Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Kansas State 2010

Kansas State vs. Texas

After hurrying out of Lawrence, I made the quick 90 mile drive out to Manhattan, Kansas for the second game of my Saturday Sunflower State doubleheader; a 7PM night tilt between the Kansas State Wildcats and Texas Longhorns. Unexpectedly, however, the final ten miles of the ride proved to be one of the most breathtaking I’ve had on my travels.

 

Traveling North along K-177 on the way into Manhattan, the road passes along the Konza Prairie which is a protected tallgrass prairie owned by Kansas State University. The Konza refuge is part of the larger Flint Hills prairie, which at nearly 1.6 million hectares is the largest stretch of original, undisturbed tallgrass prairie remaining in the U.S. The geology of this particular area defied the plow blades of early settlers, and the understated beauty of the vast plains lies pristinely unchanged from when the Comanche ruled over it some 200 years ago. Despite a pressing game time, the expansive power of the gold flecked landscape at dusk was too much to resist and I pulled into a scenic overlook for a quick photo respite. As far as vistas go on the Pigskin Pursuit, this was at the top, and rivals anything I have seen in the handfuls of National Parks I have visited.

After scooping up a quick ticket outside for a paltry twenty bucks, I hustled into Bill Snyder Family Stadium with a full fifteen minutes before kickoff, and was greeted by the cacophony of 40,000 other fans that had already beaten me in. Evidently, folks are rather passionate about their Wildcats in Manhattan, as the stadium was packed nearly to the brim well before kickoff with legions of purple clad faithful cheering loudly. Once the game kicked off, the stadium got even louder and despite a stated capacity of only 50,000, I can tell you from experience that Bill Snyder plays much louder than its capacity would belie. It was an impressive atmosphere.

The game proved to be a rather interesting one. K-State has a reputation for playing Texas rather tough every year, and this proved to be no exception. In fact, the Wildcats absolutely pasted the Longhorns, dropping 39 points on them in an unrelenting option rushing attack. The Wildcat defense forced 5 interceptions out of Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, and held the Longhorns to a shutout until late in the 4th quarter when they finally snuck in a pair of touchdowns in garbage time. It’s been quite some time since Texas was absolutely manhandled in this fashion, and Kansas State capitalized on every opportunity. The most remarkable statistic of the night was the fact that at one point in the 4th quarter, Kansas State led 39-0 and had exactly ZERO yards passing.

I spent the better part of the game seated behind a gentleman named Steve, along with his daughter Cristin, her friend Emily and father Jim. A former K-State grad himself, Steve was in the stands with his daughter for father–daughter day, and I evidently caught their attention when I wandered in garbed in a Notre Dame sweatshirt. Steve was fascinated by my story, and we spent most of the game chatting away about some of my travels. He tuned me in to some of the finer points of K-State football, and we bonded over the rout unfolding on the field. Consistent with some of the other amazing folks I have met on my travels, Steve was incredibly kind and generous, inviting me out to his tailgate at halftime for a couple of cold beers. I met a handful of new friends and family members there, all of whom were equally friendly and eager to share what makes Wildcat football in Manhattan such a special place.

In the end, Kansas State was probably the biggest sleeper I’ve had on my College Football travels thus far. It’s not a school that gets much fanfare in the CFB landscape, but it’s a fantastic environment that should not be overlooked. The breathtaking expanse of the plains coupled with a surprisingly ardent, loud, and friendly fanbase make it a highly underrated gameday experience. Should I find myself in Kansas City again in the fall time, I would gladly keep driving past Lawrence on my way into Manhattan for a sunset showdown on the prairie.

Special thanks to Steve and his friends and family for their warm hospitality and cold beer. Next time I’ll be sure to find something purple to wear!

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Kansas vs. Colorado – Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

I pulled into Lawrence, Kansas on an absolutely gorgeous fall Saturday morning.Greeted by the crisp air, warm sunshine and colorful autumn leaves lining the sidewalk, I took a stroll around the picturesque KU Campus for about an hour before descending Campanile Hill and heading into historic Memorial Stadium.Built in 1921, Memorial is the sixth oldest stadium in College Football, and rows of concrete archways lining the concourse are reminiscent of a Roman Coliseum.

