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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Kansas State football prepared for 3 or 4 nonconference games in 2012

The Kansas State football team is tentatively set to play North Texas, Missouri State and Miami at Snyder Family Stadium during nonconference play next season.

But, depending on when West Virginia joins the Big 12 and if Missouri finalizes its expected move to the SEC in time to join that conference next season, the Wildcats may also play a road game against Central Florida.

K-State athletic director John Currie said he was unsure which scenario will play out. But he is happy with the Wildcats’ upcoming schedule either way.

“We have four nonconference games under contract, because we still have Central Florida under contract,” Currie said. “If we have a 10-team league with nine conference games, then we’ll be playing the three home games we have under contract. If we lose somebody, then we have Central Florida under contract and we’ll go on the road and play them.

“So I’m not really doing anything on scheduling for next year right now.”
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Sunday Rewind: K-State 28, Miami 24

Overall Assessment: This was Kansas State’s biggest win since … when?

That’s the question I think is most up for debate today. The Wildcats defeated the Miami Hurricanes 28-24 at Sun Life Stadium and Saturday’s game certainly has to rank highly among recent wins for the program.

Beating Texas, UCLA and Central Florida were all nice wins last year, but they each came at home. A 62-14 thumping of Texas A&M was awfully impressive two seasons ago, but the Aggies were a different bunch back then. They aren’t comparable to a road win over Miami.

I think you’ve got to back to 2007, when K-State crushed Texas 41-21 in Austin under Ron Prince to find a more impressive victory. Under current coach Bill Snyder, this is probably the biggest win since the Wildcats took down top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7 in the 2003 Big 12 championship game.

Saturday’s win wasn’t anywhere near that meaningful, and Snyder said that he doesn’t think K-State has “arrived” yet. He thinks it still has plenty of work ahead of it. That’s true. The Wildcats will need to continue improving to win tough upcoming games against Baylor and Missouri, but this was a nice start down that path.

K-State looked brilliant on offense at times behind Collin Klein and John Hubert. And its defense played well enough to win against a strong, fast Miami offense. Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:

Player Evaluations

Seven that were good:

1. Collin Klein. Kansas State’s quarterback did everything on Saturday. He ran for 93 yards (many of them tough yards) on 22 carries and threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his passes were short, but they were all safe. The only time he took a risk he made a perfect pass, lofting the ball over a linebacker and in between two defensive backs to hit Tyler Lockett for a 20-yard touchdown. He left the game with blood on his jersey, too many scratches to count and a slight limp in his step. But he said that simply came from being tired after a tough game. His teammates appreciated his efforts.

Here’s what Chris Harper had to say about Klein: “I told him at halftime, ‘Since we’re in Florida you should go into Tim Tebow mode.’ That’s really what he was out there doing … He played tough. He played really, really tough. I was proud of him today. He took some hits.”
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This week’s player to watch: Jacory Harris

Jacory Harris is one of the most entertaining players in all of college football.

When he is on, there are few better than the senior quarterback. He has a strong arm, fast feet and can drive defenses crazy with both. During his college career, he has thrown for 6,463 yards and 52 touchdowns.

When he is off, he can be the opposing team’s best friend. He rarely gives up on plays, and is never afraid to take chances. Put it this way: He’s a gambler, and his bets don’t always pay off. With 10 games remaining in his senior season, he has tossed 41 interceptions and rushed for negative 80 yards.

For those traits, some have labeled him a “video game quarterback.” Every play he makes is big. Some for the right reasons. Some for the wrong reasons.
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A few more thoughts from John Currie

It’s hard to believe, I know, but I have a few interesting tidbits about John Currie and his plans for Kansas State athletics that didn’t make it into my profile of him over the weekend.

Don’t know that this blog needs any further buildup than that, so here they are:

Football Scheduling
One of the most challenging tasks for K-State’s athletic director has been working with coach Bill Snyder to schedule nonconference football games. In little more than two years on the job, Currie has called off scheduled games with Oregon and Virginia Tech and added a series against Texas-San Antonio.

