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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Kansas State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Record: 10-2 (7-2)

This wasn't supposed to be a special season in Manhattan. But it turned out to be and it was almost the best campaign during Bill Snyder's tenure at Kansas State. The season began with a fourth-quarter comeback and a three-point win over Eastern Kentucky. The media picked the Wildcats to finish eighth in the league, but K-State rolled to a 7-0 start before losing to a pair of top-10 teams, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It closed with three wins and if Oklahoma had beaten Oklahoma State, the Wildcats would have won a share of the Big 12 title for the first time since 2003.

The defensive holes that plagued K-State last season were plugged, and the loss of Daniel Thomas didn't hurt the Wildcats nearly as much as most thought. Even without Bryce Brown, a hyped transfer and former blue-chip recruit, the Wildcats were one of the Big 12's best rushing teams. Brown left the team early in the season, but John Hubert and Collin Klein filled the void, giving way to a season full of "team wins." Almost every week was a heart-stopper, and the Wildcats found a way to win all but one of their nail-biters. An amazing eight of the Wildcats' 10 wins were decided by seven points or fewer.

The 10-win season was the first since 2003, when the Snyder-coached K-Staters won 11 games for the sixth time in seven years and won the Big 12 title.

Offensive MVP: Klein. Other than Robert Griffin III, Klein might be the player most integral to his team's success. He was a workhorse, carrying the ball 293 times, 64 more times than any other Big 12 player. He finished with 1,099 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. He also threw for 1,745 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Arthur Brown, linebacker. Brown added much-needed speed to a defense that was among the slowest in the Big 12 last season. He proved to be a sure tackler and is my pick of the co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, along with his teammate, Nigel Malone. Brown finished with a team-high 95 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Turning point: The win over Baylor. This was when I started to believe in this team, and it proved that it would continue to find ways to win games late. K-State was favored to win just four games all season, but after picking the Wildcats to lose to Baylor by two touchdowns, I picked them to "upset" Texas Tech and Mizzou. They did. Those surprising wins continued late in the season with dramatic wins over Texas A&M, Texas and Iowa State.

What’s next: Another big year in 2012. The Wildcats won't be losing much. Three of the top four tacklers are gone, but the Wildcats have solid young talent at DB and LB with Tre Walker and Ty Zimmerman. Brown returns, too. On offense Klein, Hubert and all five of the top receivers return. We'll see if they can duplicate the drama next season and still come out on top, but the Big 12 title could be within reach.