Kansas State#039;s euphoria dissipates with accusations against QB

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Kansas State Wildcats considered their Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State the biggest game yet for their once-downtrodden program.

The euphoria over the team's first BCS appearance faded, though, with news that quarterback Ell Roberson has been accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her at the team's hotel.

The accusation was made early Thursday by a 22-year-old woman, Paradise Valley police Lt. Ron Warner said.

Email newsletter signup

Kansas State athletic director Tim Weiser said it would be up to coach Bill Snyder whether Roberson, the Wildcats' career total-offense record holder, would play Friday night against Ohio State. Freshman Dylan Meier is the backup quarterback.

''I've known coach Snyder for several years now and I know he'll do the right thing,'' Weiser said.

If Roberson plays, the double-barreled running threat of the star quarterback and All-America running back Darren Sproles will present a major challenge to the Buckeyes.

Five weeks ago, in Ohio State's regular-season finale at Michigan, Chris Perry shredded the Buckeyes' vaunted run defense for 154 yards rushing and two touchdown in the Wolverines' 35-21 victory.

Kansas State has a ground game that might be better than Michigan's, because Roberson is such a threat to run as well as pass.

''That makes it exponentially more difficult, when the quarterback has to be accounted for,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. ''That's a whole new world and you have to do a good job of maybe keeping them off balance.''

No team entered the bowl season on a bigger roll than Kansas State. The Wildcats, seemingly finished after a three-game losing streak, have won seven in a row, outscoring their opponents 271-60 in the process.

Kansas State burned then-No. 1 and unbeaten Oklahoma for 519 yards in a stunning 35-7 victory in the Big 12 championship game, earning the Wildcats their first Bowl Championship Series berth.

''It's going to be extremely difficult,'' Ohio State defensive tackle Tim Anderson said. ''This is probably one of the most high-powered offenses in the country. They obviously have a tremendous backfield with Sproles and Roberson, a receiving corps that's very good, and probably one of the best offensive lines we've seen all year, if not the best.''

Sproles rushed for a school-record 1,948 yards this season, 1,021 in the last five games. Roberson, despite missing 2 1/2 games with a wrist injury, needs 57 yards rushing to be the third player in NCAA Division I history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in the same season.

''I couldn't ask for a better year in the way we came back and showed everybody that we still are a team, when a lot of people doubted us,'' Roberson said earlier in the week.

The Michigan debacle has motivated the Buckeyes' defense.

''Everybody on defense knows that's not how we normally play,'' Anderson said. ''I know nobody's happy with that performance. This is a way for us to kind of come back and redeem ourselves.''

The No. 8 Wildcats (11-3) were one-touchdown favorites over the No. 7 Buckeyes (10-2) before the Roberson situation came to light. Ohio State was a decided underdog in the Fiesta Bowl a year ago, but beat Miami 31-24 in double-overtime to win the national championship.

Tressel and his players say their practices leading up to this game have been at least as intense as they were a year ago, when the stakes were higher.

''I think there's no question they will give the same kind of effort they did last year,'' Tressel said. ''We're going to have to play better than we did a year ago to be successful, but I'm convinced that emotionally they're going to be ready to go.''

Craig Krenzel, the MVP of last season's national title game, will be playing his last for Buckeyes. He is 23-3 as a starter.

Ohio State's offense ranked only eighth in the Big Ten, but its rushing defense is No. 1 nationally, allowing 60.5 yards per game - 1.9 yards per carry - even with the bad day in Ann Arbor.

The Buckeyes won two games without their offense scoring a touchdown.

''They have an excellent punter, so field position is a major issue,'' Snyder said. ''They have just been team of minimal mistakes, a field position football team. You look at how you can neutralize that. You don't want your offense starting 80 or 90 yards from the goal line on every possession. Ohio State has the ability to make you do that.''

The teams never have played each other, and Kansas State sees the game as another opportunity to enhance its national reputation.

''We are going to be playing harder than ever,'' Wildcats linebacker Bryan Hickman said. ''It's a big game, one of the biggest in K-State history. I know the whole team will be ready for this one.''

The Fiesta Bowl is sponsored by Tostitos.