or Dislike?

4 Dec

The system snubbed the Wildcats as far as a BCS bowl. Without getting into analysis of the matchup too much just yet, here’s what we can like and dislike about this selection. We’ll start with the easy part.


Kansas State should be in a BCS bowl. So should Arkansas. How do two top-10 teams end up in a non-BCS bowl when two non-top-10 teams get a BCS bowl? This is when we start to complain about how awful of a system the BCS really is. There is nothing to be done about that though, which is frustrating. However …


The BCS would not give the country a Big 12 – SEC matchup in the national championship game. Everyone talks about the offense of the Big 12 and the defense of the SEC. It’s a shame Oklahoma State will not take on LSU in the national championship game. From my perspective, how can you can say that the SEC is far and away the best conference when those teams do not play Big 12 teams? A game between teams from those two conferences would settle the arguments. Again, the championship game should fulfill that role, but it will not. The good news is that this Cotton Bowl can. Kansas State can represent the Big 12 against Arkansas representing the SEC. To me, that’s awfully exciting. Also, the game will be at the Cowboys’ stadium in Dallas. How awesome for the college players to get to compete in a place of that caliber! Additionally, it should be a pretty incredible experience for fans as well.


The bowl game is sold out. 65,000 seats is the technical sell-out – that does not include suites or standing-area plazas. Last year there were around 80,000 at the Cotton Bowl game, said bowl chairman Tommy Bain, and they are expecting about 75,000 this year. As far as Kansas State is concerned, there are 2,500 student tickets that will go on sale – 500 for seats at $125 each, and 2,000 for standing room at $50 each. As follows, roughly 10 percent of the Kansas State student body would be able to attend this game on student tickets. All in all, this is a great bowl game. For a team that was supposed to finish 8th of 10 teams in its conference, Kansas State has proved that nothing is out of reach if you work hard. A 10-2 record and a berth in the Cotton Bowl is a huge, huge accomplishment.

Wildcats finish 10-2 over Cyclones

3 Dec

Klein passes to a teammate during the first half. Photo: Orlin Wagner / AP

Again, the Wildcats won in dramatic fashion, finishing off Iowa State 30-23 and earning a 10-win season for the first time since 2003.

The quality of the play matched the quality of the weather early at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. In the first 10 minutes of the cold, rainy Senior Day game, Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett fumbled a pair of snaps while Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein absorbed a pair of sacks.

With about five minutes left in the first quarter, though, Iowa State put points on the board first with a 30-yard flea-flicker from Barnett to Darius Darks.

“We were just executing,” Barnett said. “I don’t think K-State was expecting us to come out that way, and we just kind of took advantage of it, but then they definitely started catching on and made some adjustments.”

The Cyclones’ lead disappeared almost instantly. The Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage the next drive was a 68-yard bomb from Klein to Tramaine Thompson. It tied the game 7-7.

Shoddy tackling, however, allowed the Cyclones to run right back into the end zone. Duran Hollis took the ball 44 yards to give Iowa State a 13-7 lead. However, Kansas State’s Raphael Guidry blocked his fourth kick of the year to limit the deficit to six.

A 37-yard field goal by Anthony Cantele put the Wildcats within three points of the Cyclones, and a series of mistake-laden drives by both teams ensued. Iowa State had to punt after consecutive false starts. Kansas State had to kick it away after a failed lateral on third down, and the Cyclones went three-and-out for the first time.

With the clock winding down in the first half, Kansas State drove down the field on the strength of 17-yard catch by tight end Travis Tannahill, a 14-yard reception by Hubert, a 10-yard run by Klein and another 14-yard catch by running back John Hubert.

The drive culminated in the least surprising play of the season – a one-yard rushing touchdown by Klein. Cantele’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 17-13 lead going into halftime.

After Kansas State went three-and-out in its first series of the second, Guidry again came up huge on the defensive end. He intercepted a tipped pass by Barnett to set the Wildcats up on Iowa State’s 47-yard line.

While the team struggled to move the football, it got far enough to set up a 47-yard field goal attempt for Cantele, who converted to give Kansas State a 20-13 lead with 8:48 to go in the third quarter.

“We had one turnover – they didn’t have any,” Iowa State running back Jeff Woody said. “If you look at the stat sheet … it’s like looking at a reflecting pool. One side or the other, it’s almost identical: rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, first downs, everything is identical. If there are two more evenly matched teams in the country, I’d like to see them.”

Iowa State kept itself in the game, though, keeping its drive alive through three third-down situations and eventually scoring on a 13-yard touchdown run from Woody. The score tied the game at 20 with 4:25 to play in the third quarter.