Those moves coincide with Snyder’s long-held preference of playing beatable opponents at home early in the season. Currie told me he likes that approach, but every now and then a big-name team will show up on K-State’s schedule. After much debate, he decided to go ahead with a series against Miami. And there has been talk of setting up a series with Wisconsin.

Now, don’t expect that caliber of opponent to show up on the Wildcats’ nonconference schedule every year, but they will be there every two or three years. Currie said he has received lots of positive feedback from K-State fans who made the trip to Auburn for a road game in 2007. They enjoyed the experience, so Currie will try to keep those games on the schedule in a limited capacity. And while we’re on the subject of Auburn, the defending national champs owe K-State a return game in 2014. Unless an “extraordinary opportunity” presents itself, Currie told me he expects that game to be played as scheduled.
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Postgame: K-State 85, Emporia St. 61

Jacob Pullen made his 241st three-pointer to become the top outside shooter in K-State history, Freddy Asprilla played his finest game of the season and Kansas State easily defeated Emporia State 85-61 in front of a smaller-than-usual crowd at Bramlage Coliseum.

You know all that by now, so instead of looking back at a game against a Division II opponent, let’s examine coach Frank Martin’s bizarre postgame rant about former standout Michael Beasley and the Miami Heat.

“It’s Michael Beasley’s fault,” Martin said. “That’s what the Miami Heat said for two years. I just thought maybe it would work for us. That’s what I heard for the last two years, that it’s Beasley’s fault. So maybe it’s his fault that we’re not very good right now. Poor Michael Beasley. It’s his fault that we’re not very good defensively right now. He forgot his rotations again today.”

That sarcasm-filled answer came in response to a question about the leadership of K-State’s veteran players. It was so random that Martin chuckled when he was done.

“I don’t know where that came from,” he said.
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K-State football to play at KU again in 2011

In order to convert an eight-game conference schedule that spanned two divisions into a nine-game, round-robin format that includes all 10 remaining Big 12 teams, the conference had to get creative.

So in 2011, several league teams will make repeat trips to stadiums they visit this season.

For Kansas State, that means the Sunflower Showdown against rival Kansas will be played in Lawrence for two straight years. K-State travels to Kansas for a Thursday night game on Oct. 14, and will return on Oct. 22, 2011 to face the Jayhawks again next season.

The arrangement will no doubt irritate some K-State fans, but Wildcats athletic director John Currie said repeat trips were inevitable under the new scheduling arrangement.

“The conference office did a good job of limiting those instances, but overall we were more concerned about getting the proper balance right since we anticipate that this schedule pattern will be in place for many, many years,” Currie said. Read More »

Adrian Diaz commits to K-State

Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin picked up another Miami recruit this weekend.

His name is Adrian Diaz, a 7-foot, 205-pounder, who will soon be a senior at Hialeah-Miami Lakes high school.

Diaz is excited to play for Martin.

“I really felt comfortable with the coaching staff and their offensive program,” Diaz said by phone. “I think I fit into that system.”

Diaz’s father said Adrian’s relationship with Martin was the main reason he chose K-State.

Diaz is actually so comfortable with Martin that he committed without ever stepping foot in Manhattan. Listening to Martin and his assistants describe the town for two months was enough.
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K-State goes old school with UTSA series

Bill Snyder wants Kansas State’s future nonconference schedules to look like its old ones.

Of this, he has made no secret.

He wants to play beatable (preferably very beatable) opponents, he wants to play them at home and he wants to parlay that combination into a bowl trip.

Such a strategy may no longer be possible for the Wildcats on a yearly basis — what with the price of guarantee games soaring higher than $1 million, and all — but K-State certainly turned back the clock on its football schedule today by announcing a future three-game series with Texas-San Antonio.
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Arthur Brown to enroll at Kansas State

Arthur Brown, the former Wichita East linebacker who achieved national acclaim as Class of 2008 recruit before playing two seasons at Miami, will enroll at Kansas State. He expects to be eligible to play for the Wildcats in 2011.

Brown’s Wichita adviser, Brian Butler, said this morning that Brown would play at K-State but had no other comment. Brown couldn’t be reached. K-State can’t comment on the transfer.

Brown left Miami in early February. He was not a starter in two seasons for the Canes, seeing mostly backup duty and special teams work.