As I settled into my allotment of the aluminum bleachers, the KU cheering squads led fans in a rendition of the infamous “Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.” chant. The chant is eerily captivating as fans ritualistically hymn the words “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” in a drawn out incantation reminiscent of Benedictine Monks performing Gregorian Chants.

 

Next to “Wooooo Pig Sooooieeee”, Rock Chalk has to be the most haunting and chillingly intimidating cheer I have heard. Regardless of your affiliation with KU, it leaves you with goosebumps.

 

There’s a good quality version of it in the video below, fast forward to 1:00 and check it out for yourself.

 

 

On the field the game proved to be a bit of a yawner through three quarters. The Colorado Buffaloes, led by embattled head coach Dan Hawkins absolutely stampeded the Jayhawk defense. They mercilessly lit up the scoreboard with an onslaught of rushing and passing, and after three quarters sent the majority of Kansas fans heading for the exits. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Buffs punched in yet another touchdown and with about 14 minutes remaining the contest they held a commanding 28 point lead; 45-17.

Then something happened.

 

Kansas drove the field and scored with about 12:00 remaining. This barely raised an eyebrow as they were still trailing by 21 points. Then they recovered an on-side kick and promptly scored again. In the course of a couple of minutes they had cut the gap in half to 14. With their gimmicky Dan Hawkins offense, the Buffaloes are not adept at grinding out the clock and holding on for the win. After a handful of plays, the Buff’s coughed the ball up and Kansas recovered the fumble running it in for a touchdown. The Colorado lead had evaporated to a mere seven points 45-38. Panic spread throughout the visitor sideline. After the ensuing kickoff, Colorado took the to air again, stubbornly refusing to run the ball. The folly of this tactic took a mere two plays to manifest, as quarterback Cody Hawkins tossed an interception only two plays into the drive. Kansas promptly scored yet again. Tie game at 45. The Kansas defense stepped up, holding Colorado to yet another three and out, and it was Kansas ball with 4:30 left on the clock. The Jayhawks then drove the length of the field yet again (if it sounds repetitive, it was), and stuffed in a touchdown with 1:00 left on the clock to take the lead 52-45. The Jayhawk defense stymied the finale Colorado offensive to hold on for the win.

To recap, Kansas had just overcome a 28 point fourth quarter deficit, in regulation time, by scoring FIVE unanswered touchdowns. Were it not for the lackluster season of both teams, this would have been the lead story on every highlight reel across the country. No matter how you slice it, this was a truly remarkable comeback.
While the stadium atmosphere in Kansas this proved to be rather subdued, this was one of the more footnote worthy games I have ever attended. It will probably stand for quite some time as the most dramatic comeback I ever witness. Reeling of five unanswered touchdowns in the 4th quarter to overcome a 28 point deficit is not something that happens every day, and it breathed some life into an otherwise marginal Kansas Football experience. In all honesty I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see another football game in Lawrence, and KU fans would probably tell you something similar. Now basketball season on the other hand, that’s a different story.

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Arthur Bryant’s BBQ

Inevitably, my trip to Kansas City was going to include a trip to the stalwart of Kansas City Barbecue; Arthur Bryant’s. Similar to Rendezvous from the week before, Arthur Bryant’s is firmly established as one of the most famous barbecue joints in the country, and has been featured in reams of magazines and television shows celebrating its fame. Fame, accolades and mass appeal don’t buy a lot of credibility with me however, this is barbecue after all, not reality TV. It’s the meat on the plate that counts, so I sauntered in to Arthur Bryant’s to see if there was actual substance behind that reputation.

I arrived early at 10:00am just as they were opening the doors for the day, on a warning from Daniel over at Full Custom Gospel BBQ (who also recommended fantastic LC’s BBQ the day before). If you haven’t read Daniel’s blog before, it’s a remarkable chronicle of a true BBQ fanatic. Judging by his reviews of places I have tried, his taste buds are virtually infallible.

