LAWRENCE — As Bill Snyder emerged from Kansas State’s locker room underneath Memorial Stadium late Thursday night, he was greeted with applause.
A once-crowded Memorial Stadium was empty everywhere other than the visitor's section, and the K-State fans who stayed long after their Wildcats' 59-7 victory over Kansas was complete were euphoric.
They waved to the K-State players who headed back to Manhattan with smiles on their faces, and they reminisced about the good old days, when this type of scene happened regularly on their rival's home field.
Not since the glory days of Snyder's first run with the Wildcats had K-State looked as dominant as it did while thumping the Jayhawks in front of 47,561 fans.
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When asked if the moment took him back a few years, Snyder smiled and said no. He doesn't ponder such things. But he didn't hold back his thoughts on the gutsy play of his team.
"I'm proud of them," he said.
There was a lot to be proud of. K-State (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) easily maintained possession of the Governor's Cup and put an end to an eight-game road losing streak in the process. It also turned the frustrations of last week's disheartening loss to Nebraska into nothing more than a bad memory.
How much better did this feel than that?
"One hundred times better," tight end Travis Tannahill said.
With six games remaining, the Wildcats are one win shy of being eligible for a bowl game and have a memorable win to build off. Oddsmakers had Kansas (2-4, 0-2) and K-State as a close game, yet the Wildcats played well enough to run away with things after ending the first quarter ahead 3-0.
It was easy all right, and nowhere was the joy more evident than on the face of Carson Coffman.
The senior quarterback has been criticized by his own fans this season, and following a brutal performance against the Huskers, Snyder said he was considering replacing him.
But Snyder stuck with him, and Coffman responded.
Coffman completed 15 of 16 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 42 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
His teammates were unanimous in describing it as the best game of his collegiate career. Exactly what Coffman was hoping for.
"I just felt like I showed the guys on the team and the coaches that I can do it," Coffman said. "I can step up and be the guy for them."
Not that they were surprised or anything.
"He showed up big for us," senior offensive lineman Zach Kendall said. "Carson knows how to win. I've said that before, but Carson will astound you. You think one thing about him one week and then he'll come out and just play like he did today."
The Jayhawks' defense could do nothing to slow him, and that opened up huge holes for previously struggling running back Daniel Thomas. After two sub-par games, the Wildcats' star player rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown.
But everyone on the K-State sideline played well Thursday. Tight ends Andre McDonald and Tannahill caught touchdown passes and Tramaine Thompson made the Jayhawks stretch the defense by showing off some elusiveness on his way to 58 yards on five catches. Even a run by backup quarterback Collin Klein in the final moments used only to keep the clock running ended up in a 51-yard touchdown.
K-State's defense also kept the Jayhawks off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter, when it was ahead 52-0. Stephen Harrison led the way by grabbing an interception in the end zone and returning a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown.
During his run to paydirt, he remembers thinking, "Wow, is this really happening?"
It was. For the second year in a row, K-State responded well after a devastating loss. Last season it lost 66-14 at Texas Tech and defeated Texas A&M the following week 62-14 — a 100-point swing. This season it went from losing 48-13 to Nebraska to defeating Kansas by 52 — an 87-point improvement.
The results may be unexplainable, but they are impressive.
"Sometimes you click on all aspects," K-State receiver Chris Harper said. "That's what happened tonight."
Just like the good old days.