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The Times’ college football countdown: No. 22 Kansas State

Meet Kansas State and Coach Bill Snyder, a.k.a. “the Wizard of Ooze.”

Nothing happens fast in Manhattan (Kan.), where folks gather at Take-Your-Time Square.

The school needed most of the 20th Century to become representative in football and, if you really get down to it, Snyder looks more like a tortoise than a hare.

Kansas State was trailing last year’s home opener to Eastern Kentucky until quarterback Collin Klein’s touchdown pass with 1 minute 39 seconds left salvaged a 10-7 win.

“We were fortunate to walk away with a victory,” Snyder recently recalled.

Notice the word choice there? “Walk.”

The pundits picked Kansas State to finish eighth in the Big 12 Conference last season. Instead, the Wildcats went 7-3 and 10-3 overall.

Kansas State’s offense is the antithesis of Oregon’s, which can’t wait for the referee to put the ball down so it can snap it.

Kansas State’s clock milking has spawned a home-game tradition where fans count “three, two, one” as play-clock expiration approaches. “It’s just kind of what suits our needs,” Snyder said at the school’s football media day last week.

Snyder, who turns 73 in October, continues to suit Kansas State, amazing without dazzling.

His first go-round as coach led to the biggest turnaround in college football history. Snyder took a team that had won 130 games in 51 seasons to the brink of the 1998 national title.

Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer once said of Snyder, “He isn’t the coach of the year and he isn’t the coach of the decade. He’s the coach of the century.”

Snyder retired in 2005 only to be called back three years later to rescue a program that had gone 17-20 in three years under Ron Prince.

Snyder has nursed K-State back with seasons of 6-6, 7-6 and 10-3. Kansas State returns 17 starters this year, including Klein. The Wildcats are ranked in the USA Today coaches’ preseason poll — No. 21 — for the first time since 2004.

Klein, a senior, is one of the nation’s best dual-threat players. The quarterback was the team’s leading rusher last year, with 1,141 yards and an astounding 27 touchdowns. He also passed for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“He’s one of those guys truly committed, not lip service to it,” Snyder said. “He’s truly committed to becoming better every single day of his life in all facets of his life.”

Winning 10 times again will be a challenge. Kansas State has a home game against Miami on Sept. 8, the second half of a series scheduled by the former coach and one Snyder would rather have seen canceled.

The Wildcats have tough trips to Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Christian and need to improve a defense that finished No. 103 against the pass.

Snyder knows how to win, though. In 20 seasons he has a record of 159-83-1.

He may not be the Usain Bolt of coaches, but in the long run he can beat you to the finish line.

The countdown so far: The countdown so far: 25. Notre Dame; 24. Texas Christian; 23. Utah; 22. Kansas State.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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