MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Bill Snyder moved at a brisk pace when he walked into his postgame press conference a few minutes after third-ranked Kansas State polished off a 55-24 victory against No. 13 Texas Tech.
Must not have had much to tell the team after that one, eh Coach?
”I’m working on my conditioning,” Snyder said flatly.
There’s always something to work on in Snyder’s world, though it might take a couple extra looks at Saturday’s game tape to find much to complain about, besides a slow start. The Wildcats led by a field goal at halftime before roaring through a big third quarter to their first 8-0 start since 1999.
Collin Klein threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns, and had 83 yards and two more scores on the ground, bolstering his Heisman Trophy credentials. Arthur Brown returned an interception for a touchdown, John Hubert added two TDs rushing and Angelo Pease also scored for the Wildcats.
”We were playing well defensively. Offensively we hadn’t figured it out yet,” Snyder said of the shaky first half. ”Sometimes you have to spar a little bit to get going.”
Evidently, the Wildcats (5-0 Big 12) found the sweet spot in the nation’s No. 7 defense.
They wound up going on a 52-7 run that spanned about 35 minutes, eclipsing the 50-point mark for the fifth time this season and putting up the kind of result that should help them in the polls – they trailed Alabama and Florida in the BCS standings coming into the game, and the Gators lost to No. 12 Georgia.
”It’s tough not to (look ahead) knowing you’re so close,” said Chris Harper, who had five catches for 99 yards. ”But we just have to focus on next week.”
Seth Doege threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns for the Red Raiders (6-2, 3-2), but also had the costliest of interceptions. Doege had thrown for 13 TDs in wins over West Virginia and TCU the last two weeks to jump into the Heisman conversation.
Of course, Klein is a major part of that discussion.
The senior quarterback, now 19-4 as a starter, joined kicker Martin Gramatica as the only players in school history with at least 300 points. And his vastly improved passing game, a subject of such ridicule last season, is a big reason the Wildcats have been so prolific on offense.
”We got some pretty short fields, which helps a lot,” Klein said. ”It was just a great team effort, hanging in there when things weren’t going well early in the game.”
The Red Raiders’ second-half meltdown was similar to last year’s matchup in Lubbock, when they blew a 28-20 lead against Kansas State by turning it over three times in the fourth quarter.
”We moved the ball, made a lot of yardage, but you can’t turn it over,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. ”I think we gave up 17, 20 points on offense and our kicking game today.”
Things started off well enough for the Red Raiders.
Doege took advantage of soft coverage on the opening series of the game, completing six of his first eight passes. An encroachment penalty on third down kept the drive alive, and Doege finished it off with a 32-yard touchdown toss to Eric Ward.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going.
Klein was sacked to end their first series, and had a pass tipped on third down to end their second. By the end of the quarter, Kansas State had just 19 yards of offense.
”We knew what they were going to do,” Texas Tech linebacker Terrance Bullitt said.
It was Kansas State’s defense that finally provided a spark when Meshak Williams delivered a crushing blindside hit on Doege, popping the ball loose. Jarell Childs went the other way for what appeared to be a 74-yard TD return, but an illegal block brought it back to the Texas Tech 14.
Kansas State had to settle for Anthony Cantele’s 34-yard field goal.
Ryan Bustin matched it with a 37-yarder to cap the Red Raiders’ next possession, but Kansas State finally started humming. Hubert capped off its ensuing drive by winning a race to the pylon after getting stood up at the line of scrimmage to make it 10-all.
Bustin had a 50-yard field goal blocked on Texas Tech’s next series, and Kansas State’s quick-strike offense set up a 19-yarder by Cantele for the halftime lead.
It was a sign that everything was starting to go right for the Wildcats.
Four straight plays of 10-plus yards to start the second half led to a 21-yard TD toss from Klein to Tramaine Thompson. And after Ward fumbled on the Red Raiders’ first offensive play of the third quarter, Klein needed only two plays to scamper in from 16 yards out for a 27-10 lead.
”When it came down to making plays to finish,” Doege said, ”we just didn’t make them.”
Sadale Foster’s touchdown run gave the Red Raiders a flicker of hope, but Klein added a 22-yard TD run, Hubert had a 15-yarder early in the fourth quarter, and Brown’s pick-six snuffed it out completely. Pease added the Wildcats’ final score midway through the third quarter.
”You look around the country and they’re making more of college football than they do the presidential election,” Snyder said afterward. ”It’s so easy to lose sight of things. I’m so proud of our guys because of the way they’ve handled things up to this point in time.”