K-State's Klein grabs national spotlight after upset

09/23/2012 3:56 PM

09/23/2012 4:28 PM

The national spotlight was shining on Collin Klein brighter than it ever has in the aftermath of Kansas State’s 24-19 victory over then-No. 6 Oklahoma at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but the senior quarterback didn’t notice.

He acted the same way he does after every game.

Even though the day began with ESPN devoting a feature to him on “College Gameday” and ended with national media mentioning him as a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy, he stuck to his humble demeanor.

“There were some differences obviously, some new things,” Klein said about the wild day. “But coach always talks about keeping the game between the white lines and focus on what we need to do win. Our coaches, credit them, they prepped us very, very well for this game.”

But Klein led K-State’s offense when it mattered most. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 149 yards, rushed for 79 yards and scored a touchdown to push the Wildcats up eight spots to No. 7 in Sunday’s Associated Press Top 25, their highest national ranking since 2003.

Klein is now 14-3 since taking over as the full-time starter at the beginning of last year, and whatever doubters he had before the season began are disappearing by the day.

When K-State football coach Bill Snyder was asked to describe the ways in which Klein has improved as a passer in the past year on Saturday night, he rolled his eyes.

Klein is completing 70 percent of his passes, up from 57 percent as a junior, and has thrown for 758 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 289 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

“I don’t really recollect that he was a bad passer a year ago,” Snyder said. “People keep saying this to me. Everybody gets a little better when they invest themselves in getting better. He’s a better manager of the game because he has invested more time. He’s a better runner because he’s invested more time. He’s a better passer Collin has improved his ball game.”

Not long after Snyder said his piece, senior receiver Chris Harper chimed in.

“People need to quit being surprised by Collin,” Harper said. “Collin is Collin. He’s got these nicknames and they’re all true – Honey Badger, Optimus Klein – whatever you want to call him, it’s all true because he’s all of that. He can do whatever he wants to do.

“If he wants to play for K-State basketball and go out there and start, he could do that. People who doubt him, just accept what he is. He’s a great athlete.”

Klein had proven that much before K-State beat Oklahoma. He has been considered an under-the-radar candidate for national awards all season.

He still trails Heisman front-runners Geno Smith, Braxton Miller and De’Anthony Thomas in terms of eye-popping stats, but as long as he continues making big plays and the Wildcats stay undefeated he will remain in the conversation for college football’s biggest honor.

With a bye week coming up and Kansas coming to Manhattan on Oct. 6, that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

He might not acknowledge it, but winning at Oklahoma changed the way some people look at Klein.

“It’s a big step, a big win,” Klein said. “Credit a lot of players across the board, we were just able to get enough to get the job done.”

Oregon new No. 2 – Oregon has slipped past LSU to No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 behind Alabama after the Ducks rolled to a victory and the Tigers struggled to remain unbeaten.

Oregon routed Arizona 49-0 on Saturday night in Eugene. No. 3 LSU hung on to win at Auburn 12-10.

Florida State remained No. 4 after its 49-37 victory against Clemson, and Georgia held steady at No. 5. No. 6 South Carolina gives the Southeastern Conference four of the top six teams in the nation.

Alabama got 59 of 60 first-place votes from the media panel, with LSU receiving the other.

Oklahoma dropped from sixth to 16th after a 24-19 loss to Kansas State.

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