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K-State’s Snyder, North Texas’ McCarney cross paths again

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012, at 1:51 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Sep. 15, 2012, at 8:21 a.m.

North Texas at No. 15 Kansas State

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan

Records: North Texas 1-1, K-State 2-0

Radio: KLIO, 1070-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM

TV: FSKC, Ch. 34

What’s at stake

For K-State, the opportunity to set up an undefeated, nationally-televised showdown with No. 5 Oklahoma on Sept. 22 in Norman, Okla. After struggling with Eastern Kentucky in last year’s preseason, running the preseason table with three routs would be impressive.

Cheers if…

K-State does exactly what it’s supposed to do and wins going away against the Mean Green, who are four-touchdown underdogs.

Jeers if…

North Texas finds a way to make this a competitive game or pull off an upset like Louisiana-Monroe did at then-No. 8 Arkansas last week.

Three things about North Texas

•  The Mean Green has a strong offensive line with four returning starters and a stable of running backs to try and get yards with.

•  Quarterback Derek Thompson hasn’t shown he can be consistent in his second season as a full-time starter – he’s connecting on fewer than 50 percent of his passes and hasn’t gone over 150 passing yards in the first two games.

•  Oklahoma transfer Marcus Trice and sophomore Lairamie Lee are North Texas’s two safeties and an able duo – Lee leads the team with 16 tackles and one interception while Trice has nine tackles and one interception.

Key matchup

Kansas State secondary vs. North Texas wide receivers. If Thompson can find a way to hook back up with North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor, who had 114 yards and two touchdowns against LSU, the Mean Green might be able to make it a game. K-State cornerback Nigel Malone will likely draw Chancellor in a one-on-one battle, and if Malone can contain him on his own then fellow corner Allen Chapman and safeties Jarard Milo and Ty Zimmerman should be able to handle the rest of North Texas’ downfield threats.

Tony Adame’s pick: K-State, 50-14

If K-State’s passing game seems off early, the Cats won’t waste time trying to tinker with it will switch to a steady diet of run plays for Collin Klein and John Hubert that the Mean Green have no answer for. An invigorated K-State front seven, fresh off a five-sack performance against Miami, will tee off on Thompson if he is indecisive in the pocket.

— Dan McCarney was just beginning his career, but he already understood one of the basic tenets of coaching.

When you’re an assistant on a staff that goes 2-8 and the coach gets fired, consider your fate also sealed. Such was the case at the Iowa in 1978.

“We saw a lot of cowboy hats coming into our place,” McCarney said. “We knew a change was coming.”

That change was Hayden Fry, a native Texan whom Iowa hired away from North Texas State to replace Bob Cummings – and Fry was bringing the majority of his staff with him from Denton, including offensive coordinator Bill Snyder.

“Coach Fry, out of courtesy, was meeting with all of Cummings’ staff,” McCarney said. “I’d played at Iowa, been cut in the NFL then came back to be a graduate assistant … I was only making about $12,000 per year.

“I knew (Fry) was bringing in guys and letting them go, and I was the youngest of the entire staff, so I thought I was going to walk in there, it’d take about five minutes, and I’d be done.”

But Fry had other plans.

“We were all impressed with (McCarney),” Snyder said. “He was a young coach, an intense coach, very good with his players.”

Instead of firing McCarney, Fry offered him an $18,000 salary to stay at Iowa and coach tight ends, full-time.

“I almost jumped out of my chair, I was absolutely shocked,” McCarney said. “Nobody knew who I was outside of Iowa City. I couldn’t believe it … the rest is history.”

Snyder and McCarney would spend the next decade coaching together on a virtual all-star roster of assistants who would go on to carve out careers as head coaches — Barry Alvarez, Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops and current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz all were on Fry’s staff in those years.

Snyder left to coach at Kansas State in 1989, where he stayed until 2005. He came back to coach the Wildcats in 2009.

McCarney took over at Iowa State in 1995 and faced Snyder 11 times, going 2-9, with the only wins coming in their last two meetings in 2004 and 2005. McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl games and resigned after the 2006 season. He spent several seasons as an assistant at South Florida and Florida before being hired as North Texas’ coach after the 2010 season.

Saturday, the Mean Green takes on No. 15 K-State in Manhattan. And more than 30 years after their first encounter, the impression Snyder made on McCarney remains crystal clear.

“Coach Fry did such a good job of unifying the staff and keeping us humble, we were always on edge and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way at all,” McCarney said. “It was an around-the-clock job, and you never felt like the work was quite done.

“Bill was immensely organized and he had such a tremendous attention to detail. In the 10 years we spent coaching together, every last night Bill was the last one out of the office. He was always looking for another idea that might help us win, and he never lost that work ethic. That’s why he’ll be remembered as one of the best to ever coach the game … how could you not remember somebody like that?”

McCarney faces a rebuilding project at North Texas, where he went 5-7 in his first season. But he has $78 million Apogee Stadium, which opened in 2011, and a move to Conference USA in 2013 to aid his cause.

“I think it was just a terrific hire by North Texas,” Snyder said. “The time we spent together, I got to know him really well. He’s a good guy, a good coach who comes from a good family.”

A good guy and a good coach who might be in for a rough day when he brings his 1-1 team into Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of 50,000.

“I’ve told my players they’re getting ready to go into one of the great atmospheres in college football, which makes it one of the worst places to go and play,” McCarney said. “That’s the truth. I don’t need to recruit for Bill, that’s just the facts.

“But isn’t that what you want as a player and as a coach? To go and play against the best?”

Reach Tony Adame at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com.

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