The Wildcats’ third possession of the half appeared to begin badly, but a sack of Klein was whistled as a horsecollar. A pair of 15-yard and 21-yard runs by Hubert got his team into a first-and-goal situation on the 3-yard line. However, the Cyclones held them to a field goal, and they only fell behind 23-20.

A 43-yard field goal by Iowa State put the Cyclones right back in it with 6:12 to play in the game.

Driving for the win, the Wildcats got lots of help from Hubert. He got a 22-yard run right off the bat. Klein connected with Torell Miller for a 21-yard gain, and it was Hubert who took it 26 yards – including an impressive tightrope walk at the end – and dove into the end zone for the game-winning score.

“When the game was on the line, they had to line up and take it down the field,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “They answered and took it down the field with a great rush attack and a smart throw and catch.”

3:29 remained, but the Cyclones could not get a score. On fourth and two, Woody carried the ball, and as he was about to get tackled, he threw the ball over his shoulder in hopes one of his teammates would recover. Ultimately, though, the Wildcats recovered and ran out the clock.

Woody recognized that on that play, the Wildcats knew what was coming, having seen it earlier in the game.

“They jumped the snap count,” Woody said. “The rhythm of the cadence is the same, and we went on a certain cadence that they had heard before. As the ball was moving – they didn’t even react to it. They were reacting to the sound. They jumped the count and dug into one of our linemen and forced disruption in the backfield.”

That would be the final big play the Wildcats needed to take care of their part in going to the best bowl possible.

The Quick Wit of Coach Snyder

29 Nov

Kansas State’s Bill Snyder has a reputation for being not the most forthcoming or scintillating interview subject. He is not a big sharer of specifics, and he can skillfully circle a topic until a reporter has forgotten the original question. Most of Snyder’s answers are true but vague responses that go back to the fundamentals of the game, team sports and life in general. To be fair, those are constant, and Snyder has been answering the same questions about football teams for decades now.

What most outside the weekly press conferences miss out, though, is this: Snyder is funny.

Today’s little quirky responses reminded me of the first time I encountered the Snyder wit.

I was a freshman in college, 18 years old and probably the only girl and the youngest person in the room. I could literally feel my pulse quicken as I prepared to ask the legendary coach a question. The response I got made such an impression that I actually transcribed it, along with the exact wording of my question, and I found it saved on my computer today.

I got a kick out of it, and I figure some others might as well.

“Coach, could you tell us about your decision to use Gregory in the fourth quarter and then why you put Coffman back in after that possession?”

“Well, you may remember Coffman was laying on the ground, flat on his back, and you can’t take snaps from there.” – Oh yes, the entire room is snickering now. –  “I didn’t mean that to sound rude. Anyway, we needed to take him out, and when Grant went in the ball game, and he did some good things, and then Grant, er uh Carson, had cramps and he had managed the ball game up to that point in time, very critical period of time, very critical drive, and just having the experience, back on the field, the experience of the game. Had that same thing taken place in the second quarter of the ball game, we probably would have gone longer with Grant. We put him back in, he came back in after that, finished that last drive and got a very critical—Carson got a very critical first down when he brought it out of the pocket and Grant got a very critical first down for us that one, so both of them did something special in the ball game.”

As you can see, he took an opportunity to make a joke, but he also followed up with a sincere answer. This is Snyder’s modus operandi. The vast majority of the time, if he pokes fun at a question, he apologizes and then gives a more quotable response.

All in all, though, it’s good to see that after 50+ years in the business, he still has a sense of humor and is not afraid to use it.

KSU defeats Texas for 9th win of season

19 Nov

With under 3 minutes to play in the ball game and Texas driving, Kansas State had not gotten a sack. After three consecutive incompletions by Case McCoy, the Wildcats’ Adam Davis picked the best possible time to put the quarterback on the ground. Not long after, Kansas State secured a 17-13 victory, its fourth consecutive win against the Longhorns.

Though the Wildcats amassed only 121 yards of offense compared to the Longhorns’ 310, they came out on top to move to 9-2 on the season.

The game began as a snoozer. In fact, each team only had a field goal until 9 seconds remained in the first half.

Kansas State struck first with a field goal – all it could manage even having just 16 yards to go after an interception by Emmanuel Lamur with 11:06 to go in the first quarter gave the Wildcats a super-short field. A few possessions later, Texas took advantage of its own fairly decent field position by converting on a 38-yard field goal. The game remained tied 3-3 until the final seconds of the half.

On a drive that included an 11-yard catch by Chris Harper and a 24-yard zinger to Sheldon Smith on the sideline, Collin Klein threw a strike to Harper to put the Wildcats up 10-3 going into halftime.

