Klein quietly leading Wildcats to breakthrough year

Michael Morton

Just like the Kansas State Wildcats who he leads on offense, Collin Klein has flown under the college
football radar.

The 6-foot-5 wide receiver turned quarterback from Loveland, Co., isn’t going to be confused with Landry Jones or Robert Griffin III, but his balance of consistent passing and strong running numbers has helped put the Wildcats on top of the Big 12 standings.

“He’s made tremendous strides in regards to his leadership of our football team,” said Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder of Klein this summer. “He’s a very intelligent young guy and grasps concepts well. He’s just grown and grown and grown in his understanding of the offense and how to have dominant control of
our offense.”

Although completing less than 58 percent of his passes and throwing for an average of fewer than 120 yards per game, Klein has managed to lead the Wildcats — who were ranked number eight in the media’s preseason Big 12 football poll — to their first 5-0 start since 2000 and a No. 17 spot in the latest Associated Press poll.

Compiling more rushing attempts (115 for 468 yards) than passing attempts (101), the junior Klein has mobility and moderate speed to power the Kansas State offense along with sophomore running back and Waco native John Hubert.

“He has had his ups and downs throughout the course of the year, but he has been very competitive and has shown a tremendous amount of leadership and toughness,” Snyder said. “He is a guy who makes it important to enhance his game and become a better player week in and week out. As long as he is doing that, I am confident he will continue to improve.”

Utilized mostly as a running, change-of-pace quarterback for the Wildcats in 2010, Klein played in 10 games attempting only 18 passes for 138 yards and rushing for 486 yards — becoming Kansas State’s second leading rusher.

Despite his limited play, Klein won his first collegiate start when he rushed 25 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 39-14 victory over Texas — setting a school record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in their first career start.

“Last year was pretty unique situation,” Klein said. “It was a good opportunity to get game reps and I just tried to take advantage of that opportunity the best that I could.”

Klein, who appeared in each of Kansas State’s games during the 2009 season as a wide receiver or on special teams, has used last season’s experience to lead the Wildcats to fourth-quarter comebacks against Miami and then-ranked No. 15 Baylor.

However, things have not been all smooth sailing for Klein and the Wildcats who have blown double-digit leads against Miami and most recently Missouri, a game in which Klein rushed for a career-high
three touchdowns.

“We are leaving a lot out on the table, which is good and bad,” Klein said after the win over Missouri. “The bad part is that we are still making some mistakes which is unacceptable and needs to
be corrected.”

Leaving a lot on the table has caused Klein and Kansas State to not only fly under the Big 12 and college football radar but also to remain considered the underdogs against unranked and lower-ranked opponents.

Klein and the Wildcats are once again listed as the underdog this weekend as they face unranked Texas Tech in Lubbock. With the Red Raiders averaging more than 524 yards of total offense per game, which ranks seventh nationally, Klein can’t leave much on the table if Kansas State aims to remain unbeaten.

“There is more out there we can do on offense,” Klein said. “We cannot grow weary right now.”