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October 28, 2012Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has only given senior quarterback Collin Klein one piece of advice: Be Collin.
"It's easy for all of us to kind of get caught off in all of the things you guys put out there," the 73-year-old coach said to the media following Saturday's 55-24 victory over No. 15 Texas Tech. "I don't have to tell him don't get caught off in it.
"I just say, 'Hey, you be Collin. And if you're Collin, then I know you won't be caught off in it and you'll bring all that you have to every ballgame.'"
On Saturday, Klein was exactly that -- himself.
After torching West Virginia for 364 total yards and seven touchdowns last week, Klein followed up his masterful performance with an exceptional one against the Red Raiders.
The 6-foot-5, 226-pound signal caller completed 19 of 26 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns, while also picking up 83 rushing yards on 12 carries and two more scores. Against the conference's best defense, statistically, Klein dissected it with his composure.
"Collin has always had that," Snyder said. "He has all of those qualities that I talk about so often and a tremendous amount of discipline. That, combined with the right type of confidence, allows him to be composed.
"I think he always is and it wasn't any different than he's been at any other time."
It took over a quarter for Klein and the offense to find a rhythm. But once they did, they dominated.
The Wildcats' first touchdown came on a four-yard run by junior running back John Hubert with 8:45 left in first half. The run capped off an eight play, 59-yard drive done the Snyder way -- with balance. Hubert had five carries for 28 yards and Klein was a perfect 3-for-3 for 31 yards as K-State took a 13-10 lead into halftime.
And when K-State got the ball to open the second half, the game changed.
On the opening play of the drive, Klein avoided a sack and found Hubert in the middle of the field for 15 yards. Then, Klein followed with a 17-yard dash up the middle of the field for another first down.
"The biggest asset a quarterback can have is anticipation and knowing what the defense is going to do," said wide receiver Chris Harper, who finished the game with five receptions for 99 yards. "That's the real big difference from this year to last year."
A few plays later, and when the Wildcats found themselves just outside the red zone, Klein made his mark.
Facing second down on the Texas Tech 21 yard line, Klein barked out the play as he surveyed the defense. Once he saw something he didn't like, Klein took a few steps back.
"He knows his opponent inside and out," sophomore center B.J. Finney said. "He knows the checks he has to make and certain looks. He knows the best checks and which checks he shouldn't make.
"Obviously, we have complete faith in him whatever he calls. We are going to execute to the best of our abilities."
Klein called a new play as he scampered across the offensive line from right to left before dropping back into the shotgun and taking the snap. In a matter of seconds, Klein threw a dart to Tramaine Thompson in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.
It's his improved knowledge of the game and his ability to make changes under pressure that makes Klein the threat he is.
"I think that has come with time," he said humbly. "It's come with a lot of fine-toothed comb preparation and great coaching. Coach (Del) Miller has spent a ton of time and invested many hours with me trying to get me to that point.
"It's definitely paid off and then we just got guys around making play and making it happen."
As Klein continuously comes into his own this season, it's apparent that the game has slowed down, too.
When he sees an opening for himself, he takes off running - as he did in K-State's next two possessions. Calling seemingly the same play on consecutive drives, Klein scored his two touchdowns on the ground with runs up the middle.
And when the defense collapsed on him midway through the fourth quarter, Klein threw a shifty shovel pass to senior Angelo Pease for a seven-yard touchdown to put an exclamation point on his night.
"Collin is playing at his best," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said. "He's been playing at his best every single game that we've had thus far and I hope it continues."
"I love playing the game and I love getting better," Klein said. "That's what it's all about. I don't know if there is a player, regardless of how long they've played, that would say they are 'there.'
"It's the same here. I'm just trying to be the best I can be with what God has given me."
Without question, Klein is playing as good as any player in college football. He has led his Wildcats to an unblemished 8-0 mark to start the season and his 28 total touchdowns have cemented him in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
Right now, Collin is being Collin.