With blood-soaked bandages on his elbows, and the half-dirt field of Sun Life Stadium staining his white jersey, Collin Klein led Kansas State to a win in Miami last season with a gritty performance.
With less than 13 minutes to play in the 2011 contest, Klein delivered a picture-perfect option pitch to John Hubert, who exploded for a 47-yard run to the Miami 24, setting up the go-ahead touchdown.
This time around, the Hurricanes are coming to Manhattan, and coming off a week when they allowed Boston College to throw for 441 yards.
Klein threw for 169 yards in last Saturday’s season opening win over Missouri State, but does Boston College’s performance mean the Wildcats could be spreading it out this weekend?
“I think it was 1806 the last time we threw for 441 yards,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “My guess is that Boston College presented a variety of different schemes that Miami perhaps did not expect. Boston College is a big movement team, lot of shifting, and motion that created some problems that caused some missed assignments by Miami, which is probably what manifested all of that.”
Josh Freeman was the last quarterback to eclipse the 400-yard mark, passing for 478 against Oklahoma in the 2008 season, still only the second best passing performance in K-State history. Chad May threw for 489 in 1993, and Michael Bishop matched the 441 number put up by Boston College during the 1998 season against Louisiana-Monroe.
Klein, whose career-high passing mark is 281 yards against Texas A&M last season, expects Miami to be adjusted to the pass.
“We’re just going to put in the gameplan as the week goes along and do what we got to do,” he said. “(Miami) sees that too and they are working on correcting, and working on some things. We’re just focused on the game, getting ourselves better and trying to improve, and come out with a win on Saturday.”
Despite the 51-9 win over Missouri State last Saturday, Klein came away from the game feeling far from perfect. The K-State quarterback said he and wide receiver Chris Harper had two moments of miscommunication on key third down plays, and he under threw Tyler Lockett on a post route through the middle of the field — a would-be touchdown.
Even though they allowed 441 yards through the air last week, the Hurricanes will present a faster group of players in the secondary, and a far different challenge than the one the Bears brought K-State on Sept. 1.
Miami will also add in a large, quick group of defensive linemen up front, giving Klein and the offense little time to set up the run or the pass.
“Defensively, they are a big movement team, so you see a lot of movement out of their front and blitzes from anybody and everybody that they have in the first 11,” Snyder said. “That is always an issue. For a defense, it can be hit or miss. For most people, for us included, sometimes you roll the dice and it could be 50-50 in what the outcome could be.”
Klein said picking up blocking assignments becomes as important as ever against a defense like Miami’s.
“They’re a very athletic team, they really hustle around and make a lot of plays,” he said. “We’re going to have to be disciplined, staying on blocks, finish blocks, be safe with the ball — obviously we can’t turn it over — just be consistent and try to be better than we were last week.”
Klein finished with 124 yards rushing and 133 yards passing with three total touchdowns in last year’s win over the Hurricanes, seemingly willing the offense down the field in each scoring drive.
The performance left an impact on Miami coach Al Golden.
“I think it would be hard to find a better quarterback in the country, someone as smart, durable as he is, somebody that has all the attributes, physical attributes, then couple that with his intelligence and leadership,” Golden said. “Clearly he’s smart, tough, can throw the ball, can run it. It would be hard to find a better quarterback than Collin Klein.”
For some, K-State’s win over Miami last season was looked at as a turning point for the program towards returning to national prominence among the top 25. But neither Snyder nor Klein sees it in quite that way.
In the long run, it might have been more about the progression of the team than a turning point. And for Klein, the way the team handled itself in the weeks after the win over Miami is something he hopes it can continue.
“I think it was another step,” he said. “I think that was one thing of last year’s team that we want to be consistent with this year from the standpoint of, you’ve got to move on, regardless of whether it was a negative step or a positive step. You’ve got to leave it behind you and move on, otherwise something good happening in the past can trip you up in the future.”
Miami will mark the highest profile non-conference opponent to visit Manhattan since USC came in 2002, a 27-20 win for the Wildcats.
Klein said he hopes the K-State fans make it one to remember.
“It’s an exciting game, they’re a very good team,” he said with a wry smile. “(Let’s) show them a little Manhattan hospitality.”