NEW YORK – To the winner goes the George M. Steinbrenner Trophy and the chance to feel extra special good heading into the off-season, while it will be a continuing stagger mode for the non-victor.
K-State, 7-5, but winners of just two of its last six games, will be playing Syracuse, 7-5 and winners of just one of its last four games, will play today in Yankee Stadium in the first New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
"The knock on us is not making it to a bowl game and not living up to the KSU tradition," said senior Wade Weibert. "This senior group has made it back, and now we want to leave on a winning note."
On the Orangemen, coach Bill Snyder talks of their "aggressive style" of defense. "They're a stunt-oriented team a high percentage of the time, but they do not give up big plays."
And offensively, he adds, "They have a 1,000-yard rusher (Delone Carter) and they plan an aggressive style of offense like their defense with a very physical offensive line.
The Wildcat coach adds, "They do not put themselves in harm's way very often in regards to penalties, turnovers and loss of yard plays."
KEYS TO A WILDCAT VICTORY:
K-State passing game coordinator Del Miller compares SU's "long and athletic players" to those at Missouri. "They're good at putting you in negative yardage situations – 2nd and 12, 3rd and 8. We can't continue to be in third-and-long plays."
Miller says Syracuse will send some sort of blitz on "60 percent" of the plays. "Our key will be handling the pressure. To do that, we're going to have to be able to throw the ball," Miller said. "None of it is stuff that we haven't seen, so it's just a matter of executing."
Running back coordinator Dana Dimel stressed, "We have to eliminate negative yardage plays, but we also know that we will probably have some. With that in mind, we're going to have to create some big plays."
Syracuse has 67 plays for negative yardage, which includes 26 sacks, nine interceptions and eight recovered fumbles. By comparison, KSU's "D" produced 53 negative yardage plays, with 18 sacks, 13 interceptions and nine recovered fumbles.
One other key Miller mentioned was scoring touchdowns once in the Red Zone. "We can't settle for field goals."
Every indication is that Carson Coffman will get the start at quarterback. As Miller said, "When we've called on Carson, he has responded. He's a heady player, a team player and does a good job of managing the game."
The Wildcats' offense will be facing a SU defense that ranks fifth in the nation allowing just 295 yards per game. In eight games this season, the Orangemen have allowed no more than 16 points.
K-State's defense will be facing what coordinator Chris Cosh calls a "two-headed monster."
That's Delone Carter (1,035 yards, 7 TDs) as the "pounder" and Antwon Bailey (504 rushing yards, 277 receiving yards, 5 total TDs) as the more "elusive back."
"Carter is a more at you back, while Bailey works on the edge, plus they throw the ball to him," said Cosh. "It's a team that's going to mush you. They're going to get three, four, five yards, and move the chains."
Ryan Nassib averages only 13 passing attempts per game, which accounts for 174 passing yards per game. Nassib has 16 TDs to 8 interceptions.
"They really are a contrasting style from the wide-open game you see in the Big 12," said Cosh. "They maybe most remind you of Oklahoma State."
Syracuse has sputtered on offense scoring no more than 28 points in the last four games, and twice behind held to 16 or under. In the last five games, only once (305) has Syracuse gone over 256 yards of total offense.
As with any bowl game, Cosh said, "You have to be able to adjust. People have had a month to prepare, so you know you're going to see something new that hasn't been on the 12 sets of tape that you've watched."
That, and Cosh adds, "We haven't played for a month, so we need to make sure that we tackle well."
SPECIAL TEAMS –
The punting area could be the difference maker. Syracuse will have a first-time punter with the loss of Rob Long to a benign brain tumor only found at the conclusion of regular season play.
Long had a 43.8-yard average in doing 100 percent of the Orangemen's punting this year.
K-State holds the advantage in kickoff returns (25.8 yards to 23.0), while Syracuse has the slight advantage in punt returns (9.4 yards to 8.5 yards).
K-State defeated Syracuse 38-18 in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl; back in Phoenix in 2001, the Orangemen defeated the Wildcats 26-3 in the Insight.com Bowl
• K-State has twice played games in the state of New York. The first was in 1934 when Pappy Waldorf's team tied Manhattan College, 13-13. Somewhat more recently, in 1966 K-State lost to Army, 21-6.
• K-State has converted on 39 of its 43 trips inside their opponents' 20-yard line. Thirty-five of those have been TDs. • The ‘Cats are 5-2 this season when scoring first and 128-26 since 1990.