Texas’ first drive of the second half gave way to another interception by the Wildcats, this one by Ty Zimmerman, who picked off the Longhorns twice in last season’s game. The ensuing possession for Kansas State ended – predictably – with a touchdown rush by Klein. This put Kansas State up 17-3 with 6:59 to go in the third quarter.

The Longhorns answered with a long drive that culminated in a 36-yard touchdown pass from McCoy to Blaine Irby. This put Texas within a touchdown of Kansas State with 3:43 to play in the third quarter. Leading 17-10, the Wildcats’ offense stalled. The Longhorns pulled within four points after getting a field goal with 4:27 left in the game.

Leading Texas 17-13, Kansas State went three and out. The Longhorns turned it over on downs, and even though the Wildcats had to punt on their next possession, Texas ran out of time.

Pregame Thoughts: KSU vs. Texas

19 Nov
  • After five comeback victories this season and an 8-2 record despite being considered an underdog in almost every game, the Wildcats cannot in good conscience be counted out of today’s contest in Austin. In case that is not evidence enough, yesterday’s epic upset of Oklahoma State by Iowa State should make it very clear that anything can happen. At this point, Kansas State is accustomed to the underdog role, and while it might be a source of motivation going into games, more than anything it’s a sense of satisfaction after wins.
  • With that said, this game is not a gimme by any stretch of the imagination. Despite the fan mentality of “WE OWN TEXAS” and the fact that the Wildcats have won the last three matchups, and the fact that the Longhorns are in a bit of a slide, Texas always has massive potential. It’s a deep team with oodles of tradition and a venerable, talented coach.
  • This might be the second-best defense Kansas State has faced this season, second only to Oklahoma. The Longhorns rank 14th in the country in total defense. While I think quarterback Collin Klein will still run wild – like he did against Texas last season and like he has since then – the passing offense for Kansas State has to be active enough to distract the Longhorns and keep them honest. That passing offense has been steadily improving in the last several weeks and has to continue along that path tonight.
  • Spotting the other team 14 points cannot be a strategy the Wildcats employ again this week, as they have the past three weeks. While coach Bill Snyder finds that statistic interesting, he said that good teams are consistent, and part of consistency is starting games well. Redshirt freshman center B.J. Finney remembers that starting fast gave Kansas State an advantage against Texas last season.
    “We just got on them quick, played a good game, so I’m sure they’re going to be looking for a little bit of revenge this year, seeing as how it’s Senior Night down there,” said center B.J. Finney on Tuesday. “They’re going to be motivated. We’re going to have to execute well and play our best game and hopefully come out with a win.”


KSU wins 4OT thriller

12 Nov

Against both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats overcame 14-point deficits only to come away with a loss. Saturday would not follow that pattern.

In a scintillating four-overtime game, Kansas State defeated Texas A&M 53-50 in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It snapped the team’s 2-game losing streak and kept the Aggies a win away from bowl eligibility.

Collin Klein passed for 281 yards, rushed for 103 and scored six touchdowns in the game. Chris Harper had a huge game as well; his four catches went for 134 yards.

“There are no words to explain Collin,” said wide receiver Tramaine Thompson. “He is our team leader and is very tough. He had some pain, as did the rest of us, but he sure he did a lot of treatment so that he would be well for the game. He was able to be a leader the whole game.”

Both Kansas State and Texas A&M started slowly, with only 105 yards of offense in the first quarter between the two teams. After the initial 15 minutes, the action got more interesting.

Just a minute and a half into the second quarter, the Aggies scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Ryan Swope. Kansas State running back Angelo Pease fumbled on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession. That set up a short drive for the Aggies.

In two minutes, the Wildcats went from being in a 0-0 tie to being down 14-0 for the third week in a row.

The catalyst for Kansas State was a not-so-surprising interception by Nigel Malone – the seventh of the season for the cornerback. It took the Wildcats over five minutes, but they ground out the 33 yards between them and the end zone to get on the board with 3:45 to play in the first half.

Collin Klein scored on a 2-yard run, and a few minutes later the next Kansas State drive culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by him. Just like that, the Wildcats were tied with the Aggies again.

The third quarter proceeded, like the first, in a fairly uninteresting manner. The tide began to turn when Texas A&M went for it on fourth down and could not convert. The Wildcats got the ball on their 43-yard line – and promptly false started. Several plays later, Klein threw an interception.

A 57-yard interception return by cornerback Terrence Frederick positioned the Aggies for a quick 10-yard touchdown run to go up 21-14 on the Wildcats.

