Football Friday: Tre Walker, John Hubert, a schedule switch and Bill Snyder in a visor

Kansas State takes on Massachusetts at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

That means it’s time for another Football Friday.

The Wildcats are favored by 39 and should win easy. They will play two quarterbacks. Backups should see time in the second half.

That’s all the introduction we need. Let’s get to your questions:


Many have second-guessed the timing of the North Dakota State game. Looking back, I’m sure K-State would have preferred to open with someone else. The Bison, despite their affiliation with the FCS, were the strongest nonconference opponent on K-State’s schedule. UMass would have been a much softer opening opponent. In an ideal world, K-State would have switched those games and be preparing to face North Dakota State as we speak. But those dates are planned years in advance. That being said, I think the Wildcats would probably beat the Bison if they played now. They generally start slow (barely beating Eastern Kentucky and UMass in past openers) and improve with each week. But it would still be a difficult game. North Dakota State is a fine football team that out-played K-State three weeks ago. One computer poll ranked it 35th at the end of last season, and a senior-laden roster returned. That team is dangerous. It would have been a competitive game regardless of when it was played.
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Collin Klein impresses Texans coach Gary Kubiak, but doesn’t get contract


The way Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak praised Collin Klein over the weekend, it sounded like the former Kansas State quarterback was on his way to signing a free-agent contract with the NFL team.

“I tell you what, it was impressive,” Kubiak told reporters when asked about Klein’s weekend performance. “I’m fixing to go up and have a long talk with him. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but to watch how far the guy came in two and a half days; (he) really played probably his best day out here today. He’s found a way his whole career, and he’s probably going to find a way this time, too.”

Klein will have to find a way with another NFL team, as it turns out. The Texans didn’t offer Klein a contract, and he left Houston still in search of a NFL home.

Those who watched the Texans’ rookie camp indicated Klein got off to a slow start, but showed rapid improvement.

“He’s got a ton (of talent),” Kubiak said. “For what he did in college and what Jake (Plummer) has been doing with him, he’s come a long way, as far as working under center and stuff. The arm strength is there. The delivery is a little different but you work with that. But his instincts as a football player you can’t coach; the way he just takes off and stuff like that.”
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Kyle Klein impressing coaches during bowl practices

Throughout his time at Kansas State, Kyle Klein has been known best as Collin’s younger brother.

That may always be the case, but Klein will be able to make a name for himself starting next year. Older brother will be gone, pursuing a career in the NFL. Klein will be a sophomore receiver, pursuing a starting spot.

With only Chris Harper and Zach McFall leaving the program, he will face strong competition. But he will be in the mix for playing time behind Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson along with Curry Sexton, Torell Miller, and Deante Burton.

Klein saw playing time this season, but didn’t receive many targets. He didn’t catch a single pass.

At the least, that will change next season. Klein was still adjusting to the position this season. Since joining the K-State program, he has spent time at defensive end, tight end and receiver. He played practically every position, including quarterback, for his high school football team and prides himself on being versatile. Still, he needed time to fully grasp K-State’s offense as a receiver.

Now that he feels more comfortable, his coaches are expecting big things.

“He is having a great bowl prep,” co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel said. “He is really starting to make some strides. I’m paying a lot of attention to what the young guys are doing. Kyle has made a lot of nice plays. He’s just like Collin. He is learning how to play his position. He is getting a lot better. He brings length to that position. We want to throw the ball downfield and he allows us to do that.”
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Dana Dimel Q&A

Dana Dimel has one of the most interesting backgrounds of anyone on Kansas State’s coaching staff. The co-offensive coordinator, who also oversees running backs and tight ends, is just about to finish his fourth straight season at the helm of K-State’s offense.

Before that, though, he was a head coach at Wyoming and Houston and the associate head coach at Arizona. He is a K-State grad and got his coaching start with the Wildcats, originally serving as a graduate assistant and becoming offensive coordinator in 1995. He was with Bill Snyder at the start of his first successful run at K-State and came back for his second.

He has coached a Heisman Trophy finalist (Collin Klein), he has helped K-State reach two Cotton Bowls (1997 and 2012), he is about to coach in the Fiesta Bowl and he recruited Rob Gronkowski. He went 22-13 in three years at Wyoming. He went 0-11 in his second year at Houston and only lasted three seasons with the Cougars.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, interesting.

On Sunday, at a Fiesta Bowl news conference, he talked about his background, his dream of following Snyder as K-State’s head coach, the Wildcats’ 11-win season and the upcoming game against Oregon.

