MANHATTAN, Kan. — Just as Collin Klein was preparing to trot onto the field for the biggest home game in Kansas State history, coach Bill Snyder put his arm around his senior quarterback and whispered something in his ear.
“He just told me how much he appreciated me, and that he loved me,” Klein said. “It was a great moment. And I know he said that to every single one of us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And that’s pretty special.”
Everything about this night was special for the Wildcats and their fans. With Klein passing for one touchdown and running for two, Kansas State beat Texas 42-24 to wrap up its third conference championship in 117 years, prompting thousands of people to rush onto the field as the sound system blared, “We are the champions.”
The Wildcats (12-1, 8-1) had never played for a conference championship in their last game at home, and had never had a player end the regular season in such close contention for the Heisman Trophy as Klein.
With his main competitors, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel nor Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, off, Klein had the stage all to himself. He had one last chance to burnish his credentials for what would be Kansas State’s first Heisman, and he made it count.
John Hubert scored three touchdowns on short runs for Kansas State, and Klein threw every Heisman question right back at the questioner.
“Tonight’s all about our team and what we were able to accomplish tonight,” he said. “And Texas didn’t give it to us easily. Tonight’s about K-State family. That’s the most important thing.”
After a slow start, Klein wound up hitting 8 of 14 passes for 184 yards and added 108 yards rushing on 23 carries.
In front of their sixth sellout in seven home games, the Wildcats also tied their team record for victories in a season and matched Oklahoma’s Big 12 record.
It was Kansas State’s fifth straight victory over Texas (8-4, 5-4), which led 10-7 at halftime, and capped and gave Kansas State coach Bill Snyder the conference title just four years after he came out of a brief retirement.
“Bill is unbelievable,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I have said many times that I think what he has done here is the best in the country, from start to finish.”
Oklahoma beat TCU earlier Saturday and immediately donned caps and T-shirts declaring themselves Big 12 champs. But Kansas State’s 24-19 win at Oklahoma on Sept. 22 gives them the tiebreaker and sends them to the Fiesta Bowl.
“I think (the title) means an awful lot to all of us,” Snyder said. “A great deal to the young people in our program. They were excited about it. Obviously I speak for everybody in our football family. I think it’s significant and important for each and every one of us. I’m pleased for a lot of different people, the people that genuinely support this program.”
Texas, which may be headed for the Cotton Bowl, lost its lead on Kansas State’s first possession of the second half. Klein hit a 29-yard pass and Hubert broke free for 28 yards as Kansas State soared 75 yards in seven plays, with Hubert scoring from the 2.
Hubert also had a 2-yard TD run with 47 seconds left in the third quarter and scored on a 1-yard run for a 35-17 lead with a little more than 3 minutes to go after Drew Liddle recovered Texas’ muffed punt.
A few minutes later, Allen Chapman intercepted Case McCoy’s pass and ran it back 35 yards, setting up Klein’s 9-yard TD run for a 42-17 lead with 1:53 left. The back-beaker may have been Klein’s long pass to a wide-open Tyler Lockett that went for a 55-yard scoring play.
“Basically, they just out-executed us,” said Texas safety Adrian Phillips. “They did what they were supposed to do and we did not come out to do our job after halftime.”
McCoy threw a 14-yard TD pass to Jaxon Shipley in the second quarter and a 9-yard scoring pass to Malcom Brown less than 1 minute left in the game. Brown also scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter.
McCoy hit 26-of-34 passes for 314 yards, with two interceptions. He was sacked four times by a swarming Kansas State defense.
The Wildcats’ lone touchdown of the first half came on a 1-yard run by Klein and after an embarrassing lapse by defensive back Nigel Malone.
With perfect timing, Malone jumped in front of McCoy’s intended receiver on Texas’ second possession, made the interception and sped 30 yards into the end zone. But the ball only traveled the 29. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but upon review, it was determined Malone had let go of the ball and allowed it drop to the ground just as he was about to step across the goal line.
So it was placed on the 1 and Klein plowed into the end zone for his 21st rushing TD of the season and No. 54 for his career.
Klein was 0 for 4 in Kansas State’s scoreless second quarter while McCoy was going 17 for 20 in the first half for 204 yards.
McCoy’s longest pass play went for 70 yards, but almost all of that was the running of Daje Johnson right after Adrian Phillips intercepted Klein’s pass in the end zone and gave the Longhorns the ball on the 20, setting up a field goal.