When the curtain raises and chest-thumping players become engulfed in a cloud of fog and the crowd's cheers shortly before the 6:05 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, it will mark 278 days since Kansas State completed the season that it wants to forget. It will mark the first official opportunity for the us-against-the-world Wildcats, who are projected to finish fifth in the North Division, to button-up their blue collars, punch the clock and demonstrate their unofficial motto: Do your job.
It will mark a rebirth, a vision that has been speculated and analyzed down to the most trivial statistic.
Above all, the Wildcats believe 2008 season opener against North Texas will mark the start of a memorable season that they believe is destined to carry into late December or January, despite the pundits' unflattering predictions.
But standing at the lip of the entrance to the field, third-year coach Ron Prince won't think about the 5-7 campaign a year ago. He won't think about Kansas, Missouri or Oklahoma. He will pause for a second and live in the moment.
"We've got a lot to prove. We've got a lot to demonstrate," Prince said. "Not because of what's happened in the past or what's going to happen in the future, but because this is the reason you come to this level, to play in the game. This is a good opportunity for all of us. We all understand how hard games are and how challenging they are to win. This is our chance to do that.
"That's the reason everybody is so excited. It's the reason that you come here but all the hard work is necessary to get to this point."
As for the contest against a North Texas team that comes off a 2-10 record, and the other 11 regular season games on the Wildcats' schedule? That, Prince believes, will take care of itself while the Wildcats stick firm to their common goal.
"I believe we have a team where it could be a mistake to put any limitations on it," he said. "It's my responsibility and our staff's and the leadership of this team to hold this team to a very high standard and to have high expectations. A culture of low expectations usually is successful. We can't have that.
"Our expectation each year is to find ourselves in a position to win the North when we get to November. That's what everything has been toward and that's what we're focused on. The players understand that's the objective here. I don't know if other people think that we're in a position to do that and I'm not really too concerned about that. We'll see what happens when we get to the end."
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