What does it mean to you, personally, to be part of K-State’s recent success?

It’s been very nice. Nice personally to be back with my family, back at Kansas State, where I went to school. To be around the community, where I know so many people, to see them as they raise their families, it’s home for me. I’ve spent 16 years of my life in Manhattan, Kansas. More than any place else.

Do you want to be a head coach again?

Sure, yeah, absolutely. That is always important for people to want to do that. I have been there and done it a couple times. I enjoyed it and want the challenge again. I always learned to be a good head coach you have to be good at what you are doing right now. So I don’t think about that. I just try to be the best running backs, tight end, fullback coach and offensive coordinator that I can be.

Do people around campus ever talk to you about the possibility of being the head coach at Kansas State?

Sure, absolutely. But it’s just something you don’t talk about that much. Obviously that would be a goal of mine. That is something I would want to happen, and hopefully someday it does happen. But right now let’s just do the best at what we are doing right now. To answer your question very candidly, though, yes — of course.

So that’s a dream of yours?

Sure.

You want to take over the program when Snyder steps down?

Sure. Absolutely. I think it would be a challenge, but obviously I understand the inner workings of this program. I saw coach come in when we weren’t very successful. So I’ve seen what can make K-State not successful. I’ve been around for the losing years. I’ve also been around here during the transition and around for the positive years. I have seen the whole gambit of what K-State football is about. I have a great understanding of what it takes to win here, but also what not to do here.
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Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Extra practices allow Daniel Sams to focus beyond Oregon

This time of year is always important for young players on the Kansas State football team.

Whether they are backups or members of the scout team, bowl practices are their time to shine. With a month between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, coach Bill Snyder likes to give young players on his roster extra reps. Though his top priority is preparing for Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, he also wants to prepare for the 2013 season by putting inexperienced players in new situations.

Those who take advantage of the exposure have a leg up in spring practices and a better chance of starting in the fall. Remember, at this time two years ago veteran players raved about Arthur Brown and B.J. Finney. They have been starters ever since.

“Taking advantage of being on the scout team definitely helped me leapfrog into the position I am in now,” Finney said. “I know a lot of guys are working extremely hard there now and they are going to do great for us.”

Daniel Sams wants to make a similar jump next year. The redshirt freshman quarterback is Collin Klein’s main backup, and he wants to be the starter next season. So he is practicing with a purpose.

“I’m getting a lot of plays that Collin usually runs,” Sams said. “It’s been like that. A lot of blitz pickups, checking into the right protection. We are getting ready to get the young guys involved.”
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Collin Klein makes Sports Illustrated cover

Kansas State fans will have a reason to pick up a copy of this week’s Sports Illustrated. Senior quarterback Collin Klein is on the cover.

Heisman Watch: Can anyone catch Collin Klein?


Take a look around the Internet and it’s pretty easy to find Collin Klein getting Heisman Trophy love right now.

He is the front-runner in every serious media poll. He leads some by enormous margins.

By throwing for 300-plus yards and scoring seven touchdowns against former front-runner Geno Smith and West Virginia in front of a national TV audience, Klein took command of the race last week.

“Collin Klein has a pretty big lead,” said Fox Sports college football writer Cory McCartney, who served as the Heisman expert at Sports Illustrated until switching to his new gig. “He just dominated in a huge national spotlight game against the guy who had the lead. It is his to lose.”

The only question now is, what will it take for anyone to catch him?

Most experts have tabbed Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o as the current runner-up, with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege and Smith also being mentioned as candidates.

If K-State loses any of its remaining games, the race will certainly tighten up. But if the Wildcats stay undefeated, everyone else has considerable ground to make up, and over-the-moon stats to produce, if they want to win the award.

“I hate saying it, because there is a lot of football left to play, but it is going to take a lot for someone to catch him,” McCartney said. “I think K-State can suffer at least one loss and he can still win. The only thing that will lose him a little bit of his lead is if they lose and he performs badly.”
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Cats ready for first trip to Ames since 2007

The last time Kansas State traveled to Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State handed the Wildcats a 31-20 loss in Ron Prince’s second year as head coach.

The Wildcats have since reeled off four straight wins over the Cyclones, but they came by an average of 5.75 points and none of them were played in Ames. K-State defeated Iowa State at home in 2008 and 2011. In between, the Farmageddon series briefly moved to Arrowhead Stadium.

