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April 28, 2012

Klein shines in Purple's spring victory

It is not very likely that Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein will call all of his own plays in a real football game this fall. It's equally doubtful he will throw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a game, but that's what happened at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday during K-State's annual spring game, and Klein looked darn good doing it.

Klein completed 47 of 56 passes to 10 different receivers, including one to himself, as the annual Purple/White spring game ended in a 42-42 tie on the scoreboard, although in reality was a 77-7 blowout in favor of the starters in Purple.

The score was 35-0 in favor of Purple at halftime, but Coach Bill Snyder did his customary flipping of the board to start the second half.

"Eh, I'll take that I guess," Klein said of his performance.

So would his coach.

"I thought he played well. He threw the ball and handled the offense," Snyder said. "He has confidence and knows what he's capable of doing."

Despite being known as a primary threat to run the ball, Klein decided to take to the air and show the 18,048 fans on hand how he's developed as a passer this spring.

"My favorite receiver is the open one," he said. "Whoever that is, I'll do my best to get them the ball."

He had plenty from whom to choose.

Four different wideouts had five or more catches. Sophomore Curry Sexton led the team with 153 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but Tramaine Thompson turned heads with his nine-catch, 147-yard outing.

"We have a lot of guys who step up at critical times," said senior Chris Harper, who led the team with 13 catches and two touchdowns. "There are a lot of guys who will step out there and make plays, and we can be explosive."

Sophomore Tyler Lockett did not play due to an identified injury.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game for K-State was the depth shown at running back. The combination of John Hubert, Robert Rose, Angelo Pease and DeMarcus Robinson provided a balance of quickness and power. Pease led the team with 89 yards on 12 carries, including an impressive 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

"They all do a nice job and the offensive line did a great job at giving them a chance," Klein said. "They finished runs very well and made plays."

Rose collected 84 yards of his own on only 10 carries, and Robinson made his biggest contribution with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving the White team its only points of the game

Of course, his hard-to-please coach took the play as more of a negative.

"We must have gotten lazy on the other side," Snyder said. "I wasn't particularly pleased with the effort of the Purples on that play."

Even fullback Braden Wilson got in on the action. He scored two goal-line touchdowns and caught two passes (including one for a TD) after being "underused" last season, according to Snyder.

Yet with all the new faces and new formations exhibited on Saturday, one game aspect K-State fans are very familiar with stayed the same: A close finish.

Because of the halftime score flip, a touchdown pass from Klein to Thompson with 2:24 left made the score 42-40 in favor of White. Rose caught Klein's pass on the two-point conversion to tie the game.

Purple got the ball back with 57 seconds left and got the ball to the White 15 before a mistake was made that both Klein and Snyder tried to take the blame for.

Klein's pass to the end zone with 25 seconds left was intercepted by Weston Hiebert and secured the unusual result.

"That was my mistake. I could have centered the ball, kicked the field goal and let the Purple win," Snyder said. "I got greedy."

Klein told the story differently.

"It was on me. We wanted to take a shot and see if we could score another touchdown, but it was on me. I need to take care of the ball. I made a mistake," the senior QB said.

Either way, the pair of them agreed that Saturday's scrimmage was beneficial.

"We made some progress, but we need to make more," Klein said. "We're a team that is always striving for more. We always need to strive to get better."

On the defensive side, Tre Walker paced the Purple with 10 tackles. Vai Lutui and Meshak Williams, also familiar faces from last season's 10-3 squad, collected 12 combined. For the white, Jonathan Truman and Jarard Milo stood out with 11 and 10, respectively.

True freshman Tavarius Bender started at quarterback for the White squad and finished his day 2 of 4 passing for 8 yards. Sam Johnson and Daniel Sams combined to go 4 of 8 for 44 yards in backup roles as well.

With the spring game now in the past, perhaps even more crucial moments lie ahead for the development of a team with high expectations. Snyder said he believes his team is more ready for the challenge of individual workouts over the summer than last season's team.

"We don't make them work out over the course of the summer, but they ought to know they need to do that," he said. "It's necessary to do those things to become a better football team."

Tight end Travis Tannahill agreed.

"We need to have a good summer program," he said. "We need to keep getting better, but we're excited to keep working."

The Wildcats open their season on Sept. 1 against Missouri State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.



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