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K-State, Oregon race close to Harper

By Joshua Kinder

Though nobody seems to doubt Alabama’s worthiness of the BCS top spot, No. 2 through 4 looks like it could be a game of musical chairs every week between Florida, Kansas State and Oregon.

On Sunday, the Wildcats leapfrogged the Ducks in the standings to No. 3 after their convincing win at West Virginia, much to the satisfaction of Chris Harper.

Obviously Harper wants the Wildcats to continue climbing up the standings, but the jump of the Ducks was especially sweet considering he transferred to K-State from Oregon three years ago.

The Wichita native, who has 25 receptions for 354 yards to lead the Wildcats this season, played as a true freshman at Oregon. He played his first five games at quarterback before switching to receiver. In fact, during the 2008 season, Harper became the first Duck to pass, rush and catch a touchdown in the same season.

But on Sunday, all Harper could do was smile.

“I talk to some of the players,” he said Tuesday. “I talked to Kenjon (Barner) — that’s who I talk to most. He just said, ‘Congrats.’ It’s a little trash talking, but its just fun stuff. It’s nothing serious.”

That trash talking came close to becoming a lot more serious though this year when the Wildcats were scheduled to play at Oregon to open the season. That is, before K-State coach Bill Snyder nixed the two-game series two years ago.

Had the Ducks and Wildcats played at the beginning of the season, there’s no doubt the national championship landscape race could look a lot different right now.

“I was real mad about that, but I don’t control the schedule,” said. Harper, who had six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown last Saturday in Morgantown. “If I controlled it, we’d play everybody — Alabama, Oregon. We’d be independent and play whoever is in the top 10.”

While the 6-foot-1, 226-pound Harper lacks no confidence in his team, the senior does have some insight to what the Ducks do and how they do it.

He said his former team is more modern offensively, while his Cats are more of a throwback and more balanced in their approach. The Ducks run a wild, high-scoring, high-octane offense focused on doing everything fast. K-State, on the other hand, just does things differently —starting at practice.

“They’re the program for the modern age right now — the out-of-the-world, alien-uniform-looking things,” he said. “The spread offense, they throw it around, run no-huddle and try to get a play off every second.

“We’re a throwback team, a more balanced team. We have stuff from back with Coach Snyder and Joe Paterno first got into coaching, to now. We can do both things. That’s what sets us apart.”

Harper, who originally committed to K-State, but eventually switched to Oregon, said K-State is more focused on playing tough and disciplined.

“It’s not that they aren’t — but we put so much emphasis into it in the way we practice,” he said. “The way they practice is just like the way they play — its high-paced, fast and get out.

“We grind it out at practice. We condition and I don’t remember conditioning out there. The practice was conditioning. You play that fast and do that for an hour and a half, you’re going to be done. But we still run sprints. I talk to guys at other schools who run the spread, and they’re like, ‘running? We don’t do running, what is that?’ That’s what sets the two programs apart.”

For now, you’ll just have to take his word for it. But if Harper had his way, he would get that matchup with Oregon this season after all and find out for sure — in the national championship game.

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