They say the weather is nice in Arizona this time of year.
Kansas State will have the opportunity to find out for itself next month when the sixth-ranked Wildcats travel to Glendale, Ariz., to play in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Wildcats secured the BCS bowl bid and their first Big 12 title in eight years Saturday when they cruised to a 42-24 second-half rout of No. 18 Texas at a sold-out Bill Snyder Family Stadium on senior night.
“I think it’s a moment that I’m going to remember, especially winning the Big 12,” sophomore receiver Tyler Lockett said. “It’s been a while, so just to be able to be in this moment and embrace it… Now we’re going to be able to make history and try to win 12 games.”
K-State rallied behind quarterback Collin Klein, who made a strong closing argument for the Heisman Trophy with 287 total yards and three touchdowns.
Klein was nearly flawless in the second half, completing all four pass attempts for 112 yards and rushing 17 times for another 84 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Lockett on the Wildcats’ first play of the fourth quarter and a 9-yard TD run in the final two minutes to seal the blowout.
“I was so proud of our guys for jumping back on the horse, especially offensively,” Klein said. “We couldn’t establish anything early, we turned the ball over, which still irritates me still to no end. Especially going in, I was just proud that we were able to hang together and fight through and finally gain that push to get us over the hump.”
The Wildcats improved to 11-1 on the season, the most victories since the 2003 season, and defeated the Longhorns for the fifth straight time. No K-State team has ever won 12 games in a season.
“It was great to finish,” Klein said. “We’ve been talking finish all week and Coach (Bill) Snyder talked finishing everything we do from the very beginning, and this was no exception. And being able to finish, especially as a senior in my last game here, it’s quite a memory.”
Saturday was Klein’s last chance to sway the Heisman voters in primetime and he took full advantage, erasing a sluggish first half to finish 8-of-14 passing for 184 yards to go along with 103 yards on the ground.
“I don’t know anyone who means more to their program than Collin Klein,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said.
Texas coach Mack Brown said Klein deserves to be in New York next weekend.
“Collin Klein is a great player, not a good player,” Brown said. “I have watched him for three or four years now and he is so big and unselfish. That’s what makes him so special. He is also hard to tackle, is accurate with his passing game, and that makes him such a great player.
“I know he will be in New York.”
Texas doubled K-State (11-1, 8-1) up in total yards at the half, but only led 10-7 after a 37-yard field goal and 14-yard touchdown pass from Case McCoy to Jaxon Shipley in the second quarter.
Everything changed in the second half, though.
John Hubert, who rushed 14 times for 66 yards, scored a pair of 2-yard rushing touchdowns in the third quarter and added a third in the fourth quarter. His first score put the Wildcats ahead 14-10 10:59 left in the period, capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive he started with a 28-yard rush. Hubert added another TD in the third quarter with 47 seconds left, answering a Texas touchdown to put K-State ahead 21-14.
The junior then capped his night with a 1-yard score that gave the Wildcats a 35-17 lead with three minutes to go.
“It was still a struggle the beginning part of the second half when we kind of went back and forth with a couple of scores” Klein said. “And thankfully we were able to put some drives together and really establish ourselves in the run game — that was huge.”
While everything seemed to be clicking for the Wildcats in the second half, the Longhorns simply fell apart. Texas (8-4, 5-4) turned the ball over twice in the final quarter and missed a field goal. The Longhorns’ first giveaway occurred on a muffed punt return that gave K-State new life, and then other on an interception thrown by McCoy to Bubba Chapman that set up Klein’s final TD of the game. McCoy finished 26 of 34 for 314 yards and two TDs and two interceptions. The sophomore was 9-for-14 for 110 yards in the second half.
“We moved the ball and did some good things in the fourth quarter, but we had two turnovers and missed a field goal and you can’t do those things,” Brown said. “We had to keep matching them and we didn’t do that.”
The Wildcats scored first Saturday on the Klein TD sneak — set up by a 29 — yard interception return by Nigel Malone — but did very little else the rest of the first half. Klein, after starting the game 4-for-6 passing for 72 yards in the first quarter was 0 for 4 in the second quarter.
K-State’s second half was probably the most efficient and explosive this team has been in the past month, including two road games — a 23-10 win at TCU and the disappointing 52-24 loss at Baylor two weeks ago. It came at a perfect time too.
“All the hard work and effort that we put into it, it just shows that with hard work it can take you to places you never thought about,” said Lockett, who had two receptions for 73 yards. “But as long as we believed, we know that we can do whatever.”
The Fiesta Bowl will become official tonight during the BCS Selection Show on ESPN at 7:30. It’ll be the third trip to the Fiesta Bowl for K-State, the first during the 1997 season and the other during the 2003 season when the Wildcats won their first Big 12 title.