MANHATTAN — Three weeks ago, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, and K-State’s first loss, changed that.
So, how does that affect the Wildcats headed into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Texas (8-3, 5-3 Big 12)?
If you listen to the principal characters, not one bit.
“It’s there, but again, at this point it still doesn’t matter ... it’s insignificant from where we’re at as a team and what we’ve got on our plate this week,” Klein said. “Like I’ve said before, it’s hard to get away from that stuff with social media and everything around, but I do the best I possibly can ... we do the best I possibly can to stay focused on what we’re doing this week and go from there.
“All that after-the-season stuff will take care of itself.”
Klein’s less-than-stellar performances in the Wildcats’ last two games — a 23-10 win at TCU and a 52-24 loss at Baylor after K-State moved up to No. 1 in the BCS standings — contributed as much to his fall-off from Heisman favorite as Manziel’s big games in wins over No. 1 Alabama, Sam Houston State and Missouri.
Against the Horned Frogs, Klein passed for 145 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 50 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Against Baylor, the bottom fell out in the Wildcats’ first loss. Klein’s threw for 286 yards, two touchdowns and a season-high three interceptions. Running the ball — once Klein’s forte — was even less effective as he rushed for 39 yards on 17 carries.
In that same stretch, Manziel threw for 892 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for 259 yards and four touchdowns. The Aggies are 10-2 and Manziel’s 4,600 yards of total offense are an SEC record. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te‘o is also considered a top-three candidate for the prize along with Klein and Manziel, but the Irish have already finished the regular season and will play for the BCS title on Jan. 7 in Miami.
“We definitely need to get back on track,” Klein said. “The last two performances haven’t been stellar so there’s a lot of motivation. Texas is a very good team with very fine athletes that run around and get to the football.”
Even with Manziel as the favorite, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Klein to make it a race again with a huge game against Texas in front of a national audience — also Klein’s final home game for No. 7 K-State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12). The Wildcats can clinch their first Big 12 title since 2003 and a Fiesta Bowl bid.
“I really haven’t had time to think back, or wanted to,” Klein said. “It’s like something that my dad has always said to me and that Coach (Bill) Snyder has said to me ... you do the best you can and think about that, not about what you want to accomplish.”
Snyder qualified his response when asked if he thought at all about Klein’s Heisman hopes when game-planning for Texas.
“No, I don’t,” Snyder said. “But that doesn’t reflect my feelings toward Collin. I would love for him to play extremely well, but I’m like Collin in that I want him to play well for his team and provide them the opportunity to be successful. That’s one of the things that makes him such a significant and wonderful young guy is that he cares about other things than himself.
“He’d like to win (the Heisman), I’m sure, but we all know that’s in somebody else’s hands.”