Kansas St.-Texas Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- Back-to-back losses in Big 12 play will likely keep Kansas State from a BCS bowl game, but that doesn't mean anyone should expect any kind of letdown from Collin Klein.
The dual-threat quarterback leads the 16th-ranked Wildcats against Texas on Saturday night, looking to win their third straight over the injury-depleted Longhorns.
Kansas State (8-2, 5-2) looked like a favorite to win the conference and earn a BCS bowl berth following a 7-0 start, but losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have the Wildcats looking up in the conference standings.
The skid nearly became three but Klein rallied Kansas State to a 53-50 four-overtime win over Texas A&M last Saturday.
Klein threw for a career-high 281 yards, added 103 yards rushing and accounted for six touchdowns, including the final one on a sneak from a yard out in the fourth overtime.
"We're still growing," Klein said. "It's the same message after this big win as it was after any other one. It's about getting better, never getting too high or too low."
Klein leads the FBS with 24 rushing touchdowns to go along with 10 passing. A first-year starter, Klein may not be the most orthodox quarterback, but the team has no question about his leadership.
"He gets beat up every game - every game you see him out there, he's beat up and bleeding," offensive lineman Nick Puetz said. "He has amazing heart."
Texas coach Mack Brown said it will be one of his team's toughest challenges of the season to slow Klein, who ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns in Kansas State's 39-14 win over Texas last season.
"He's really a freak of nature when you look at him with how big and strong he is," Brown said. "He is tough. He just goes, and he will bring it at you every play. So you'd better be ready. Our defense better be ready Saturday night, because he'll be ready."
The Longhorns have been effective at stopping the run. They rank 10th in the FBS, giving up 101.2 yards per game, with opponents averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
While the Wildcats' dynamic leader is coming off another outstanding performance, Texas (6-3, 3-3) has lost its top offensive threat for the year.
After scoring 95 points the previous two games, the Longhorns couldn't get anything going in a 17-5 loss at Missouri last Saturday, finishing with a season-worst 247 yards of offense, including 76 rushing.
The defeat dropped Texas out of the Top 25, but the team has bigger concerns with a running game in disarray because of injuries.
Fozzy Whittaker suffered a season-ending knee injury after tearing two ligaments in the first quarter last Saturday. Meanwhile, leading rusher Malcolm Brown (toe) and Joe Bergeron (hamstring) also missed the game and are uncertain for this weekend.
Texas ranks 15th in the FBS with 227.4 rushing yards per game, but that figure likely will take a big hit over the final three games if Brown and Bergeron are unable to play.
The loss of Whittaker especially hurts. He had 955 all-purpose yards, including 424 on punt returns.
Coach Mack Brown said it can't be an excuse.
"We got an identity and all of a sudden that identity was gone in the first quarter of the Missouri game," he said. "There's no question the key players got hurt, but you don't stop the game. Thirty years from now, nobody is going to care who played and who's out. They don't (care) today."
With the running game in flux, the Longhorns will need more from freshman quarterback David Ash, who was removed in the third quarter last week but is likely to start. He was 13 of 29 for 158 yards with no touchdowns and one interception against Missouri.
"There are people who overcome and people who quit. I just don't see (quit) in Ash," senior guard David Snow said. "I believe that with everything in me."
Ash was without one of his top receivers in Jaxon Shipley, who is tied for the team lead with 33 catches for 438 yards and three touchdowns. A knee injury could also keep him sidelined this weekend as well.
Texas has lost three straight to the Wildcats, including the last two by a combined 45 points.
Updated November 16, 2011