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December 2, 2012The Kansas State Wildcats are champions again.
It took blood, sweat, tears and some dedication to the running game, but K-State outplayed Texas in the second half on Saturday night to secure its first conference title since 2003 and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
"Winning the championship means an awful lot to all of us, and to all the young people in our program," head coach Bill Snyder said. "They were excited about it. I think I speak for everyone when I say it is significant and important to each one of us."
What was arguably the biggest home game in K-State history became one of the most prototypical victories of a Snyder-coached team.
K-State struggled offensively out of the gate, falling behind 10-7 at halftime. The lone touchdown came off an interception by Nigel Malone, which set up the Wildcats at the Texas 1-yard line.
"It was huge to be able to establish our run game, and it took until the second half to move the ball the way we wanted to," senior quarterback Collin Klein said.
In the second half, K-State went back to the tactics that got it to the brink of a title in the first place -- timely takeaways and a relentless running game.
"Every game is kind of a search offensively," Snyder said. "You have to take some time to feel things out. That is the nature of the game."
After accumulating just 42 rushing yards in the first half, K-State retook the lead on a two-yard run by John Hubert on a drive that featured the run game almost exclusively. Texas answered quickly with a score of its own, but the Wildcat offense would not be stopped again.
After another two-yard Hubert plunge put K-State in front 21-17, Klein hit sophomore receiver Tyler Lockett for a 55-yard touchdown pass with 14:06 left in the game. Texas (8-4) would get no closer.
"That play really boosted us," Lockett said. "Texas lost momentum after that. It helped us turn things around."
The Wildcats recovered a muffed punt with 7:53 to play and scored on Hubert's third touchdown run 8 plays later to seal the win.
Klein, a Heisman Trophy candidate, finished the night 8 of 14 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown, along with 103 rushing yards and two scores on 23 carries. He capped the victory and the title with a 7-yard TD run in the final minutes.
"I'm still absorbing things a little bit right now," Klein said. "I'm blessed to have been able to contribute and be a part of such a great team.
"From where this group has come and what this group has gone through up to this time, this is truly special."
Snyder complimented his team's ability to adjust when it had to.
"I thought we played well and the coaches did a nice job," head coach Bill Snyder said. "We had some good things happen and it ended with a good result."
Hubert finished the night with 67 yards rushing and three scores. Texas' offense was paced by quarterback Case McCoy, who threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wildcats' victory secures a berth in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 in Tempe, Arizona. It is the second BCS bowl K-State has reached in school history.
"We've been talking about finishing all week," Klein said. "To be able to finish the way we did, on Senior Night, that's a heck of a memory."
He and his team now get one more chance to make another one.
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