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In Retrospect, Beasley and Wildcats look better than you think

By Jason Whitlock

From The Kansas City Star

January 1, 2001

DALLAS -- Jonathan Beasley won't be regarded as the best quarterback ever to play for coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State. But Beasley just might be Snyder's favorite.

Beasley is the quintessential K-State quarterback, a player who looks far better in retrospect than at the moment.

Now that his career is over, now that the Wildcats have trounced Tennessee 35-21 in Monday's Cotton Bowl thanks to Beasley's offensive-MVP performance, now that Beasley's senior class is just the second in the history of college football to string together four straight 11-win seasons, let's all admit the obvious:

Beasley was a pretty good college quarterback.

He didn't deserve all the scorn, cynicism and negative vibes thrown his way. Beasley reminds me of Snyder's football program. You can't enjoy it in bits and pieces. We tend to overreact to each tough loss, to each bad interception.

The Wildcats (and Beasley) are best digested as a full-course meal at the conclusion of the season.

How different does K-State's 2000 season feel now that the Wildcats, 11-3, dominated a traditional Southeastern Conference powerhouse, a school just two years removed from a national championship?

Judging by Snyder's post-game giddiness, it feels entirely different.

Tennessee is a talented football team, loaded with speedy athletes. Heck, the Volunteers might have the No. 1 tailback, Travis Henry, in the 2001 NFL draft. Yet the Wildcats manhandled Tennessee the way they beat up Colorado.

In seven years of covering Snyder's Wildcats, I'd never seen him as openly happy as he was Monday. He struggled to keep the smile off of his face. Snyder surely took special satisfaction in having his team play so well in Texas, a battleground recruiting state. Snyder also was extremely proud of the 35,000 K-State fans who filled the Cotton Bowl despite the icy, cold weather.

(Wildcats fans should take a bow. You may indeed be the best college football fans. Every bowl representative in the country will hear of your journey to Dallas across slick highways. I know of one Wichita family that drove 12 hours to reach Dallas -- normally, that trip takes six hours.)

Snyder also acknowledged that getting the 11th victory for a fourth consecutive season was important.

"To me, that was as significant as anything that took place today," Snyder said. "Those seniors have an opportunity to hold on to something for the rest of their lives."

Just as the Wildcats look different today, so does Beasley.

The Volunteers' defensive line features three future NFL regulars. Teams hadn't run on Tennessee this season. Yet Beasley ran for 98 yards and one touchdown, and if not for a bad shotgun snap over his head, he would have cracked 100. Tennessee couldn't stop Beasley on the option.

When he pitched the ball, running back Josh Scobey was equally effective, picking up 147 yards in 28 carries. Beasley also threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Monday's game was easily his best performance in a big game and probably the best game, period, of his career.

"To be the first quarterback in K-State history to go 2-0 in bowl games is unbelievable," Beasley said. "Just thinking about it brings a grin to your face. Two years ago, people counted us out when Michael Bishop left. As a senior class we said, `We don't want to be remembered that way, we want to keep the tradition alive.' "

The Beasley-led Wildcats did more than that; they added a very important chapter. And an exclamation point.

Too often, we get so bogged down in criticizing K-State's weak non-conference schedule that we don't take note of the Wildcats' significant accomplishments. The team that many of us claim has never beaten any school of significance in a big game now owns bowl victories over a Donovan McNabb-led Syracuse squad, Pacific-10 power Washington and SEC power Tennessee.

Beasley was quarterback in two of those three victories, a fact that should never be forgotten by the fans who love K-State football and those of us who love to second-guess it.


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