K-State looks to future after Fiesta Bowl loss

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All season, Kansas State was content to live in the moment.

Longtime coach Bill Snyder has adhered to the “one week at a time” mantra for two decades, so it was fairly easy to do. Practice and film study early in the week, the finishing touches on the game plan later in the week, and then put it all together on Saturday.

The result was 10 straight wins to start the season and a slow climb to the top of the BCS standings. After a heart-wrenching loss to Baylor dashed their national title dreams, the Wildcats responded with a rout of Texas to win only their second Big 12 championship.

They also earned a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where No. 7 Kansas State made too many of the mistakes it had avoided all season in losing to fifth-ranked Oregon on Thursday night.

Now, the Wildcats are forced to look toward the future _ one filled with uncertainty.

Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, their blood-and-guts quarterback, has finished his dazzling career. So have some of his biggest threats on offense. All-Big 12 linebacker Arthur Brown and nine other regulars on defense are also moving on.

“They’re young guys that have given so much to Kansas State University, to the family of Kansas State and to our football program,” Snyder said shortly after the Wildcats’ 35-17 loss to the Ducks. “I appreciate all they’ve done.”

No doubt, he also appreciates how big the task will be in replacing them.

The most daunting one is at quarterback.

Klein evolved from an also-ran wide receiver into a dominant signal-caller during his time at Kansas State, leading the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl last season and even greater heights this season. Along the way, he threw for more than 4,700 yards, ran for nearly 2,500 and accounted for 87 touchdowns through the air and on the ground.

He was the Big 12’s offensive player of the year this season, a second-team All-American and the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

“I mean, I’m just so blessed that God’s given me the opportunity to be here at K-State,” he said, “be part of this family, play with all of our guys, play for coach.”

There will likely be competition to replace Klein.

Backup Daniel Sams only attempted eight passes all season in mop-up duty. He’ll be pushed by Jake Waters, the nation’s top junior-college quarterback this past season.

Whoever wins the job will still have running back John Hubert and talented wide receiver Tyler Lockett, along with the entire offensive line. But he won’t have Chris Harper, the former Oregon quarterback who became their top pass-catcher, or tight end Travis Tannahill, who developed into a solid downfield option.

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