KANSAS CITY, Mo. The last time we saw the Kansas State football team, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence had done his best Dean Wormer bit, marching straight into the Delta house and dropping the big one. After two months of complete indifference, the Bears even decided to play defense, orchestrating a little napalm tap dance all over the Wildcats' No. 1 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series and Collin Kleins Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.
OK, fine. What's done is done. But to paraphrase that noted philosopher from the movie "Animal House," Bluto Blutarsky, whats all this laying around stuff?
National championship? Dead!
Still on the table, kids.
With a victory over No. 18 Texas on Saturday night, the sixth-rated Wildcats will clinch their first Big 12 championship since 2003, and an automatic invite to its first BCS hoedown since the 2004 Fiesta Bowl - for all the angst, all the hand-wringing, K-State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) continues to control its postseason destiny. And with Texas A&Ms Johnny Manziel and Notre Dames Manti Teo sitting this weekend out, Klein gets something invaluable in a Heisman race afflicted more than the usual by short attention spans: The last word.
So, so, so much to play for.
"No, this is big," senior wideout Chris Harper told reporters earlier this week. "It is the Big 12 championship on the line. It is a huge game."
With huge stakes. Consider this: Only six other K-State teams have collected as many as 11 victories in a season, all under coach Bill Snyder; none since that aforementioned 2003 bunch have turned the trick.
And only one other squad in school history has racked up as many as eight conference wins in one go: the star-crossed 1998 team, to which this incarnation of Wildcats has been so often compared. For a cadre earmarked over the summer to finish somewhere among the middle of a scary-deep Big 12 pack - nine of the leagues 10 members are going bowling - thats rarified air.
"We were picked sixth in the conference," kicker Anthony Cantele noted, "and with the chance of playing for the title, it could not be (set up) any more perfectly."
Well, almost perfectly. Admittedly, its hard for any of us media, fans, whomever to look at this weekend and shake off the pervading regret, the sense of what couldve been. If the Baylor game on Nov. 17 had gone according to the script instead of playing out like a 3-hour nightmare. Ten-and-one is outstanding, sure, but eleven-and-oh? Eleven-and-oh is epic.
"You have to move on," Harper continued. "If youre still depressed about that, then you have a ways to go with maturity."
Fortunately, by all accounts, maturity has rarely, if ever, been the issue here. With the benefit of hindsight - that trip to Waco feels a whole lot longer than two weeks ago, to be honest - we can see an offensive line that was badly wounded at TCU get exposed against the Bears; and the true value of safety Ty Zimmerman to not just the secondary, but the defensive operation as a whole.
Fortunately, 13 days is a long time to heal. Also, a long time to stew.
So, so, so much to play for.
"It could really be a heartbreak," punter Ryan Doerr allowed, "or just one of those things that you will never forget."
This song deserves to be remembered. Snyder is infamous for his "16 Goals For Success," the commandments that serve as his philosophical framework, the holy writ for two K-State football revivals. Its right there, in purple ink, Goal No. 10: "Never give up." In other words, you finish what you start.
As our pal Bluto liked to remind us, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Its not over in Manhattan, either, brother. Not by a long shot.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org