Thursday, October 8, 2015

Klein takes lead in race for Heisman

As expected, Kansas State’s Collin Klein has taken over the top spot in the majority of national publication’s Heisman watch lists.

The senior quarterback dazzled last Saturday in the Wildcats’ 55-14 victory at West Virginia, passing for a career-high 323 yards and scoring seven total touchdowns — three passing and four rushing.

Sports Illustrated has Klein No. 1, followed by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is No. 4 and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith dropped from the top spot to No. 5 after his head-to-head matchup with Klein.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has Klein No. 1 as well. The Sporting News says Klein is in the driver’s seat, ahead of Miller and McCarron. Te’o is No. 4 and Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege is No. 5. Smith disappeared, much like his game on Saturday night in Morgantown, W.Va., when he passed for 143 yards and threw two interceptions in the second straight blowout loss for the Mountaineers.

“West Virginia is a great team and Geno Smith is a great quarterback,” Klein said Saturday after ripping apart West Virginia’s defense. “But its what we’ve been talking about this whole time — it’s about team. It’s not me versus ‘this person.’ It’s everybody versus everybody.”

That is true, but voters have clearly spoken — through seven games — after watching Klein’s near-flawless game in the convincing win over Smith, the season’s perceived frontrunner until now.

“That’s not something I can control,” Klein said of the Heisman race. “It’s all about trying to be the best I can possibly be with what God has given me to do… The chips will fall where they will at the end of the day.”

FOX play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, who called last Saturday’s game in Morgantown, has his pick for the Heisman.

“If I had a vote, at this point in the season, he would get mine,” Johnson said Monday during an interview with The Mercury. “Some of the passes he threw last week were just brilliantly thrown balls. That pass he threw to (Tyler) Lockett on that touchdown in the corner — not a lot of quarterbacks can make that throw.”

The closest K-State has been to having a Heisman Trophy winner was in 1998 when quarterback Michael Bishop finished second to Texas running back Ricky Williams.

That year was also the closest K-State has been to playing for a national championship, having its undefeated season derailed when it lost to Texas A&M in the Big 12 title game.

Now, the Wildcats — with another Heisman trophy candidate at QB — are on the same path as the 1998 team, trying to take this program to a place it’s never been before.

“This guy, this team — this is America,” said Johnson, who will be making his first trip to Manhattan this Saturday to call the Texas Tech game. “They are America. They are as much America as you’ll see from a college squad. Hard working kids that are humble and are coached by a man that tries to bring no attention to himself. Just like the farmers in Kansas — (Bill Snyder) gets up early and goes home late and wants to get better everyday.”

These next five games won’t be easy for K-State, which is ranked No. 3 in the BCS at 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12. The Wildcats have two straight home games against Tech and Oklahoma State, followed by big road trips to TCU and Baylor, before closing out the season at home against Texas.

Klein, who was 19-of-21 passing against West Virginia last weekend, said it’s important for the Wildcats to have an edge in these final six weeks, but that it’s important for it to be a controlled edge when it comes to keeping the team focused on the goal.

“You definitely have to have a competitive edge of focus, toughness and being locked to what you’re trying to do,” he said.

“But you also need to have a calm, like you know, ‘we’re going to give it our best, this is how we’re going to do it, and we’re going to hang together regardless of what happens.’”

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