Kansas State continued to battle. They moved up the field on the strength of a 46-yard pass from Klein to Chris Harper and a 19-yard run by Klein, the Wildcats tied it up at 21 within the first minute of the fourth quarter.

On its next possession, though, the Wildcats fumbled for the second time in the game. Texas A&M recovered and had possession on the Wildcats’ 29-yard line. A short run by running back Cyrus Gray put the Aggies up 28-21 after quarterback Tannehill set up that play with a 20-yard scramble on the previous one.

A field goal increased the Aggies’ lead to 10 with 6:38 to play.

It wouldn’t be enough.

With a 53-yard touchdown pass by Harper and a 44-yard field goal by Anthony Cantele, the Wildcats knelt to send the game into overtime.

From there, the teams traded touchdowns, then traded field goals. At the start of the third overtime, the Wildcats scored but failed to get the two-point conversion. The Aggies did likewise.

On fourth-and-one in the fourth overtime, Texas A&M chose to kick a field goal rather than go for the touchdown. It would be the difference in the game.

A penalty gave the Wildcats first-and-goal from the two-yard line, and that was that.

“It feels good to get our rhythm back so that everyone knows it is not a fluke,” Thompson said. “We really do have this kind of record, and we can do great things.”

Before Saturday, the Kansas State football program had only seen one overtime game. That one also came against Texas A&M, for the 1998 Big 12 Championship, but the Wildcats lost in double overtime.

Fittingly, the Wildcats evened the score in the last game the teams will play against each other in the foreseeable future, since the Aggies are moving to the SEC. Even without that added significance, though, it was a colossal game.

“You are so locked in you do not realize what you are a part of at the time being,” said wide receiver Curry Sexton. “Tomorrow it will set in, maybe when the adrenaline slows down, but it is surreal.”


Preview: KSU vs. Texas A&M

12 Nov

Today two Big 12 teams on 2-game losing streaks meet at Bill Snyder Family Stadium to try and get their seasons back on track.

After seven straight wins, the Wildcats have been through the crucible with perhaps two of the more difficult back-to-back opponents in college football – Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The first was an ugly blowout at home, the second was as close as they come in Stillwater. Texas A&M’s last two losses came against Oklahoma and Missouri – the latter in overtime.

Athlon Sports picked the Wildcats (7-2) to finish 8th in the Big 12. It picked Texas A&M (5-4) to finish 2nd.

When you look at these teams from a national perspective, both have numerically some of the absolute worst pass defenses in the country. Of course, the Aggies are one of those pass-happy teams that the Wildcats have faced so often recently. The Wildcats took huge strides toward a legitimate passing game last weekend, but they have quite a way to go. In addition, there have been rumors (none confirmed) that freshman wide receiver Tyler Lockett – who amassed 315 all-purpose yards for KSU against OSU – might be injured and therefore out for this game and possibly more.

Both teams are much better equipped when it comes to rushing offense and rushing defense, though Kansas State probably has a slight edge in both. Quarterback Collin Klein will take it upon himself to make sure of that.

Bottom line, the Wildcats have learned quite a bit in the past two weeks. Here’s what they need to do to win today.

  • Keep OSU’s offense off the field. Cornerback Nigel Malone said the secondary is improving, even if high-octane offenses have obscured that development with their crazy numbers. Still, if time of possession is on the Wildcats’ side, it would be helpful – especially since Texas A&M has a more balanced offense than some of these other Big 12 teams. That said, with the way the Wildcats have struggled against the pass, the Aggies may pass more than usual.
  • Hold onto the football. The Wildcats have been pretty good about limiting turnovers this season, but against Oklahoma State they had several. This cannot happen. It’s a simple, fundamental thing, but you cannot ignore it.
  • Be tricky. Some of KSU’s biggest gains happened when the Wildcats ran misdirections for Lockett. I don’t know if the team has other players it is comfortable running that with or not, but it would definitely be a benefit to get the Aggies off balance by doing something unexpected.

Better than College GameDay: KSU vs. OSU

6 Nov

When I learned that the Kansas State/Oklahoma State game would be played the same time as LSU/Alabama, it disappointed me. In retrospect, though, everyone who watched the Wildcats and Cowboys clearly got the better end of the deal. It’s said that “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but I think a game like that shows quite a bit about Kansas State.

Looking over the stats, it’s clear to see the improvement of the Wildcats throughout the season and even just from last weekend to this weekend.

