Collin Klein and Chris Harper Recall Weird K-State Football Game

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Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (7) fights back tears as he walks across the field Thursday night in Glendale, AZ. Klein and Chris Harper (right) both played their last K-State game at the Fiesta Bowl, losing to the Oregon Ducks 35-17. (January 3, 2013)

The Wichita Eagle

Imagine one of the best quarterbacks in Kansas State history nonchalantly returning the ball behind his back to an extremely talented receiver during a trick play.

Sounds good, right?

Shortly after Collin Klein sidetracks the ball to Chris Harper, who runs full steam ahead to the right sideline on a backhand while all of his teammates push forward on what looks like a skip pass to the line goal, the Wildcats wildly celebrate a touchdown and the completion of a misdirected play that few saw coming.

That’s how former offensive coordinator Dana Dimel expected things to go when the game was called off with the Wildcats facing a third-and-a-go late in the second quarter of a game against Miami. in 2012.

Alas, that is not how the play is remembered a decade later. Today, he is a blooper.

“Don’t forget the game behind your back,” Harper said. “Looking back, the whole piece seems incredibly silly. It is the opposite of a climax. It was terrible. But the play was actually dope. We were happy to use it.

Nearly 10 years have passed since the Wildcats missed one of the most bizarre games in Bill Snyder Family Stadium history for a 19-year-old loss that nearly resulted in a turnover, but the players involved get away with it. remember as if it happened a few days ago.

What went wrong?

You know how the play was supposed to work. Here is what actually happened:

The Wildcats lined up with 10 players stacked behind the ball and only Harper lined up on the right. Then Harper got moving until he was to Klein’s left and the ball was broken.

Klein took the snap of a shotgun formation and moved forward as if trying to score on a keeper or a skipped pass. Meanwhile, Harper spun and came running behind Klein for the pitch without a look. But Klein didn’t have as much running space as he had expected, and his jump and sideline came too early. That didn’t leave Harper in a position to catch up and sprint into the end zone. The ball raced past him and he ended up chasing it out of the red zone, where it was quickly knocked to the ground…appropriately by accident by a teammate.

A bewildered crowd tried to figure out why the K-State quarterback threw the ball 10 yards in the wrong direction and the TV broadcast immediately cut off Snyder on the sideline, who was furious.

“When you take big risks on the opposite side, it’s a big miss,” Harper said. “The play was going to work. Unfortunately, one of their linemen just destroyed us on the break and he pushed one of our offensive linemen back into Collin, so when Collin tried to throw him, we messed up our spacing.

“He pushed Collin away and I had to chase the ball. I tried to reverse the field and made an even bigger loss. It felt like we lost 1,000 yards on that play. I know that really hurt my rushing average.

Credit former Miami defensive lineman Olsen Pierre for ruining the rigged game by beating a double team at the line of scrimmage.

Klein, who now serves as K-State’s offensive coordinatorwatched a replay of the trick played on a cellphone earlier this week and expressed several different facial expressions as he watched his old self throw the ball back for a big loss with no knowledge of what was happening behind him.

First came a smile and laughter. Then he shook his head and sighed. At one point, he closed his eyes and massaged his forehead with his right hand. Then, finally, after viewing the gaffe which has since been viewed almost 1.6 million times on YouTube, he shared his memories.

“The timing was just a little off,” Klein said. “But if you look at him again, there’s no one on the edge and he goes in (if I give him the ball). We practiced this game all week and it worked every time. We handled it perfectly. But we weren’t going against the Miami defense. The timing was messed up, but it would have been a touchdown otherwise.

You’re either a genius or an idiot

Even when unsuccessful, the unorthodox trick-or-treating game found a special place in the hearts and minds of K-State fans who watched it live.

The Wildcats were up 24-3 when the game was called off and the blunder did nothing to slow their momentum. They won big, 52-13. It was their first victory in a season filled with many of them. K-State finished 11-2 and won the Big 12 that year. The Wildcats were even ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings before a road loss to Baylor knocked them out of the national championship.

After fans stopped trying to figure out what they had just seen on Klein’s no-look side to Harper, some embraced the game as a sign of that team’s dominance.

How many other teams could try such a bold play, screw it up this badly, and beat Miami by almost 40 points?

“We probably got into the Not Top 10 for this,” Harper said. ” But it is okay. It was one of those plays that ended with people saying, “Oh my god, you’re a genius” or “Oh my god, you’re an idiot”. There was no in-between and we knew it.

Believe it or not, K-State players came up with the idea for the infamous sleight of hand.

The Wildcats scored a touchdown against Miami a year earlier on a jump pass from Klein to former tight end Travis Tannahill on the goal line. The idea was that if they looked like they were executing the same play, but instead sent the ball back to Harper on a backhand, they would catch the Hurricanes off guard.

“Coaches are really scary,” Harper said. “They will prepare for a trick played that a team did once two years ago and they will make you prepare for it 50,000 times in training. It was our only chance. »

The Wildcats have never been known to use on-track games, but the coaching staff was receptive to the idea that week.

“Coach Snyder gave us the freedom to be creative,” Klein said. “We came up with it. We put it on and came up with the idea and he let us practice all week. They obviously trusted us to give us a chance.

“We Won’t Call It Anymore”

Harper, a coveted former recruit from Wichita Northwest who became a fourth-round selection in the NFL Draftthought the play was going to land him on Sportscenter.

Instead, it carved out a unique place for him in K-State football lore.

Perhaps Klein will restart the game at some point next season now that he’s in charge of the K-State offense as coordinator. After all, he suggested Snyder try again later this season.

“I don’t remember what game it was, but we were in the 10 and we were trying to figure out what to call,” Klein said, “so I turned to Coach Snyder and said, ‘ “We should try this reverse deal again. .’ He was like, ‘Oh no, never. We don’t call it that anymore. I was totally kidding, but it’s a funny story now.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. The winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.

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