SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Â Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein says it was difficult for the Wildcats to get past their only loss of the season, 52-24 to Baylor in the 11th game, Nov. 17.
The Oregon Ducks, who will play Kansas State in Thursday's 5:30 p.m. Fiesta Bowl, lost on the same day, to Stanford.
The Ducks lost by three points. The Wildcats got spanked. Either way, both teams saw their national championship hopes disappear.
"It's something all of us will remember forever," Klein says, of the defeat. "But coach (Bill Snyder) told us right after the game, 'Bad things and things you don't want to happen are going to happen in life.' I'm so proud of our team and how we responded (beating Texas 42-24). We were all upset, but we didn't get mad or bitter toward each other. It was a matter of coming together and finishing against Texas, a very good football team, with the (Big-12) conference championship on the line."
Coach Chip Kelly, whose Ducks have the same 11-1 record as K-State going into their bowl meeting at Glendale, Ariz., had these observations of the Wildcats' loss to Baylor:
"On the defensive side, they just missed some tackles. Schematically, it wasn't that (Baylor) exploited something from K-State where you were like, 'Wow, we can add that to our arsenal as we prepare for this game.' ... When you look at that game, then you look at the totality of the season, there's not one thing that (K-State) did drastically different in that game. I think Baylor has a lot of speed, speed in space. They made kids miss tackles. When they missed tackles, they hit some long runs. Didn't happen the rest of the year."
By the way, Oregon has speed in space as well.
Oregon's Kenjon Barner needs one rushing TD to break the single-season, school-record tie of 21 he shares with buddy and former teammate LaMichael James. Barner needs 188 all-purpose yards to surpass James (5,689) as UO's all-time leader.
Â Kansas State receiver Chris Harper, a transfer from Oregon, remains close with Barner (they text routinely). Harper had this to say about UO's fascination with uniform combinations and using the uniforms as a recruiting tool:
"As bad as it sounds, if you're looking at the uniforms where you want to go play football and go to school at, it's a terrible situation," Harper says. "You have to look at way more aspects. When you get there, you're going to have so many more problems than what you're going to wear on game day. The young guys coming up aren't thinking about that. That's something I would encourage the young guys to look at look at the coaching situation, the school, the facilities, other than just the jerseys."
Klein says his relationship with Harper has been "awesome, it's been a journey."
He adds: "Chris is very laid back. He obviously respects and still has players and friends he knew at Oregon, still appreciates them, talks very highly of them. But we're trying to win a game, and he knows that."
The 6-1, 235-pound Harper was recruited to the Ducks as a quarterback, but he could have played running back and been a receiver the whole time.
"He's a specimen," Klein says. "He runs extremely well for his size. He has the size to really do some good things. He's got great hands. People don't talk about how good of hands he really has."
The Wildcats also like to run the ball. They average 199.2 yards on the ground. The run sets up Klein's play-action pass game.
"I think it's more difficult playing a team that doesn't throw the ball downfield every play," UO cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu says. "A team that plays air raid, you're expecting it. A team that's able to balance their offense, it's harder, because you're not expecting to break on deeper routes. It's a lot different.
"A receiver can come off the ball really lazy five, six times in a row. Then, all of a sudden, you're going to fall asleep and they go deep on you. That's something you have to keep your focus on every single play in the game and you'll be fine."
Kelly, on how far the UO program has come, playing in its fourth consecutive BCS game: "I don't think we're judged by wins and losses."
The Ducks aren't judged by wins and losses?
"As a coaching staff, we don't do that," Kelly says. "We're proud of that, obviously, but the results aren't the end part for us. It's about (players') growth every day, both on the field and off the field."