MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — 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.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Montee Ball and Wisconsin are heading back to the Rose Bowl after an overwhelming performance the Badgers hope will make people forget they finished third in their division.
Ball rushed for 202 yards and three more touchdowns Saturday night, leading the Badgers to a 70-31 rout of No. 14 Nebraska for a third straight Big Ten championship and a third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.
All Ball and his teammates wanted was an opportunity to show critics who claimed they didn’t belong in the league title game that they were wrong.
“We kind of set our minds before the game that this is our game,” Ball said. “The running backs were going to set the tempo.”
Did they ever?
Ball ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns, broke the Football Bowl Subdivision career rushing touchdowns record, tied the FBS record for most games with two or more scores, topped the 5,000-yard mark and was named the game MVP.
Not a bad night for a guy whose numbers weren’t even the best on the team.
Melvin Gordon opened the scoring with a 56-yard TD run and had a career-high 216 yards on nine carries. Three different Badgers threw passes, including running back James White who ran for 108 yards and four TDs and threw for a touchdown on the first pass of his college career.
It was the most improbable Big Ten title in Wisconsin’s three-year run. The Badgers are the first five-loss team to reach the Rose Bowl, and became the first Big Ten school since Michigan in the late 1970s to earn three consecutive tickets to Pasadena, Calif.
“As my AD tells me all the time, you haven’t one won yet,” coach Bret Bielema said. “We’re going out there to win. That’s the mission, and I appreciate all the fans coming out to Madison East.”
Indiana has quickly become a second home for the Badgers.
Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team with a win at Lucas Oil Stadium and has now won 10 straight in the Hoosier State. It played three games in Indiana this season, rushing for 1,570 yards and 19 TDs while outscoring opponents 170-59 in those three games.
But Saturday was the biggest night of all.
For the first time in school history, the Badgers had two 200-yard rushers. They finished with the fourth-highest rushing total in school history (539) and tied a conference championship game scoring record. Texas also scored 70 points in the 2005 Big 12 championship game.
Nebraska hadn’t allowed 70 points since a 76-39 thrashing by Kansas In November 2007. The loss ended the Cornhuskers six-game winning streak, which began after a 63-38 loss to Ohio State, and the ‘Huskers simply had no answers.
“What do you do? What is defensive football,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said before calling the season a failure and apologizing for not bringing home a league title. “It’s play your gaps, handle your responsibility, be where you’re supposed to be and make tackles, and we did none of the above.
It was a fitting end to a wacky Big Ten season.
Wisconsin (8-5, 4-4) only reached this year’s because Leaders Division champion Ohio State (12-0) and division runner-up Penn State (8-4) were both ineligible for postseason play.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Florida State has regained its perch atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Now Jimbo Fisher plans to stay there.
The third-year coach talked all season about re-establishing a “winning culture” at Florida State and his team took a big step toward that Saturday night.
The 13th-ranked Seminoles opened with a flurry on offense and rode a strong defensive performance the rest of the way to hold off unranked Georgia Tech 21-15 to capture its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2005 and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.
It was Florida State’s 13th ACC title.
“I think you got to understand, you have to win one before you can ever say, ‘I’m back,’” Fisher said. “And everybody wants you to win the national championship. You got to win a conference championship before you win the national championship and keep getting in that hunt.
“Now our kids understand what it takes, how hard it is. But you know they’re champions and I’m going to tell you it means something. You think different. You act different. You become different. Hopefully it will translate into the offseason with our young guys and we can keep that culture around here like it used to be.”
Although he had a rough outing Saturday night, quarterback EJ Manuel finishes up ACC play with a legacy of having brought a title back to what was once considered a prestigious program but one that had certainly fallen off in recent years.
“You know, I only see greatness from here on out,” Manuel said. “They got a lot of great players, a lot of great young players. Guys understand what it takes to get to this point, you know, so I don’t see us going back to where we used to be. You know, I think Florida State is back in the conversation.”
James Wilder Jr. ran for two touchdowns as the heavily favored Seminoles (11-2) built a 21-6 lead at the half and held on to win, easing some of the sting from last week’s 37-26 loss to their bitter rival, No. 4 Florida.