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By the 1980s, the gulf between Kansas State and just about everybody else in the Big Eight Conference had become Grand Canyon-sized. A 62-14 shellacking in 1984 was followed by a four-year span in which the Huskers outscored the outmanned Wildcats by a shocking 183-9.

There was talk that perhaps Kansas State should follow Wichita State’s example and drop football altogether, or at least take refuge in a lower division.

“It’s time to put Kansas State on a slow boat to the Missouri Valley (Conference),” Nebraska athletic director Bob Devaney famously said.

The first time a Snyder team faced Nebraska in 1989, during a 58-7 beat down, he actually feared for the safety of his undersized players.

But finally by 1998, with patience, 18-hour workdays and robotic attention to detail, Snyder had built the long-suffering Wildcats into contenders. And they proved it with a 40-30 victory in Manhattan, ending a 29-year Nebraska winning streak with a watershed moment in his coaching career.

“Certainly, that was a major step for our program,” Snyder said. “Victories against anybody are hard. But against a program like Nebraska, they are very difficult, few and far between. It was very significant.”

The Huskers’ plan in this final game will no doubt center on Thomas, the 238-pound senior who led the Big 12 in rushing last year.

“It will be a great test for us,” he said.

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska’s redshirt freshman quarterback, has rushed for 496 yards and brings the quick-hitting dual-threat dimension that’s given Kansas State trouble in other games.

After Kansas State, hostile Big 12 crowds also await Nebraska at Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas A&M.

Bring ‘em on, say the Huskers.

“We’re very honest with our guys,” said defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. “They understand the situation. We don’t talk about it. It gets talked about in the media probably 20 times more than it does with us. I don’t know that it’s ever been a topic of conversation with us that this is our last year in the big 12.

“We try to focus on the next opponent and leave it at that.”