MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WIBW) - Kansas State's defense has a tough task defending Navy's nation-leading triple-option attack. But really, this entire AutoZone Liberty Bowl matchup is unique.
Kansas State prepares for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Navy.
It's the first time Kansas State has faced a Service Academy since 1987 and the first ever the Wildcats have played Navy. And when you talk to these KSU players, they really respect what the guys on the other side of the field tomorrow go through on a daily basis.
"The type of people to go to the Naval Academy, you have to be able to think of the type of people they are." KSU safety Denzel Goolsby said. "They're going to be extremely tough, extremely disciplined people. It's an honor, really, to go against guys like that."
And perhaps no one knows them better than K-State Athletics Director Gene Taylor. He worked in the Navy Athletic Department for 15 years.
"What they do while they're at the Academy and what they do once they graduate, it's pretty unique." KSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor said. "And when those seniors walk off the field, they're going to do a lot of different things in terms of protecting our country. And when you understand that, it really means a lot."
Maybe not as much as what finding this matchup out meant to Tami and Bob Campbell.
"I felt very conflicted. But I plan to cheer for both teams." Tami Campbell said.
Tami played volleyball at K-State and her daughter played the same sport at Navy for two years. So, the Campbells know firsthand what it's like to balance service and sports.
"Their schedule is basically 18 hours a day." Bob Campbell said. "It's a tremendous academic challenge. And then again, when you add the ability to play a varsity sport at the division one level, it's definitely intense and the expectations are very incredible."
It's and incredible pageantry playing a Service Academy. Something Taylor wants the Wildcats to cherish.
"Win or lose, they play their alma mater and they all get together and sing that." Taylor said. "To be a part of that is kind of cool. And I hope our team will be out there for the alma mater, win or lose. Because it means a lot to those kids."
Kickoff between these two teams will be at 2:45 pm on December 31st on ESPN.
Coverage of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl is brought to you by Ed Bozarth.