September 17, 2008

Prince's Cats step onto national TV stage

LOUSVILLE, Ky. -- There will be cameras in Papa John's Stadium on Wednesday night. Each one will strain to capture every movement as Kansas State and Louisville battle on the big stage in front of a national television audience on ESPN2. There are plenty of reasons why this is a big game for the Wildcats. As the lone contest of the night, K-State coach Ron Prince dubs it a "peer game." Make no mistake, Prince, who enjoys marquee non-conference matchups, understands its importance.

"On most Saturdays, you are a game. On this particular night, we'll be the game," Prince said. "Anytime you're the game, it's a peer game."

Yes, it's a peer game, but so much more.

Prince, who is 14-13 in three seasons and has the Wildcats off to a 2-0 start after they outscored North Texas and Montana State by a combined 114-16, will look to improve upon a 2-9 record away from Manhattan and capture the first non-conference road victory of his career.

K-State's last non-conference road win was 21-19 at Marshall in 2005 in the Wildcats' final season under Bill Snyder. It represents one of two wins by the Wildcats in their last 12 nationally televised appearances.

K-State went 1-2 on ESPN networks last season, but is just 1-5 in nationally televised games under Prince with a 47-20 win against Colorado last season sandwiched in between a season-opening loss at Auburn (23-13) and late league losses at Iowa State (31-20) and at Nebraska (73-31) -- the Wildcats' last national appearance.

Prince welcomes the big stage. He just hopes to stay on his feet.

"I'd like to be able to just keep my eyes on the action and stay away from people running out of bounds," he deadpanned. "One of my peers didn't handle that very well, so I'd like to stay off the news for that reason."

Instead, Prince hopes the Wildcats can sweep the college football-watching nation off its feet, which is precisely what transpired at South Florida on the big stage last Friday night.

In that "peer game," Prince and the rest of the college football coaching fraternity watched Jim Leavitt coach the second half of his life in a stunning comeback, which was capped by a last-minute interception and game-winning field goal as the 19th-ranked Bulls dodged No. 13 Kansas, 37-34.

"I would love to feel that way," Prince said. "That would be great. I would love to win the game in dramatic fashion."

It's a peer game, and this one includes drama. Josh Freeman, who enters No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency (209.3) and is sandwiched between Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (No. 2 at 214.4) and Missouri's Chase Daniel (No. 4 at 197.5), finally gets a prime launching pad to legitimize his preseason assertion when he said, "I have very high confidence that I'm the best quarterback in the league and arguably, in my mind, in the country."

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