MANHATTAN, Kan. — The good news is that whatever it was, based on the grins Collin Klein flashed for the television cameras late Saturday night, it couldn’t have been too serious. Beyond that, speculate away. When it comes to discussing injuries, Bill Snyder makes Bill Belichick look like Perez Hilton.
Klein, the Heisman Trophy front-runner, missed the last quarter-and-a-half of No. 2 Kansas State’s 44-30 win over No. 24 Oklahoma State with an undisclosed malady. Then he wasn’t made available to the press during the usual postgame repartee at the Vanier Football Complex. His teammates were. We asked around.
“I can’t tell you that. I’m sorry,” the Wildcats’ placekicker said.
“I have no idea. I don’t know what happened, what’s going on with that,” the Wildcats’ running back said.
“I have no idea. You’d have to ask coach,” the Wildcats’ center said.
“We took him out to get Daniel Sams some experience,” Bill Snyder deadpanned, as only Bill Snyder can. “You’re not buying that one?”
“Obviously he was injured or we wouldn’t have taken him out,” the coach continued.
Arm? Wrist? Head? None of the above?
Snyder allowed that Klein was hurt on a pass play, but that was as far as it went.
Survive and advance.
It’s hard to imagine Klein being removed from a reasonably competitive contest — the Wildcats led 38-20 at the time, but the Cowboys were still slinging the rock around the yard — with a condition that didn’t also raise a bunch of red flags.
The K-State signal-caller is 6-foot-5, 226 pounds and runs like a young Eddie George. The guy takes more licks, week after week, than a Tootsie Pop. But he dusts himself off, time and again, and happily returns to playing the role of crash-test dummy.
But after a while, the dents start to accumulate. Because he’s so big, so quick, so smart, so preposterously gifted, it’s taken for granted that he’ll just get right back up. He’ll always get right back up, you tell yourself.
Thus, the conundrum, the balancing act: This offense isn’t the same without Klein under center, yet Snyder can’t afford to lose him for the long term. This is the stretch drive, college football’s Chase for the Cup, with a January bowl date looming on the other side of the tunnel. When you’re 9-0, the noose in November gets tighter by the week. Was Klein’s removal precautionary? Or strategic?
Survive and advance.
“I’m proud of our guys because I think they’ve held up under the pressure,” Snyder said, “because it increases as you go on.”
It’s not going away, either, which is why K-State needs its steadiest hands on the wheel. Sams is a nimble redshirt freshman with all kind of upside. His time is coming. Klein’s time is right here. Right now.
The QB’s last play was a very typical Klein play, a 1-yard dive over the goal line, a plunge that gave the hosts a 37-17 lead with 9:47 left in the third quarter. It was his 17th carry and 64th rushing yard, the icing on a cake of 16 completions on 22 attempts.
Maybe it was one crash too many. Maybe it was something else.
“Whenever your best player goes down, there’s always a little bit of, ‘Oh, no, what’s going to happen now?’ ” Cantele said. “But Daniel Sams is a great quarterback, and we didn’t have any worries about what was going to happen there.”
No, it’s what’s going to happen in the future that worries K-State fans. Cantele knows, but he’s not telling.
“(He) was just like, ‘Hey, we got this,’ and ‘Good win,’ and ‘We just need to start to focus on the next one,’ ” the kicker said of Klein. “Same things he always says. He was his normal self.”