Time of possession – As coach Bill Snyder always says, time of possession does not mean anything unless the team scores points. After Kansas State could not keep Oklahoma’s offense off the field last week, however, it was clear that the Wildcats had to stay on the field longer. You won’t believe me when I tell you, but in Stillwater, Kansas State held the ball for 40 minutes and 49 seconds. They had possession for more than two-thirds of the game. Even though the Wildcats couldn’t outgun the Cowboys, their mere possession made a big difference in the ball game. I think it goes without saying that every minute without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon on the field counts.

Offensive production – The Wildcats do not have much “star power.” Before last night, they were not thought to have much of a passing game or much of a running game, really. Against the No. 3 team in the country, however, Kansas State put up 276 rushing yards and 231 passing yards. Notice two aspects of this: 1) balance and 2) passing. Basically, the Wildcats are much more competent offensively than people want to give them credit for. Also, all the running Collin Klein does apparently makes people think he can’t throw. Obviously, that isn’t the case. Plus, we saw Snyder open up the playbook a little bit with a pair of misdirections that allowed Tyler Lockett to go for some major yardage. Now, the caveat here is that the Cowboys’ defense is not good – not numerically and not practically either. It gave up 45 points at home to a team that does not have nearly as crazy of an offense. Still, though, the Wildcats showed their potential with the ball, and it was promising.

Defensive dilemma – It’s hard to put a finger on how good the Kansas State defense actually is. Obviously they forced multiple turnovers from a team that was No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin. Those were impressive, heads-up, detailed-oriented plays. With that said, though, there were lots of long passes that the Wildcats could not stop and quite a few missed tackles as well. Again, you credit much of that to the Cowboys because their offense is easily one of the most potent in the country. Certainly, just because a defense cannot stop the ultimate offense does not mean it is a bad defense. However, Oklahoma State exposed the same issues the team has been battling all season.

Big 12 Bottom line – First of all, Kansas State is still better than people think. The guys played their hearts out and almost pulled out a huge upset on the road against the No. 3 team in the country after getting smashed 58-17 in their own house the previous weekend. Secondly, Oklahoma State is not as good as people think. (See the earlier comment about its defense.) They’ll probably still win the Big 12 because Oklahoma has now lost its starting running back, Dominique Whaley, and its future-NFLer receiver Ryan Broyles. All in all, I don’t think people should be shocked if the Wildcats win out from here. It may not happen, but I think it has to be acknowledged as a possibility.


Down but not out: Why KSU has a shot

5 Nov

This game has many K-Staters a bit unnerved. It’s a reasonable worry, considering that the Sooners pummeled the Wildcats 58-17 in Manhattan on homecoming last week … and Oklahoma State is widely believed to be better than Oklahoma. However, I don’t think you can just count Kansas State out of this one.

  • To start with, the loss to Oklahoma was just one loss. Kansas State is still a 7-1 team, and you don’t fall into seven wins. It just does not happen. The Wildcats have mastered the art of making due with what they have. Being disciplined, fundamentally sound and sticking to assignments sounds incredibly cliché and boring, but it is what this team does. In those first seven games, all those workmanlike, mundane, detail-oriented categories made up for any perceived lack of talent. Obviously you give credit to Oklahoma for the win, but in that game, the Wildcats made some of the mistakes they had not made earlier in the season. It’s entirely possible the Cowboys will force the same type of errors, but I would not be shocked to see a singularly focused team tonight.
  • How about the leadership on this team? Between Collin Klein and Arthur Brown, I’m not sure you could ask for anyone better. Those guys inspire their teammates – and vice versa, they would certainly tell you. I have all the confidence in the world that those two, and many others who just are not in the spotlight as much, have helped get this entire team prepared to play tonight. Both Klein and Brown have tremendous toughness, and I think the Wildcats have taken on that persona as a whole. Think of all the comeback wins. Think of all the games this team was supposed to lose. Kansas State was picked to finish eighth in the league, and now it’s nationally ranked. It might not win against one of the top three teams in the country, one that boasts a record-breaking duo of quarterback and receiver who forewent the NFL so they could have their senior year together … but I would never bet on this team to lose, and that is everything to do with the people who are on it.
  • Kansas State is hungry. Oklahoma State might be a little complacent. You know that last week the Cowboys’ coaches must have been saying, “Oh, %#$&. How are we going to keep the guys from looking past this team now?” as the Sooners steamrolled the Wildcats. The Cowboys have not yet tasted the nasty flavor of defeat, but Kansas State certainly has, and it wants to get rid of that sensation. Besides, Oklahoma rebounded well from a shocking home loss of its own. Why can’t Kansas State do likewise? Certainly, this one is much less probable. But hey, that has not stopped the Wildcats before. They were not supposed to beat Miami, Baylor, Missouri or Texas Tech either. You just never know. And really, that’s a beautiful thing.