MANHATTAN, Kan. — There were fewer than 1,000 fans in Bill Snyder Family Stadium with 55 minutes remaining before kickoff Saturday.

You wonder, then, if Kansas State student Travis Bender was re-thinking his decision to wait outside for 2½ hours in 35-degree weather before the gates opened.

At least he and his buddies had front-row seats.

Then again, there were front-row seats open in the student section the entire game.

“I’m going to support my team,” Bender said. “Even if they lose today, I’ll come to the Iowa State game.”

Things aren’t going well in the Little Apple. The football team is miserable — worse than I’d anticipated.

Bender knows this. It’s why he and other K-State students celebrated coach Ron Prince’s firing Nov. 5 by — what else? — partying.

“People were just so happy he got fired,” K-State student Tim Becker said. “Just a regular college party — music, girls and beverages.”

Uh, wasn’t that on a Wednesday?

“Yeah.”

The festivities lasted until 3 a.m., Becker said.

“There weren’t many people in class on Thursday.”

And there weren’t many in the stands, either. Most of Section 28 (the north end of the student section) was empty, and other sections were nearly that way after halftime.

Other K-State fans followed suit, and by the midway point of the fourth quarter, chants of “Go Big Red!” were echoing throughout the three-fourths-empty stadium, while the Nebraska marching band blared away.

How 1980s-ish was this scene? Tom Osborne was intently poring over a stat sheet outside the Nebraska locker room, no doubt taking joy in the 340 rushing yards.

Things weren’t so joyful on the other side.

“I’m hoping Snyder comes back,” Becker said, referring to legendary coach Bill Snyder, who watched Saturday’s massacre from the press box.

(Then again, K-State fans couldn’t sell out this stadium — the one named after Snyder — for his final home game as coach in 2005).

Still, it’s clear a change is needed. It’s very reminiscent of what transpired in Lincoln last year.

“We needed to get somebody else in here,” Bender said. “My personal take is we’ve had (Prince) quite a while, and I think we overpaid him to begin with.”

Why didn’t Prince work out?

“He doesn’t make good choices,” Bender said. “He doesn’t substitute at the right time. He can’t get them turned around. If they start losing, they won’t come back. He doesn’t have any motivational talent.

“When you see the teams come out, like when Nebraska comes out, they’re getting all fired up. Our team just kind of comes out and walks onto the field. There’s no excitement.”

But Bender, a true K-State fan, vows to sit through this mess one more game. For that, he deserves another party.

Going deep

* Nebraska’s bowl situation didn’t get much clearer after Notre Dame’s victory against Navy, but Sun Bowl representatives were watching Nebraska for a second straight week.

* With only seven Big 12 teams that will be bowl-eligible, we can eliminate the Texas Bowl from the list, and for Nebraska’s purposes, the Independence Bowl, too.

* We’re happy to hear U.S. 77 has finally re-opened, but will the K-State faithful still put out those nice signs telling Nebraskans which way to turn?

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com.