They'll take Manhattan, either one.
Players on the team from Manhattan, Kansas, are enthralled with the Empire State Building, the hotel ballroom in which they held a practice and everything else about a New York City trip that is peculiar, almost with a capital "P."
"We really haven't seen anything like this before," said Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman, who comes from Peculiar, Mo. (pop. 4,745).
"I'm from a small town and a lot of other guys on the team are, as well," said Coffman, a senior, whose team will play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium at 3:20 p.m. Thursday. Aside from trips to Big 12 games, he added, "Most of the kids haven't been out of the state of Kansas before. The lights, the big buildings, it's all pretty impressive to us."
They took it all in, and took New York's hassles in stride. Coach Bill Snyder said it was an adjustment to make a 90-minute commute to the Jets practice facility in New Jersey, inasmuch as he lives 2 minutes, 45 seconds from his office. But the Pinstripe Bowl has unique appeal. It can't offer the balmy climate that most of the other college football postseason games can. It can offer Times Square, in walking distance from the New York Sheraton, where Kansas State's offense had a walk-through because the weather was too brutal Sunday night to play outdoors.
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Coffman admitted that, although he had been pulling for the Wildcats to be invited to the Pinstripe over other bowl games, "Once I got here and all the snow was coming down, I kind of had second thoughts. It would be pretty nice to be in some warm spot right now, but I think it will still be fun."
Considering that attending college is all about expanding horizons, the team from the Midwest's Manhattan can call this trip a four-credit course. "The things I've seen in the movies, this is really it, you know what I mean?" said Emmanuel Lamur, a defensive back from West Palm Beach, Fla. "You think people exaggerate what this city is like, but this is really it.
"Ground Zero was what caught my eye the most," Lamur said. "The emotion is still there. I was just speechless, visualizing what happened that day. I just kind of took a deep breath."
Not that Kansas State's players are here just to gawk. They know their opponent considers the Pinstripe Bowl a home game. The motto on team publications is, "Syracuse University: New York's College Team." So the Wildcats are working. Confronted by the blizzard, they did what New Yorkers do in a crisis. They improvised, making a practice field out of the Sheraton's ballroom.
"I think a lot of the guys were kind of excited that we weren't going to be outside," Coffman said. "It went well. We got a lot of stuff done that I didn't think we were going to get done. But there were some mirrors up along the wall. My coach was saying, `Don't throw any balls close to the mirror.' "
No problem. The Wildcats did have a walk-through at the Stadium yesterday. And Coffman will have stories to tell back in Peculiar (there once was a name-the-town contest and the mayor didn't like any of the entries and told townspeople, "Make it more peculiar").
"This," the quarterback said, "is an experience a lot of us would never have gotten without this bowl game."