So Saturday’s game will be a new experience for K-State players. None of them have played at Jack Trice Stadium before. Next week will bring a new stadium, too, when the Wildcats play their first game at West Virginia since 1931.

Question is: Will that have an impact on the games?

“I would like to think that’s not the case,” K-State football coach Bill Snyder said. “As we’ve said so many times, it’s keeping it all between the white lines. If you do that it all looks the same no matter where you happen to be. Grass is grass.”
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Collin Klein gets a food challenge


First came the nicknames. Now comes the food challenge.

The above picture pretty much says it all. Purple Swirl, a frozen yogurt restaurant in Manhattan, is trying to capitalize on Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein’s popularity with the Honey Badger Challenge. For $15 you get the chance to eat 48 ounces of frozen yogurt in 15 minutes. If you accomplish the feat you get a $5 gift card, a T-shirt, your face on the challenge’s hall of fame and the right to call yourself a bona fide Honey Badger.

The only rule is that you have to remain seated the whole time.

If you come up short, you still get some recognition for coming close.

Though Klein’s name will have to come down from the restaurant’s window (It is against NCAA rules for businesses to profit from a student-athlete’s name or likeness. That’s why college jerseys don’t come with names on the back) it is an interesting challenge.

When I asked about it earlier this week, Purple Swirl employees said it was a new idea and had only been attempted three times. All three challengers ate the required 48 ounces of frozen yogurt, but only two did so in the allotted 15-minute window.

Klein chuckled about the food challenge when I asked him about it yesterday. He didn’t know anything about it, but said he might check it out this week. Why not? He certainly has a Collin Klein-sized appetite.

A few minutes with … former Nebraska QB, current FX analyst and Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch

Eric Crouch will be in Manhattan on Saturday working his second game as a college football analyst for FOX Sports when Kansas State takes on Miami. But unless you absolutely fell in love with the way he called West Virginia’s blowout win over Marshall last weekend, you likely know him best as the former Nebraska quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2001.

Crouch became the 13th player in college football history to run and throw more than 1,000 yards in a season when he was a senior. K-State fans often compare his record-breaking year to the one Collin Klein had last season. When Crouch won the Heisman he rushed for 1,115 yards, passed for 1,510 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. A year ago, Klein rushed for 1,141 yards, passed for 1,918 yards and scored 40 touchdowns.

Their playing styles are noticeably similar, and Crouch is looking forward to watching Klein play in person this weekend.

Crouch was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk about that and more on Wednesday. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

What memories will come back to you when you return to Bill Snyder Family Stadium?

It will bring back a lot of memories, for sure. Not great memories, but one that sticks out to me was the facemask no call. But I’m not the kind of guy that holds a grudge. I’m not upset about Kansas State or anything, that’s water under the bridge. I had a fun time playing at Nebraska, and all our games with Kansas State were competitive. My freshman year I was down there and that was a very tough atmosphere to play in on the road. I came back as a junior and it started icing the last 30 minutes of the game. That really made it difficult to come from behind and try to win. I’m 0-for-2 down there, and it will be that way for a long time.

Did you ever get any grief about that? No offense, but there aren’t many Nebraska quarterbacks who never won in Manhattan.

No (laughs) people haven’t given me any grief about that. But I don’t want to start anything either.

Will it be strange at all coming to K-State now that the Wildcats and Huskers are in different conferences?

Maybe a little, but probably not. Every time I think of my college career, K-State was part of it and they always will be. I guess it’s a little different because Nebraska has left the conference, but my history will always lie in the Big 12.

What are the keys to this game?

The way I look at it, the key for Kansas State is to establish that front line. Both teams have similar offenses, the way they like to keep it balanced and mix it up. It will be important for them to establish that line of scrimmage and be tough and open holes. Kansas State is the veteran team here and Miami is the young team. Miami can’t let its young guys get caught up in the atmosphere. They need to stay focused and do their jobs.

Do you see many similarities between Collin Klein and yourself?

Yeah, he carried the ball 317 times last year, so there are definitely some similarities. He is a guy who can run and pass, which makes it dangerous for defenses to try and defend him. He probably throws a little more than I did and has the opportunity to do a little more in the passing game than we did. We really focused on the option and the play-action pass. He drops back in the pocket a little more. His ability to do both really puts your defense at a disadvantage. He’s a guy who can beat you with the deep ball and he is also a guy who can punish you with the run. That can really wear a defense down.
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