MANHATTAN — Bill Snyder doesn’t know how many Kansas State fans will make the trip to Nashville for the Wildcats’ football game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, but he is sure he will see lots of purple at kickoff.
“If we took 40,000 it wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Snyder said of K-State fans at his weekly news conference.
Snyder can be forgiven for using hyperbole. After all these years coaching the Wildcats he has learned to never underestimate K-State fans, especially when it comes to traveling for road games and bowls.
Unlike “The Price is Right,” there is no penalty for going over with a crowd guess, even when it fails to take into account the capacity of a road venue (Vanderbilt Stadium holds 40,350 fans). So he’s not afraid to aim big, or suggest his favorite tourist destination — The Grand Ole Opry.
“It says an awful lot about the people that support Kansas State University,” Snyder said. “I have always been very, very fond of our fan base ... There are a lot of good venue things to do (in Nashville) and I hope our fans get an opportunity to do them. I think that is why the number might be significantly large, to have the opportunity to tie in some other things. Without a doubt, it is a great fan base.”
K-State athletic officials say it is more realistic to expect somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 purple-clad fans to attend the game.
Not quite, 40,000, but that should be enough to give the game a neutral atmosphere, instead of an intimidating road feel.
“To look up and see that much purple in the stands, it feels good to know they care so much,” K-State center Adam Holtorf said. “They want to travel and see road games that are two or three hours away by plane. They want to see those games. It’s not quite the equivalent of playing at home, but it is pretty close.”
Playing in front of visiting colors will be nothing new for Vanderbilt. The Commodores regularly play in front of split crowds at SEC home games. Last week, an announced crowd of 25,802 showed up for the home opener against Alabama A&M, leaving thousands of empty seats.
At 2-0, the team is off to its best start since 2011. It also owns a four-game winning streak at home. Still, boosting attendance is a challenge.
That means plenty of tickets for K-State fans. The Wildcats have grown accustomed to playing in front of 10,000-plus friendly faces in high-profile away games, and this should be no different.
A large contingent of purple showed up at Stanford for the season-opener last season. A big crowd also traveled to Houston for the Texas Bowl.
“It gives you confidence,” K-State tight end Dayton Valentine said. “You walk into a stadium and sometimes you feel like you are overwhelmed with opposing color. But when you walk into an opposing stadium and you see a ton of purple, you feel the support behind you. You want to go out and put on a show for them and make them proud.”
K-State fell behind early and lost to Stanford, but the visiting K-State fans helped the Wildcats fight until the end of the 26-13 defeat.
“There were times we were kind of down and out, and all of a sudden we made some plays and the crowd got into it,” K-State defensive back Brogan Barry said. “It gets you re-jolted a little bit and makes you think, we can do this.”
It’s a much different environment than K-State finds in road games against Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.
The Wildcats like proving themselves in front of those crowds, but nothing beats seeing and hearing from your fans in a road game. They are looking forward to both in Nashville.
“When we go to Oklahoma they put our fans way up at the top where you can’t hear a thing,” Barry said. “It does make a difference. You can hear that support and energy from your home crowd, even if you are on the road.”