MANHATTAN — Nicknames are sacred in the world of college football.
Nebraska loves its Blackshirts, the Wrecking Crew is adored at Texas A&M and the Junkyard Dogs are an important part of Georgia's tradition.
All three refer to historically strong defenses that fans celebrate and present-day defenders strive to duplicate.
Doing so can be difficult, though. Just ask David Garrett.
The junior cornerback is part of a defensive resurgence at Kansas State, but his unit's progress two games into the season isn't far enough along to measure up to the great K-State defenses of Bill Snyder's first stint as coach.
Led by Terence Newman, Mark Simoneau and Chris Canty, those teams punished opposing offenses, posted shutouts and made a name for themselves.
"Everybody wants a defense like they used to have here back in the day," Garrett said. "You always hear about how the defense used to be. That's one thing we're trying to get back to."
After steadily improving in 2009 and holding UCLA to modest numbers — 22 points and 313 yards — in the season opener this year, K-State defenders were on their way. They began referring to themselves as a "Purple Swarm," and looked far removed from the defenses of the Ron Prince era that allowed 40 or more points 11 times in three seasons.
But a forgettable second half effort against Missouri State ended, for now, comparisons to the defenses of Snyder's glory days. Allowing 447 yards and 24 points to the Bears left players thinking about the future instead of the past.
"We're really not focusing on what that defense was," said defensive end Brandon Harold, who has 14 tackles and a sack this season. "We've got to find ourselves our own identity. We've got to put a brand out for ourselves. What will be recognized for? We're a different team, a different unit. Different people are out there, different characters. We've got to show some type of consistency to get our name established."
Consistency means playing tough defense for a full four quarters. That's something K-State's defense has yet to accomplish.
Against UCLA, the Wildcats allowed the Bruins to complete a 64-yard touchdown drive in two plays moments after it appeared K-State had sealed the game with a score of its own.
When Missouri State came to Manhattan, the Wildcats led 20-0 in the first half, but surrendered an easy 66-yard touchdown pass that got the Bears going.
"We played extremely well in the first 28 minutes," Snyder said. "But we did not play very well after that."
The low point came in the fourth quarter, when Missouri State drove 99 yards for a touchdown that had no impact on the game's outcome but crushed K-State's starting defense, which was still on the field.
The Wildcats' normally solid secondary lacked communication, the defensive line failed to mount a pass rush and Missouri State scored despite facing third down four times.
"It was embarrassing on our part as a defense," Garrett said. "Having the ball for that long, that's not supposed to happen, especially to a defense that's trying to prove something. We just can't have that no more."
K-State's defense will get a quick shot at redemption Saturday. If it can hold down Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson in the Big 12 opener against Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium, few will remember their recent late-game woes.
Players say they are ready to do just that. They think they have a strong defense, and are ready to prove it to the rest of the conference. With or without a nickname.
Parking at Arrowhead — Wildcats fans traveling from the west to Arrowhead Stadium for Saturday's game against Iowa State are encouraged to use I-435 for easiest access to the stadium's west-side parking lots designated for the K-State.
To help traffic flow smoothly and make parking as convenient as possible, the Kansas City Chiefs are asking K-State fans to enter the Truman Sports Complex through either Gate 5 or 6 on the west side, and utilize parking lots F, G, H, J or N. Iowa State fans are asked to enter the stadium on the east side off I-70 at Gates 2, 3 or 4 and park in lots A, B, C, D or L.
Lots will open at 7 a.m. Parking is $25.
Lamur should play — An unspecified injury kept free safety Emmanuel Lamur from starting against Missouri State, but Snyder said he expects Lamur to play against Iowa State.
Basketball finalizes TV schedule — All 34 of K-State's basketball games will be televised next season. In addition to previously announced TV times, Fox Sports Kansas City will broadcast 10 K-State basketball games.
The regional sports network will televise the Wildcats when they take on Florida, Washington State, Emporia State, Alcorn State, Loyola Chicago, UMKC, North Florida, Savannah State, Washburn and Presbyterian.
K-State's game against Texas Southern will be televised on Cox Cable throughout Kansas.