• K-State is eighth in the nation in kickoff returns with a 25.8 average. When healthy, William Powell averaged 34.6 yards per return. State has scored in 176 straight games, which ranks 10th longest in the nation.
• Overall, K-State is 4-8 against Big East teams.
• Does practice matter? Thirty-one Syracuse players did not make it to NYC until Tuesday due to the weather.
• Syracuse has suspended starting defensive tackle Andrew Lewis and linebacker Brice Hawkes for the game.
• Punter Rob Long was diagnosed with a brain tumor in early December. He's had one surgery, and will have another to remove a malignant tissue, but will be at center field for the coin flip. This season, he averaged 43.8 yards on 64 punts. No other punter has been used this season.
• A winner of five road games, include four in the Big East. At home, Syracuse plays in the Carrier Dome.
• The Orangemen are playing 15 true-freshmen.
• A slow starter with just 58 first-quarter points through 12 games.
7-5 K-STATE vs. 7-5 SYRACUSE
W – UCLA, 31-22 W – Akron, 29-3
W – Missouri State, 48-24 L – Washington, 41-20
W – Iowa State, 27-20 W – Maine, 38-14
W – Central Florida, 17-13 W – Colgate, 42-7
L – Nebraska, 48-13 W – South Florida, 13-9
W – Kansas, 59-7 L – Pittsburgh, 45-14
L – Baylor, 47-42 W – West Virginia, 19-14
L – O-State, 24-14 W – Cincinnati, 31-7
W – Texas, 29-14 L – Louisville, 28-20
L – Missouri, 28-28 W – Rutgers, 13-10
L – Colorado, 44-36 L – UCONN, 23-6
W – North Texas, 49-41 L – Boston College, 16-7
Scoring 33.6 21.0
Scoring Def. 28.5 18.1
Rushing Avg. 206 130
Passing Avg. 173 178
Total Offense 379 308
Rushing Def. 229 137
Passing Def. 212 157
Total Defense 441 294
3rd Down % .470 370
TO Margin 22/18 21/17
Red Zone .910 .850
K-State is 6-7 in bowl games with its last appearance at the Texas Bowl in 2006 where it lost to Rutgers, 37-10. The last victory for K-State was in the 2002 Holiday bowl over Arizona State, 34-27. Of the Wildcats' 13 bowl games K-State has wins by 4 and 7 points, and losses by 5, 4, 3 and 7 points.
Syracuse is 12-9-1 in bowl games with its last appearance in the Champs Bowl in 2004 where it lost to Georgia Tech, 51-14. The last victory in postseason play for Syracuse against K-State in the Insight.com Bowl, 26-3. In that game, SU managed just eight first downs, but defensively, held K-State to 33 rushing yards on 34 carries
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
• NO. 8 DANIEL THOMAS closes out his KSU career coming off a 296-yard effort against North Texas. He's been above 100 yards in seven games this year and averaged 124 yards per game.
• NO. 14 CARSON COFFMAN will QB his final game as a Wildcat. In five of his last six games (he missed the Texas game), Coffman has passed for 77, 270, 170, 170, 231 and 184 yards with six TDs to four picks.
• NO. 27 DAVID GARRETT ... all 5-7, 175 pounds of him … has emerged as KSU's big-time defender leading the team with 86 tackles, which includes 13 arrests for negative yards, three sacks, nine passes broken up, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
• NO. 89 AUBREY QUARLES has emerged as the go-to receiver with five catches for 114 yards against Colorado and nine snags for 133 yards against Missouri
• NO. 3 RB DELONE CARTER rushed for 1,035 yards this season with seven touchdowns. He's averaged 86 yards per game and 5.1 yards per rush. A back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher in 2009 and 2010.
• NO. 12 QB RYAN NASSIB quarterbacks the Orangemen. The 6-2, 224 pounder has completed 56 percent of his passes with 16 TDs and eight interceptions. Not a rushing threat at all, Nassib's ground totals are a -55 yards. Threw a school record five TDs against Maine.
• NO. 25 LB DERRELL SMITH leads SU in tackles, which includes eight for a loss of yardage. He has three recovered fumbles and one interception. Second-team all-Big East.
• NO. 32 LB DOUG HOGUE is the big-play defender with three sacks, two interceptions and three QB hurries to go along with a team-high 9.5 tackles for losses. First-team all-Big East.
• Syracuse will be the home team and K-State the visitors.
• K-State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2006; Syracuse is bowl eligible for the first time since 2004.