(Story originally posted on SB Nation’s ISU site: Wide Right & Natty Lite.)
WRNL is proud to present nine weekly articles from Kagavi leading up to the official release of The Adventures of Robot Cy, a fictional 8-bit video game trailer that never was.
In a faraway futuristic time, college football has been taken over by robot mascots. Join Robot Cy as he travels through many thrilling levels to find out who is behind this nefarious plot!
Every week during the conference season, Kagavi will preview the ISU football game using this project as inspiration by asking what power ups could Robot Cy gain by defeating the other Big 12 robot mascots?
The question hung in the air all week leading up to the Oklahoma State game. Could there be a repeat of 2011? During the game, fans and players could feel the magic of the monumental upset lingering around the fringes, but the game ultimately slipped away at the very end. Robot Cy salvaged the evening by defeating Robot Pistol Pete and securing the Silver Star power up, which will be useful in the future (perhaps as soon as this basketball season against the Jayhawks). These final two games against Kansas State and West Virginia will probably determine the future of the ISU coaching staff. Last year’s game in Ames ended in a 32 – 28 KSU comeback after ISU failed to get a crucial first down, just one measly yard, to preserve the victory. The last road game in Manhattan was an anomaly as Collin Klein led KSU to a 41 – 7 thumping, but every other game in the Paul Rhoads era has been relatively close, yet with the same outcome. Both teams have struggled this season and last I checked, KSU was playing a dance team member at QB.
But what if Robot Cy was facing off against Robot Willie Wildcat?
If Robot Willie Wildcat used the best parts of Kansas State football history to inspire a power up, what would it be? Let’s explore some Kansas State history.
Kansas State University was established in 1863 as Kansas State Agricultural College, becoming the first school to open under the auspices of the Morrill Act. Nearby Iowa was the first state to accept the terms of the act establishing land grant colleges, but Iowa State didn’t start enrolling students until 1868. (ISU was originally conceived as the State Agricultural College and Model Farm, yielding the far cooler acronym SAC&MF.) Many of the original buildings on the Manhattan campus were constructed using a native gray limestone which also inspired the “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk” chant of KSU’s archenemy Kansas.
Like every other Big 12 school, KSU football started in the 1890s and there were some brief periods of success in the first few decades. The series with ISU was started in 1917, a 10 – 7 Cyclones win, and other than Kansas, ISU is their most historical rival with the most total games played. Looking at the overall record of ISU against other conference mates throughout history, the Cyclones are laughably outpaced by pretty much every other team, except somehow, somehow, KSU. That’s right, even after decades of KSU Coach Bill Snyder feasting on our young, virile blood and winning year after year, KSU still has to win a few more games merely to pull even with ISU in the win column. The overall numbers stand at 49 wins, 45 losses, and 4 ties in favor of ISU. From the late 1930s to the late 1980s, ISU dominated the series, the only exception being the mid-1950s when ISU went through four coaches in six years.
Early KSU sporting events from 1906 to 1909 enjoyed the presence of a black labrador named Boscoe, who prowled the sidelines. (During these years, a young teenager named Bill Snyder sold roasted peanuts in the stands.) In 1922, a live bobcat mascot named Touchdown was donated by two graduates who had rescued it from a porcupine and the tradition endured through 1979 and eleven bobcats. KSU’s initial costumed mascot emerged in 1947, but he was known as Sparky and had a reddish-brown coat of fur with black stripes. In the mid-1960s, Willie made his first appearance.
Coach Snyder arrived in Manhattan in 1989, fresh off a decade at Iowa where he won multiple conference titles with Hayden Fry as the offensive coordinator of the Hawkeyes. During his tenure at Iowa, Snyder got to know another young assistant coach named Dan McCarney. After one year to revive a Wildcat program that had been left for dead, Snyder started producing immediate results. Since 1990, KSU has beat ISU 21 out of 25 times and one of those ISU wins came against Ron Prince, which is practically an asterisk. In fact, ISU has only won one single time in Manhattan during that time period.
How incredible was the turnaround at KSU? Let’s review some of their previous successes before Coach Snyder arrived:
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Yep. That’s how bad it was. It cannot be overstated how much of a difference Coach Snyder made for the Wildcat program. There were just four winning seasons from 1935 to 1990, because after World War II, the university essentially decided to stop investing in sports.
Coach Snyder has brought some great players through Manhattan in the past few decades. Notable former All-Americans include Martin Gramatica, Tyler Lockett, Chris Canty, Michael Bishop, Collin Klein, Darren Sproles, and Jordy Nelson. Even Snyder’s own son, Sean Snyder, was a first team All-American punter in 1992. (Isn’t that cheating?) The greatest of the bunch may have been roving linebacker Mark Simoneau, who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 after a stellar career from 1996 to 1999 and 11 years in the NFL.
No other power ups were considered. There was no way. The only question that remained was how we could best distill the essence of Coach Snyder, eau de Snyder, into 8-bit form. There’s voodoo dolls. Maybe a coffin or bats. Isn’t it obvious why the new KSU stadium addition was constructed to look like a castle . . . I mean, has anyone seen him in front of a mirror? Snyder is also like MacGyver–able to make a bowl team out of 18 punters, 7 tight ends, 3 converted offensive linemen, Pony shoes, 15 pounds of hay, a tractor engine, and high tech Zubaz workout pants.
Even more shocking, many don’t realize Coach Snyder had a brush with Hollywood when he starred in a HBO series as the Crypt Keeper. Tales from the Crypt was a true look at the resurrection of the Wildcat football program. When did Bill Snyder start at KSU? 1989. When did Tales from the Crypt start airing on HBO? 1989. What color was the logo? Purple. It’s pretty clear.
Thus, after this brief look at Kansas State history, it is blindingly obvious that the power up for Robot Willie should be a homage to necromancer Bill Snyder’s ability to continually keep his teams of collected spare parts at the top of the Big 12 Conference year after year. In the end, we felt the best choice was a classic one.
The Voodoo Skulls power up gives Robot Cy the ability to summon +1000 darkness and harness an army of spooky skeletons that fall upon the gridiron like a plague. It also allows Robot Cy to upgrade any football team, no matter how pathetic, to a competent level. If Robot Cy had access to this power up, what historical football (or basketball) seasons could have turned out much differently? Heck, what would the last 30 years of Cyclone football look like?
Are there any other possible power ups that would fit Robot Willie? Share them in the comments!