MANHATTAN — As a senior offensive lineman and team captain, Zach Kendall often represented the Kansas State football team at preseason fan gatherings and fundraisers.
He got the chance to talk to Wildcat supporters from all over the state and learn their hopes and dreams for the season.
There’s been a repeated request.
"Beat Nebraska," Kendall said. "Everybody always says ‘Beat KU,’ but you don't really hear ‘Beat Nebraska’ first. That's what people were saying this summer: ‘Beat Nebraska.’æ"
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That enthusiasm has grown in the past few days.
Between the Cornhuskers leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Big Ten after this season, both teams owning undefeated records and ESPN televising tonight’s 6:30 kickoff at sold-out Snyder Family Stadium, K-State players have never seen the campus so energized for a football game.
"When I go to class a lot of students ask me about the game and ask me if I'm ready," defensive end Antonio Felder said. "They tell me, 'Man, I'm more ready than you are.' The stadium is going to be crazy. It's going to be a great atmosphere."
Many in the K-State student body have gone as far as to suggest all afternoon and evening classes be canceled today to allow them proper time to prepare for the game.
University administrators quickly shot down the idea, but that hasn't seemed to dampen anyone's spirits.
"Everyone is excited," senior center Wade Weibert said. "(Tuesday) morning walking out of one of my classes, I heard people talking already about how excited they were to skip their morning classes and start tailgating."
The Wildcats certainly appreciate the passion, but it's not like they needed any extra motivation. This is their chance — only game of the night, national stage, No. 7-ranked opponent. K-State is the only undefeated team yet to break into the national polls, too.
"It's a big game for me and it's a big game for this program," Kendall said. "It will define what kind of team we're going to be this year."
A win will vault the Wildcats solidly into the top 25 and put them in control of the race to win the Big 12 North. A loss will keep them on the outside of the polls and numb a 4-0 start.
Weibert doesn't want to let that happen. A native of Hillsboro, he was raised to think lowly of the Huskers. Ask him what he thinks of them today after living through all the conference realignment scenarios over the summer, and he sounds like he should be camping out for seats to the game rather than playing in it.
"There's not a lot of things I can ever say hate about, but I definitely dislike them," Weibert said. "There's a lot of dislike there."
Much like the K-State fan base, which has fantasized for months about sending Nebraska out of the Big 12 with a painful defeat, he is taking this game personally.
Kendall has heard all about his desires, too.
"To put it plainly," Weibert said, "I want them to always remember the last game against K-State as a loss."