Collin Klein let his talent do the talking with three TDs against Texas. Is it enough for the Heisman?
By SEAN KEELERFS Kansas City
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Collin Klein ducked. And weaved. And scrambled. And spun. And stiff-armed.
His football Saturday night wasn't too bad, either.
"I'm just reeling and absorbing (it)," Klein, Kansas State's senior quarterback said after his No. 6 Wildcats clinched a share of the Big 12 title and a Bowl Championship Series berth with a 42-24 rout of 18th-ranked Texas. "Tonight, again, is about our team."
Still, the inevitable questions were pressed. Any last-minute stamping for the Heisman Trophy? Do you have anything to say to the undecided voters, assuming there are any left?
"No," Klein replied, and firmly. "Tonight is about the K-State family. That's the most important thing."
The talking was done on the field, loudly, in broad, neat strokes. He completed 8-of-14 passes for 184 yards. He ran for 103 more on 23 carries. Klein accounted for three scores, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett at the start of the fourth quarter that gave the hosts a 28-17 lead. This was Klein in ninja mode again, all business.
"I saw him (Friday) night and it was different," Collin's father, Doug, recalled after the game. "Not heavy, but emotional. Definitely emotional."
Whenever Texas zigged, Klein zagged. Whenever the Longhorns stacked the box, Klein challenged them deep. Each burnt orange tackle on the 6-foot-5 signal-caller came with progressively less and less enthusiasm as the night wore on and the fog rolled in.
"He's so big and fast and strong and he's so unselfish," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "I think that's what makes him so special. He's hard to tackle, and if you put everybody in a position to tackle him, he's so accurate with his passing game. And they've got speed on the outside — and that's what makes him such a great player."
Yeah, but a lousy self-promoter.
"I know he'll be in New York," continued Brown, who's coached a Heisman winner in Ricky Williams and two other finalists in Vince Young and Colt McCoy. "And who knows with those voters anymore. Like I said, I've been there four times and (was) disappointed three (times), with really good players."
There's the rub, of course: Klein is a substance guy chasing a trophy won on style points. He didn't squeeze out of tackles in Tuscaloosa like a wet bar of soap. He didn't stalk the line of scrimmage in South Bend like The Grim Reaper. He did what he had to do, in 11 games out of a possible 12.
Pragmatism can win you a lot of games, but it won’t necessarily win you a lot of television love.
No, you can’t take away what happened at Baylor, a three-interception disaster that unfolded at almost the worst possible time, when the spotlight was burning the brightest. If you're going to lose, if you're going to have a bad day, you better not have it after November 5; our collective memories are too short. College football's regular season is beautifully imperfect, and among the most imperfect parts are that we overlook the body of work to focus instead on the failures of the moment.
But you can't take away this anecdote away, either. Perhaps the greatest compliment for Klein came from an official at a rival Big 12 school earlier this fall, after a very typical Klein performance — if the Wildcats faced a third-and-7, he ran for eight. If it was 3rd-and-19, he threw for 20. The numbers weren't eye-popping, but every one of those yards proved, in the big picture, to be critically important.
"He's a good kid, I'm sure," the official said, and we're paraphrasing here, "but I'll be glad to see him go."
Klein wasn't a giant-killer. He was a morale-killer.
"I don't know about everybody else," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder allowed. "I don't know of anybody that means more to this football team than Collin Klein (does)."
You could see it on his last touchdown in Manhattan, a 9-yard score with 1:53 left. K-State was up 35-17 and facing a second-and-goal. Klein took a zone-read play to his right, kept the ball, scraped off a block and galloped into the clear.
The strides were long and graceful. He pumped his fist triumphantly, then waited for his teammates to arrive, jumping high into the waiting arms of tight end Travis Tannahill.
It wasn't highlight reel stuff. Then again, of Klein's 22 rushing scores this fall, precious few of them were. Except for that little, subtle fist pump. The final score at home, on Senior Night. The capper. The closing argument. The last word.
"That's above my pay grade," Klein said as the Heisman questions rained down again. "I'm just enjoying the evening with my teammates, and this is a night for K-State."
Not even a little politicking? Just a little? Something for the cameras?
"This is K-State's night, and that's how it should be, and that's now it needs to be," he replied. "And it's an amazing feeling."
Amazing, yes. Enough to get back in the Heisman catbird seat, we'll see. But judging from the smile on Klein's face, you wonder if he could not care any less.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org