On the happiest day in Kansas State football history, coach Bill Snyder managed only a slight smile.
For him, it was a huge concession."I am happy, I can assure you of that, no matter what you may think," Snyder said after his second-ranked Wildcats finally tossed aside No. 11 Nebraska 40-30 on Saturday before a record KSU Stadium crowd of 44,298. "I am humbled by it, in all honesty."
The 59-year-old Snyder may not be celebrating, but the purple people of Manhattan were. Several thousand purple-clad fans stormed the field at the end of the game and 30 minutes later they tore down the north goal post. Last time anyone saw it, the goal post was being dragged in the direction of Aggieville, a student section of restaurants and bars near campus.
"I love it, I won't lie to you," linebacker Jeff Kelly said after capping the win with a 23-yard fumble return for a score with three seconds left in the game. "I love it for our fans. I love it for our players. I love it for all our former players and for out coaching staff. But we still have games to go."
Yes they do. Next Saturday the Wildcats are at Missouri before moving on to the Big 12 title game in St. Louis, most likely against Texas A&M.
With No. 1 Tennessee and No. 3 UCLA also winning on Saturday, the nation's three top teams eagerly await Sunday's polls and the BCS standings, which determines the two teams to play in the Fiesta Bowl.
For now, though, the turnaround is complete at K-State.
Michael Bishop, ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more, including an 11-yard strike to Darnell McDonald with 5:25 to go. Kelly's TD in the final seconds capped the biggest win in K-State's 103-year football history.
The momentous victory by the Wildcats (10-0, 7-0 Big 12) ended a 29-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers (8-3, 4-3) and also clinched the Big 12 North. It is the first football crown of any kind for the Wildcats since 1934.
The Wildcats' 18th straight victory, the second-longest streak in the nation, puts the school among college football's elite after a miraculous 10-year turnaround orchestrated by Snyder. Until last month, K-State was the losingest major college team in history with 546 losses. But Northwestern passed them on Oct. 24 with its 547th loss.
Now, people may not be so quick to criticize Kansas State for playing such a weak schedule. Under Snyder, the Wildcats are 76-37-1, and are 10-0 for the first time. In the four years before he arrived, they were 3-40-1 and being pressured to abandon I-A football. The program has been so bad for so long that K-State would have to go undefeated through the 2012 season to move to a .500 record.
For the sixth week in a row, Bishop was not made available for interviews. The flashy 6-foot-1, 205-pound quarterback, lost three first-half fumbles and threw an interception - only his second of the season. He was 19-of-33 for 306 yards and ran for 140 yards on 25 carries.
"He's a strong kid, he believes in himself," tight end Justin Swift said of Bishop. "And this whole team believes in him. We are going to follow him wherever he takes us."
The loss gave Nebraska three regular-season defeats for the first time since 1977, and further soured Frank Solich's first season as Tom Osborne's replacement.
"At times we played tremendously well, but not quite well enough," Solich said,
Victory wasn't easy, as Bishop kept giving the Cornhuskers chances with his eagerness to avenge the only loss he has endured in college. Last season's 56-26 loss at Nebraska was Bishop's only defeat in 46 college starts, including a 24-0 mark at Blinn (Texas) Junior College before arriving at K-State last season.
The Huskers took a 30-27 lead with 8:22 left on Eric Crouch's 9-yard pass to tight end Sheldon Jackson. Kris Brown missed the extra point after tying an NCAA record with his 216th consecutive conversion a few minutes earlier.