September 29, 2011

What to Watch: QB Action

Yes, he had cuts all over his body and body parts that felt as if they needed to be amputated. His uniform was caked in mud. And, at one point during last weekend's win over Miami, his jersey was so stretched and tattered that his almost indecipherable nameplate was positioned just a few inches above his waist. It's easy to get swept up in the "warrior" angle of Collin Klein's performance against Miami, but doing so can make the obvious and important seem peripheral.

On Saturday in south Florida, Klein looked like an immensely talented football player, a quarterback capable of extending plays, picking up chunks of yards on the ground and hitting his wide receivers with consistency. Cast aside heart, hustle, grit and all the other football magic and what's left on the film is talent.

An attribute that was very much on display during the Kansas State quarterback's career-best performance. Most notable? His speed, a measurable that sometimes goes overlooked in the 6-foot-5, 226-pound first-year starter.

THE GAME UP CLOSE:
Baylor at K-State
WHEN BAYLOR RUNS
K-State's rush defense answered its critics last week by slowing touted Miami tailback Lamar Miller with the exception of one long run. This week, though, it will match up against an attack with a different look. Baylor running back Terrance Ganaway is a 240-pound bruiser who will present a different genre of challenge between the tackles for the Wildcats, and while Baylor's superstar quarterback, Robert Griffin III, has been better throwing the ball than he has been running it this season, he still possesses the speed and elusiveness necessary to gash a defense if need be.
NO ADVANTAGE
WHEN K-STATE RUNS K-State's rushing attack carried the load against the Hurricanes as quarterback Collin Klein and running back John Hubert combined to net 259 yards against a defense that has performed better than the one the Wildcats will take on this weekend. Baylor is allowing opponents 152 rushing yards per game this season and will need to be better if it hopes to bottle up K-State on the ground.

ADVANTAGE KANSAS STATE
WHEN BAYLOR THROWS
A Kansas State secondary that has been mostly effective this season will have a chance to make a statement this weekend, when Robert Griffin II brings his Heisman Trophy hopes to Manhattan. The bad news for the Wildcats? Griffin has looked downright unstoppable through three games, completing 85.4 percent of his passes and averaging 320 passing yards per contest. Even making his final stat line look human-produced will be a victory for K-State, as this will be the toughest aerial test is faces all year.
BIG ADVANTAGE: BAYLOR
WHEN K-STATE THROWS
Though he still has proven capable of posting gaudy passing numbers, quarterback Collin Klein's progress was obvious against Miami. He was smarter, more precise and delivered balls to open receivers with more haste. Combine that with the fact that Bears have looked susceptible to the pass this season, and the stage seems to be set for the K-State signal-caller to take yet another step this weekend. That said, he'll need to take advantage and prove it on the field against a pass defense that ranks fifth in the Big 12 and has only notched one interception.
SMALL ADVATAGE K-STATE
SPECIAL TEAMS
The edge in special teams goes to Baylor by default. The third facet of Kansas State's game has been a mess through three games this season, as muffed returns, shanked punts and botched field goals have plagued the Wildcats. The mishaps are uncharacteristic for Bill Snyder football teams, but until they are corrected, the Wildcats seem due to hurt themselves in the kicking game.
Advantage: BAYLOR
PROJECTED SPREAD:
K-State by 1

"If you put him on a watch, I think he would be the equivalent of Michael (Bishop) or Ell (Roberson). He could run with any of those guys who ran around. They all run pretty good, and Collin is pretty good on a clock."

Snyder's words are high praise, but the 66-percent completion rate and three total touchdowns he unleashed on the Hurricanes' were equally as impressive. What did it prove? That Klein has the necessary talent to be effective at the highest level. Just how regularly he can do it, however, remains in question.

Then again, if you can accomplish something once expectations are that you do so again.

"I have definitely made some improvement. We were able to make more plays in the passing game and in the running game. We executed, and I did individually. Big picture, it's just another positive step in the right direction."

This week, Klein will be heavy the underdog in a quarterback match up that will pit him against Heisman Trophy hopeful Robert Griffin III and the Baylor bears. Klein isn't competing directly with who some believe in the nation's best signal-caller. Instead, he'll need to concern himself with the defense that will line up across of him.

That said, it will be up to him and the offense he leads to match the output of the high-octane Griffin. On Tuesday he was asked if going toe-to-toe with the Baylor offense is something he thinks he can handle. The question was clich�, and the response matched it, but after what he put on display a week ago, his answer seems almost believable.

"We have to," he said. "They have good team speed and fly to the ball. They're a good team. A very good team."

But if last Saturday was any indication, the Bears' defensive speed shouldn't be overwhelming for Klein. He broke off five runs of more than 10 yards against a faster Miami defense in Week 4 and got enough protection from his injury plagued offensive line to show a previously unseen knack for hitting wide receivers.

For him, this weekend will be all about one of his coach's favorite buzzwords:

Consistency.

"Wherever you're at you can always be better," Klein said of building on last week's performance. "There's always something I can improve at. That's how I'm approaching it right now. The more game reps we all get, the more comfortable we'll get."

Klein has come to terms with the lasting effect his game against the Hurricanes has. He's aware that with every game he starts, the expectations surrounding him will heighten. For those who are around him constantly, though, things will remain steadfast. At this point, they're not surprised.

"He's always been a good player, he's just developing into what he says now," freshman center B.J. Finney said. "He has the tools and he's just getting better all the time."



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