2015 Wildcat football season to go down in history

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Senior defensive Marquel Bryant high-fives fans after K-State defeated West Virginia on Dec. 5, 2015 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (George Walker | The Collegian)

Twenty to 30 years from now, a father and son are going to walk into Bill Snyder Family Stadium on a fall afternoon, and as they walk around the stadium, the young child is going to ask his father about the 2015 season when he sees a picture of Kody Cook or Elijah Lee with a Liberty Bowl logo attached to it.

What does the father, who has seen his fair share of K-State football in his years, tell his young son? Well, it would start like this:

The 2015 season for K-State was weird. That’s not the word — 2015 was an absolute cluster-you-know-what.

I mean, let’s just take into account what all was going on in the program at the time. You had a head coach in Bill Snyder, and he had just been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame prior to the season. You also had the addition of the Vanier Family Football complex, the newest crown jewel of K-State Athletics.

Everything seemed so optimistic and wonderful.

Things would take a turn for the worse quickly. Star defensive back and senior Dante Barnett and sophomore starting quarterback Jesse Ertz both had their seasons end with injuries. All of the sudden, the high optimism turned into a sense of the unknown because this K-State team hadn’t been as strong as it once was.

With junior quarterback Joe Hubener at the controls, K-State was 3-0 headed into their first conference game of the season against Oklahoma State. Although Hubener hadn’t been lights-out, it was clear that he had managed K-State well enough to put the Wildcats into position to pull off a major upset.

Like most everything else in the story of this 2015 team, the script was flipped and Hubener suffered a major injury that sidelined him for a majority of the rest of the game.

Enter wide receiver Kody Cook, who at the time was the backup quarterback for the Wildcats. Cook, in the early season matchup, stunned players, fans and a national viewing audience as he led K-State to multiple scores. Still, it was not enough, and the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season, losing 36-34 to Oklahoma State.

That triggered an epic slide that saw the Wildcats lose a total of six straight games. Close losses to TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech were compounded with underwhelming performances against Texas and Oklahoma. Losses at home against Baylor and Oklahoma saw fans’ loyalties questioned as people booed and walked out in utter disgust at the product being put out on the field.

There, the Wildcats stood 3-6, with little hope in the Little Apple when it came to bowl hopes for 2015.

Then, there was a miracle. Something that this program is used to in its storied history. You can say that it only wasn’t engineered by coach Bill Snyder, but by the entire team, a team that everybody had counted out at midseason.

Aided by senior cornerback Morgan Burns’ kickoff return and a clutch defensive play by sophomore defensive tackle Will Geary, the Wildcats broke their losing streak against Iowa State. The following week, it was Burns with big plays again. This time, a blocked punt and an interception helped the Wildcats to a victory over Kansas.

Then came the Senior Day finale against West Virginia at home. With K-State down in the fourth quarter after a West Virginia score, Burns struck once again, this time returning his fourth kickoff return in four straight games to give K-State the lead. Aided by the 17 tackles from junior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore, the Wildcats won their third straight game and were headed to a bowl.

As the father remembers the cold evening and the celebration of his beloved team’s bowl entry, the child asks him what most young kids ask, “Why?” The father will smile at his son and tell him one of Snyder’s 16 Goals:

“Never give up.”

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