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Collin Klein gets back to work at Kansas State

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at 3:02 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, at 3:21 p.m.

— The last week had to feel strange for Collin Klein.

For three straight days, the Kansas State senior quarterback was in the national spotlight. He traveled the East Coast, attending award presentations in three cities, meeting new people and speaking in front of ESPN cameras. Then the Heisman Trophy ceremony ended and the whirlwind tour was over.

On Sunday, he slept in his own bed. On Monday, he was at the K-State football complex, trying to get reacquainted with his practice routine.

It was a drastic change, but he was ready for it.

Before leaving New York, he said he was looking forward to his next, and final, challenge as a K-State football player — beating Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

“No doubt about it,” said Klein, named second-team All-America quarterback by the Associated Press on Tuesday. “We haven’t had a team since I’ve been here that has won a bowl game. Being able to finish strong is important to us.”

Klein is 0-2 in bowl games. K-State lost to Syracuse 36-34 in the Pinstripe Bowl when he was a sophomore. Then Arkansas beat K-State 29-16 in last season’s Cotton Bowl.

The Pinstripe Bowl loss could hardly be blamed on Klein. Former quarterback Carson Coffman threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns as the starting quarterback, and almost finished off a dramatic comeback victory until Adrian Hilburn was slapped with a controversial excessive celebration penalty that forced the Wildcats to attempt a possible game-tying two-point conversion from the 18-yard line.

He played a larger role in the Cotton Bowl, but the Razorbacks led from start to finish while he completed 16 of 30 passes for 173 yards.

Klein often thinks back to both games, wondering what went wrong.

“We were well prepared for both games,” Klein said. “We just didn’t execute. What causes that? Who knows?”

K-State players will try to find out as they attempt to end the program’s recent bowl slump. The Wildcats have lost four straight bowl games since beating Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. Snyder has lost three in a row to fall to 6-7 overall in bowl games.

Klein hopes to even his coach’s postseason record with a month of hard work.

“We call it winter camp,” Klein said. “I appreciate it even though it isn’t easy. Younger guys will get some reps, but we are grinding at it all the time starting Monday. I don’t know if it is just like camp, but it is a grind. It’s long hours. We are going to prepare hard.”

Intense practices may also help Klein beyond the bowl game. Though Klein isn’t projected as a coveted NFL quarterback, he is a potential draft pick after guiding K-State to a 21-4 record as a full-time starter.

He hasn’t said much about his professional plans this year, but before the Heisman ceremony said he wants to continue playing the game he loves.

“That’s the next step,” Klein said. “We are going to attack it and see what happens.”

Some have suggested it might take a position change for Klein to land on a NFL roster, but Klein isn’t thinking that way.

“I know I can do it,” Klein said. “It’s going to take some work, but I’m just trying to get better and be the best I can be. If I keep doing that and keep improving I will be fine.”

Until then, he will work at improving as a team captain for K-State.

That means his No. 1 goal is winning the Fiesta Bowl. But if that wasn’t motivation enough, one more victory will make this the first K-State team to win 12 games. The Wildcats have a chance to be the most successful team in program history.

That’s something that would motivate anyone. Even someone coming off a tour of award shows.

“We are always talking about trying to improve and that would be measurable improvement for everyone in our program,” Klein said. “That is what it’s all about. The opportunity is there.”

Check Kellis Robinett’s K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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