On November 3, on a third-quarter drive against Oklahoma State, Kansas State’s Collin Klein was showing why he was the best quarterback in the nation. He passed and ran and finally plunged into the end zone. But Klein got hurt. Afterward, a source told Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel that Klein “could not recall the details of the drive, including the fact he scored.” The Wildcats coaches took Klein’s helmet away. He spent the final quarter and a half standing on the sideline.
Two weeks later, Collin Klein wasn’t even playing like the best quarterback in the Big 12. In a 28-point loss to Baylor, he threw three picks. He ran for a 2.3 yards per carry. When he walked off the field, he’d lost the Heisman, his shot at an undefeated season, the works.
What happened is obvious, no? Klein got hurt on November 3, and he hasn’t been the same since. But we’ll never know for sure, because between Point A and Point B, Kansas State launched one of college football’s classic misinformation campaigns. It involved Klein, his family, and the Wildcats’ sainted coach, Bill Snyder. It served to obscure why a great quarterback, the guy called Optimus Klein, became mortal overnight.
A century before the Saturday evening that will forever be recalled for the painful death of Bill Snyder’s 16 preceptsin Waco, and for the gumming up of Phil Knight’s fast-twitch widget-production apparatus in Eugene, and for Les Miles’s epic Lebowski Speech — tell me he doesn’t resemble Jesus Quintana just a little at the 1:39 mark — Notre Dame was just a tiny Catholic college in Indiana with a progressive strategy and a dream of defeating the U.S. Army. This goes back to the summer of 1913, when Irish quarterback Gus Dorais and an end named Knute Rockne worked together as lifeguards in Sandusky, Ohio, practicing a newfangled stratagem on the beach known as “the forward pass.” They unleashed it on the first day of November, against a bigger and stronger West Point squad; the Irish won, 35-13, and an epoch’s worth of treacly film scores were birthed.
West Virginia lost their second game in two weeks on Saturday, falling to Kansas State, at home, 55-14. There were plenty of reasons behind the Mountaineers' loss. A passing attack that usually operates with no regard for fire safety laws could not get any sparks flying, gaining only 155 yards in the air (a historic low for a Dana Holgorsen–coached offense). [Former] Heisman candidate Geno Smith threw two picks (his first of the season) and was totally unable to complete passes for more than 15 yards (he was 0-5), which certainly took the "raid" out of Holgo's Air Raid offense. And, finally, the very movable object that was one of the FBS's worst pass defenses ran into the unstoppable force that was (now legit) Heisman candidate Collin Klein, who passed for 323 yards and three touchdowns.
West Virginia has plenty of problems that might have contributed to their loss on Saturday, but the biggest factor might have been that Dana Holgorsen seems as enamored of frequent flier miles as he is with all-go, f-the-world receiver routes.
In the last two weeks (and change), West Virginia has traveled to and from Texas twice. On October 6 they played University of Texas, in Austin — a 1,400-mile trip, each way, from Morgantown. The following week, they returned to the Lone Star State to play Texas Tech in Lubbock. That's another 1,400-plus miles on the odometer each way. That's almost 3,000 miles. I'm not trying to be funny (I'm trying to be a little funny), but is it possible that the thing that killed the Air Raid is air travel?
It was about midway through the third quarter of South Carolina’s 35-7 romp over Georgia when Brent Musburger delivered that broadcast’s insurance-company-sponsored trivia question. Accompanied by the scurrying Aflac duck was the question “Who are the three oldest coaches in the FBS?” Most of these somehow involve one of the participating schools or coaches, and this one was no different. Coming in third, at a youthful 67, was the Ol’ Ball Coach. Two spots above him was the only guess I would’ve had. The wizard of Manhattan, Kansas, Bill Snyder, is a distinguished 73. The ages of both left me incredulous, but for opposite reasons. Steve Spurrier is 67? Bill Snyder is only 73?
More surprising than either number is that two of the three oldest major-college football coaches in the country are in charge of two programs firmly inside the top 10. (Oh, and the third is Frank Solich, who has the Ohio Bobcats in the top 25. It’s an old man’s game.) Coaching success late in life isn’t new — Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden both coached into their 80s — but Snyder and Spurrier differ from the previous slate of coaching elder statesmen in that neither is at the end of an uninterrupted run at a school he helped elevate to national prominence. The final act for both is also their second. This weekend, both Kansas State and South Carolina will have a chance to play for an inside track to the national championship, and the way each team has done it makes neither coach seem his age.
As soon as he hears Bill Snyder’s name, Barry Switzer cuts off the question. He’ll tell you about Bill Snyder. Switzer’s tenure at Oklahoma — a reign that included three national championships and 12 Big 8 titles — ended after the 1988 season, just before Snyder took over at Kansas State. The Wildcats had spent the previous two years punctuating their joke of football haplessness. They went two full campaigns — 27 games, actually — without a win. In a three-game stretch in 1987, K-State lost by a combined 151 points. Over the previous 40 seasons, they were last in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. By almost any objective measure, Kansas State was the worst program in college football history. By his fifth season in charge of the program, Snyder had his team in the Top 25. In his 10th, they were ranked no. 1 and were a play away from the national championship game. It was, without question, the biggest turnaround in the history of college football.
Across the college football landscape Saturday, undefeated heads were rolling. Georgia Tech lost, Illinois lost, Michigan lost, and for a while, it looked like that unlucky group would welcome a fourth member. Humility and history beckoned in College Park, as no. 8 Clemson trailed Maryland 35-17 in the third quarter. The usual spark was missing. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a terrible first quarter, highlighted by an interception return for a touchdown, and the Tigers defense showed no signs of making a stop. In situations like these, there are two choices for the favorite: go quietly into the night, or