MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder sees the intrigue of facing 34-year-old Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.
The 74-year-old Snyder remembers putting together game plans against the Red Raiders when Kingsbury was their quarterback. It was always a challenge trying to figure out a way to stop someone running coach Mike Leach’s exotic pass-every-down offense to perfection.
Now, after facing him twice as a player, Snyder gets to match wits with Kingsbury when No. 25 Texas Tech hosts Kansas State on Saturday.
“He always seemed like a pleasant young guy and bright as a quarterback,” Snyder said this week. “I thought he was awfully bright with what he did. He managed their system, so to speak, extremely well and I thought he was a good leader. If somebody said at the time that he’d get into coaching, that wouldn’t have surprised me.”
Nor would it have surprised Snyder the amount of success he’s having at Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders, who went 8-5 under Tommy Tuberville last season, won their first seven games under Kingsbury. And while two straight losses have taken some of the luster off their season, the fact that they were to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is not lost on Snyder.
He knows that Kingsbury still has the Red Raiders playing at a high level.
“You don’t have that familiarity with the system and what all is there,” said Snyder, whose Wildcats (4-4, 2-3) have won two straight. “You haven’t seen it all over a period of time. Something new presents itself every week and those will be ongoing. We’ll see something that we haven’t seen. We just don’t know what it is.”
While Snyder’s coaching methods have remained largely unchanged over the years, Kingsbury said it’s still a significant challenge to prepare for Kansas State.
“It’s going to be one of those games where you have to make the play and take it,” Kingsbury said, “because there won’t be many cheap ones.”
Kingsbury’s antics on and off the field have attracted plenty of attention. From selecting practice music that better suits his player’s preferences to catching the eye of folks in the entertainment world, he already has developed quite a following.
Call it a new-school approach, contrasting with the decidedly old-school Snyder.
“We seem him as a father figure,” Kansas State linebacker Charmeachelle Moore said of Snyder. “He has a lot of knowledge and we’re just trying to learn from him. That’s the great experience about having a great coach.”
Snyder’s simple, down-to-earth approach is part of his reputation. It made waves this past week when he modestly altered the Kansas State helmet logo in a camouflage pattern to honor the military, the first time he’s done so in more than two decades.
Forget about those wacky uniforms at other schools. Snyder sticks to the basics.
“Business,” Wildcats safety Dante Barnett said. “We’re always in our suits and we’re quiet and don’t say much. It’s a business and professional thing.”
The age gap may be large between Snyder and his players — much larger than the decade that separates Kingsbury from his own — but it doesn’t stand in the way of success. Snyder is still able to relate to them just he has for the past two-plus decades.
“I just try to be open and honest with them,” Snyder said. “I applaud them for the good things they do and address the things they need improvement upon, and try to relate everything to things other than football. I think all of us really believe, the old-school guys, believe that it is relative to what takes place in the rest of their lives.”
As for the new-school approach favored by Kingsbury, well, Snyder said football is football no matter how it’s taught, and the underlying principles of the game never change.
“You’ve got to do the things that should be consistent all the time,” he said. “Not getting penalized, not turning the ball over and not giving up big plays, whether it’s the run or the pass. Those kinds of simple things, easy to say but not easy to do, I don’t think there is any difference in that respect.”