Manhattan — To hear Kansas State receiver/punt returner Deon Murphy tell it, Kansas University coach Mark Mangino very well could be second-guessing his abilities as a recruiter come Saturday.
Asked Monday whether he thought the Jayhawks, who have struggled with their pass-rush this season, regretted not pursuing Wildcats All-Big 12 defensive end Ian Campbell out of high school, Murphy smiled.
"They're probably going to wish they recruited this whole team the way we're gonna play this weekend," Murphy said.
If college football games were won with words, Kansas' 11:30 a.m. matchup with rival Kansas State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium would have ended approximately 2 p.m. Monday. That's about the time the sparks had stopped flying during an animated hour of player interviews conducted in the Wildcats' football complex.
While Kansas has built a reputation for remaining tight-lipped in an effort to limit pre-game bulletin-board fodder - following their victory over Colorado, players were instructed not to speak to the press about the following week's opponent, Oklahoma - they apparently take a different approach down the road in Manhattan.
For instance: What comes to your mind when you think of KU, Wildcats sophomore center Zach Kendall was asked.
"Well, I mean, a lot," Kendall replied.
Could you be more specific?
"Hate," he said. "For lack of a better word."
Later, asked why he felt Kansas State had the better football program, Kendall said, "Heart. I feel like we have more heart."
The most colorful comments of the day, however, came from Murphy, the Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year and an honorable mention All-American punt returner in 2007.
On his duties as a punt and/or kick returner this week: "I'm taking one to the crib this weekend, that's the bottom line."
On what Kansas can expect from the Wildcats' receivers: "They've got a lot to look forward to out of K-State's receiving corps this weekend."
On what Campbell has been saying about Kansas in the days leading up to this weekend's game: "If all these (microphones) had (bleepers) on them, I'd say the words I want to say. But I don't know, you'd have to ask him."
The Wildcats' passion entering Saturday's game is understandable. A victory over Kansas would be a big step forward in becoming bowl-eligible. The Wildcats need two more victories to do so; Kansas needs one.
And after the Jayhawks' 30-24 victory in Manhattan last year, snapping an eight-game road losing streak against the Wildcats, Kansas State's players admittedly have been eyeing this game for some time.
Immediately after falling, 58-35, to fourth-ranked Oklahoma last weekend, for example, the Wildcats broke their postgame huddle by yelling "Beat KU" in unison. A board in the team's locker room featured a similar message this summer. And the "countdown clock" located in the team's training facility, which counts down the hours until the team's up-coming game, featured a countdown to the KU game throughout the summer.
"We'll just say that the two teams don't like each other," said Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, who, along with Campbell, was a bit more conservative with his comments.