 

http://fcg-bbq.blogspot.com/

 

At this hour, the serpentine lines hadn’t formed yet, so I was able to stroll right up to the counter and promptly place my order. Brisket, ribs and burnt ends were on the docket this morning, and I gathered them back at my table while the ESPN Gameday talking heads chattered away on the big screen in front of me.

The brisket comes thin sliced in sandwich form, and while it was certainly a heavy handed portion, the brisket itself had only a hint of smoke and a consistency on the dry side. The ribs were a bit of an enigma. While having a pleasant color and well smoked flavor, they had a noticeable “gummy” texture and were discernibly chewy. This leads me to believe I may have been served leftovers from the night before. Finally, the burnt ends were rather disappointing especially juxtaposed to the jaw dropping burnt ends from LC’s BBQ the day before. This particular batch lacked the thorough smokiness found in LC’s burnt ends, and had been so thoroughly drown in Arthur Bryant’s pungent sauce (despite my firm request at the ordering window for no sauce) that they ate more like a BBQ stew than burnt ends.


In the end the barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s is average at best, and I had been thoroughly warned and prepared that this would be the case. It’s one of those places that you simply have to visit one time based solely on the virtue of its reputation and status in the barbecue world. However, if you’re a purist looking for some of the best smoked meats in Kansas City, there are far better options to be found.

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LC’s Barbecue – Burnt to Perfection

With my feet barely on the ground from the plane ride in, I dashed for the rental car counter and peeled out of the parking lot like Bo Duke in the General Lee (substitute grey Hyundai Accent for 69’ Dodge Charger). Such was my enthusiasm for my first trip to Kansas City, a town synonymous with great barbecue. The place high on my list was LC’s Barbecue, which was slightly off the beaten path from the “big two” in Kansas City; Gates and Arthur Bryant’s. While those establishments may be more famous, LC’s I was assured, had the better cue’.

After some deliberation on the menu (KC joints seem averse to the concept of a variety plate), I ordered up the usual brisket and ribs, and tossed a newcomer into the mix: Burnt Ends. Burnt Ends, as I learned, are an order of the charred crusty end pieces of brisket, prized by some and shunned by others.

 

 

As I quickly learned, the brisket in Kansas City is served thin sliced, sandwich style and slathered in sauce.After observing the pitmaster heavily ladling the sauce onto my brisket, I quickly stopped him before he garnished my ribs and burnt ends with the obfuscating liquid.This drew a raised eyebrow from the woman behind the register, an expression which bordered on both puzzled and offended.Regardless, my ribs and burnt ends were spared from the murky crimson depths, and I could give the quality of the meat a proper evaluation.

The brisket was pretty standard fare, though the thin slicing makes it chew close to deli roast beef for my taste. The strong KC style sauce also rendered it difficult to taste the meat. The ribs on the other hand, were delightful. They were quite meaty, had a beautiful pinkish smoke ring and a deep smokiness throughout the meat that pulled nicely off the bone without falling apart. These were lovingly cooked ribs.

Then there were the Burnt Ends.Oh my, Burnt Ends where have you been all my life?Subconsciously, my favorite part of the brisket has always been the end pieces that have a thick ring of charred crust, and I find myself squirreling them away for the last few bites of my meal.The fusion of smoke, beef, salty rendered fat and a chewy crunch is the pinnacle of BBQ, and why prized brisket is such a rare indulgence.Now imagine an entire order of those magnificent nuggets from heaven, every morsel bursting with the charred flavor of a smoky punch to the face, and you have an order of burnt ends from LC’s Barbecue.Each bite is heroin for the tongue.


I plowed through my brisket and ribs in fairly short order, but I savored every bite of the burnt ends and they were one of the best Barbecue dishes I have ever had. If you ever find yourself in KCK, skip the lines and hoopla of the barbecue factories and head into LC’s for some burnt end nirvana.

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