Cotton Bowl memories

I’m watching Kansas State play Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl tonight. I have great memories of the Cotton Bowl, having been fortunate enough to have attended two of them in person while I was working in K-State’s sports information office in the late 1990s, before I moved to Bemidji in 2001.

I went as a fan and sat in the stands in 1997 and watched K-State lose a close 19-15 decision to BYU; I went down with my girlfriend, Laurie, and my buddy Brian. Brian Kavanaugh threw a 40-something yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to end the first half and give K-State its first lead, but it didn’t hold up.

My second Cotton Bowl was as a member of K-State’s traveling party in 2001; Laurie also came along, although this time we were married. K-State was matched up with Tennessee, which had spent the entire year touting defensive tackle John Henderson as the greatest defensive player in the history of the universe. K-State shoved the ball right down Tennessee’s throat, spending most of the game running right over Henderson instead of around him, as everyone expected them to. The Wildcats averaged better than five yards a carry that game, after Tennessee had given up about 2.5 per rush over the course of the regular season. The final was 35-21 K-State, and it really wasn’t even that close. K-State called off the dogs in the third quarter, knowing it had an insurmountable lead; you had the feeling all game that the ‘Cats could’ve scored 50 had they wanted to.

The 2001 game was fun from the outset. Dallas got hit with an ice storm just a day or so before the game, and the grounds crews were scraping slush off the field before kickoff, and if I remember right it was only in the 30s or 40s at kickoff. K-State seemed to flourish in the bad weather, while Tennessee seemed to struggle with it until it was too late.

That, sadly, was the last K-State football game I saw in person. I was in Bemidji about four months later, and I haven’t had a chance to watch a game live since. I miss it terribly. The Cotton Bowls were great memories, some of the most fun I had at bowl games.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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