Shad Meier can’t forget the Alamo Bowl or the stadium it calls home.
Meier, a former Kansas State tight end, played for the Wildcats when they lost to Purdue in the 1998 game. He then returned to San Antonio in 2005 for three regular-season games with the New Orleans Saints, displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The opposing coach in one of those games was Jim Mora Jr., the current head man at UCLA, which K-State will face Friday.
“It is pretty neat how it is all interconnected,” Meier said by phone from his Nashville home. “It is like a web.”
Meier can tell you about the depressing buildup to the 1998 Alamo Bowl, when K-State was minutes away from clinching a spot in the national championship game until a loss to Texas A&M in double overtime of the Big 12 championship game sent it tumbling down the bowl ranks. He can tell you about Drew Brees guiding Purdue to a 37-34 victory and he can tell you about playing inside the stadium as a NFL player.
He will never forget his first thought upon returning to the Alamodome seven years later: This is where we lost the Alamo Bowl.
“When I found out Kansas State was going back to the Alamo Bowl, I kind of rewound what that whole process was like for us,” Meier said. “How do I say this nicely? It felt like we were playing for a consolation prize that year, because we had such high hopes. No offense to the Alamo Bowl, but for us to downgrade to the Alamo Bowl after we were ready to win the whole thing. … You just kind of shook your head and said, ‘Oh gosh.’
“San Antonio treated us great and the bowl was very hospitable, but from a football standpoint it was just ‘Ugh!’ We struggled.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder understands why Meier focuses on the negatives when he speaks about the Alamo Bowl. Snyder recalls similar memories from K-State’s previous trip to San Antonio.
“It wasn’t just the ballgame, it was all the circumstances that led up to it, losing the conference championship ballgame and kind of falling out of the good graces with the bowl system,” Snyder said. “We came down here to a very fine and very organized and quality bowl, and the ballgame itself was very much like the championship ballgame.
“We jumped out and had a lead going into the fourth quarter and lost it. It was difficult after the loss in the championship ballgame. We were undefeated at the time and it just had an impact on our players. It was hard to recover from.”
K-State players are once again preparing for the Alamo Bowl coming off a loss, a 38-27 setback at Baylor that cost the Wildcats a share of the Big 12 championship. Snyder says there are similarities between the bowl trips, but players seem to have put the Baylor loss well behind them.
They want to win this game. Senior center B.J. Finney says he is motivated to help K-State win back-to-back bowls for the first time in a decade. Senior defensive end Ryan Mueller is driven to finish the season with 10 victories.
Meier doesn’t remember any of those secondary motivations boosting K-State’s morale 16 years ago.
“The way we lost to Texas A&M was so defeating and so debilitating that it took the wind out of our sails,” Meier said. “So much so, that the sails fell down so when the wind picked back up there wasn’t anything else to propel you.”
That showed when K-State failed to score in the opening quarter of that Alamo Bowl and trailed 17-7 at halftime. Then a defensive coach – Meier can’t recall who – vociferously challenged Bishop’s desire in the locker room. The exchange escalated into a scuffle that had to be broken up.
“It was intense,” Meier said. “I was sitting there wide-eyed. After we broke that up, Coach Snyder walks up and says, ‘Well, let’s make our adjustments.’ We were constantly behind the 8-ball with that game. We were never in control.”
Still, K-State would have won if not for Brees, then an unknown quarterback, guiding Purdue on a game-winning drive in the final minute.
The loss stayed with Meier until he returned to the Alamodome with the Saints in 2005, but a hectic season quickly changed his focus. The Saints played home games in three cities that year, so players scrambled to make San Antonio a temporary base.
New Orleans players spent time lifting at a Gold’s Gym, getting to and from meetings in different buildings on skateboards and living in hotels.
The Saints won their first game at the Alamodome, beating the Buffalo Bills 19-7 and lost to Mora’s Atlanta Falcons 34-31 and the Detroit Lions 13-12. All three games were played in front of more than 58,000 fans.
“They were a mess to prepare for, but those games were really exciting,” Meier said. “This city never had a pro (football) team and was always surrounded by Cowboys this, Cowboys that. They had a taste of pro football in their hometown and they treated us like their team. It was really cool to see the community support a team that didn’t have a home.”
Meier grew to appreciate the Alamodome afterward, but his thoughts on the Alamo Bowl are unchanged.
Perhaps that will change later this week when he watches K-State meet UCLA on TV.
“On a selfish level, I would love to see K-State win this Alamo Bowl,” Meier said. “I want to see the purple finally capture that win and replace some of those old memories.”