MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder tossed his baseball cap high into the air and broke into a raspy, yet inspired rendition of "Wabash Cannonball."
Kansas State beat Kansas, 17-10 on Saturday to tighten the Wildcats' grip on the Big 12 North and continue an improbable, crazy season.
Only one of the above sentences is factual. But neither would have been considered feasible before the 2009 season. In fact, you'd have been crazy to suggest either.
But here we are. Most of the leaves are off the trees and K-State is so deeply nestled into the North's driver's seat that it's hard to imagine this ride not ending with a game in Dallas on Dec. 5 to decide the Big 12 champion.
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Every K-State fan seems wonderfully confused by this transpiring of events except Snyder, who is still the same close-to-the-vest coach he was during his miracle run with the Wildcats from 1989 through 2005.
Snyder's needle doesn't move, even as the shift in the emotions of K-State fans is strong enough to move mountains.
Snyder made it a point several times after Saturday's game to say that his team is nowhere close to where he wants it to be, stressing that improvement is incremental and time-consuming.
Excuse me, Coach, but this isn't feeling incremental. In the course of seven weeks, Kansas State has gone 5-2 and, with two games remaining in the regular season, has a chance to not only win the North but to blow it open.
This was supposed to be KU's division, but the Jayhawks have lost four in a row and are in the deepest funk since Rick James was getting down in the late 1970s. Quarterback Todd Reesing had three more damaging turnovers, giving him 10 during the Jayhawks' losing streak.
All of that is just fine with K-State, which had lost four of the previous five games against the Jayhawks.
One of the differences Saturday was K-State junior running back Daniel Thomas, a Floridian by way of a junior college in Mississippi who is not exactly up to date on his KU-KSU rivalry knowledge.
"He doesn't know anything about Kansas,'' Snyder said.
Thomas, who pounded out 185 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, didn't disagree, but said he's learning.
"Everybody told me that I'd learn to hate them once I got here and everything,'' Thomas said. "And that was true. Just watching them and hearing everything about them, I pretty much hate them.''
Thomas said he and the rest of K-State's team were incensed to learn about some red and blue paint that was sprayed and brushed on cars and on the sidewalk in front of the Sports Complex north of the playing field early Saturday morning.
Fortunately, it was a water-based paint and easily washed away
"Oh, yeah, Coach Snyder told us about the paint,'' Thomas said. "That got everybody hyped up. That was pretty bad on KU's part.''
I'm no sleuth, but I am capable of looking at evidence and developing a theory.
The paint, allegedly, was spread around 5 a.m., before almost anybody in Manhattan — except for a bespectacled coach with a legendary work ethic — was up and around.
It was Snyder, by all accounts, who informed his players about the paint incident before Saturday's game, and judging from what Thomas said, it helped incite the team.
It would not be the most outlandish motivational tool ever used by a football coach. And the paint was gone by the time the players arrived at the stadium.
There is certainly enough to at least ask Snyder about his whereabouts at 5 a.m. Saturday, isn't there?
OK, maybe my detective work is shoddy. But not Kansas State's play lately.
The Wildcats didn't turn the ball over against KU. They ran the ball effectively all day, mostly because of Thomas but also because of quarterback Grant Gregory, who had some big bootlegs as the Wildcats protected their slim lead in the fourth quarter.
Kansas State's defense stymied the Kansas running game, which implies that Kansas has a running game. The Jayhawks really don't. Senior tailback Jake Sharp isn't himself because of a calf injury and freshman Toben Opurum, so good in Sharp's absence earlier, received only two carries.
Reesing has been left to do so much and he's buckling under the pressure.
He threw a bad interception in the first quarter, ending a 12-play drive that had gotten the Jayhawks to the K-State 30-yard line in a scoreless game.
Reesing's first of two second-quarter fumbles proved to be harmless, but the second was a crusher. It was recovered at the KU 43 with only 36 seconds to play in the first half and K-State was able to turn it into a 31-yard touchdown pass from Gregory to Lamark Brown, giving the Wildcats a 10-7 lead.
Both of Reesing's fumbles happened because of his stubbornness, which was correctly termed competitiveness when the Jayhawks were winning.
Funny how a positive can become a negative during a four-game losing streak.
Instead of getting to the ground before contact, Reesing too often takes contact and loses the football. It's something he should have corrected by now; but, again, he's putting too much on his shoulders.
With Reesing as the impetus, the Jayhawks won 25 of 31 games before encountering losses to Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and K-State.
But while KU is darting south at a high rate of speed, Kansas State is on top of the North. And while I'm not implicating Snyder in the paint fiasco, if it was him out there in front of the football complex with a brush and a couple of buckets of paint before the roosters were cock-a-doodle-doing, then more power to him.
If it was a KU fan or group of fans, which I admit is the more plausible scenario, then what were you thinking?
You can paint this town, all right. But in purple.