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Fiesta Wednesday: Bowl Day 6


View Wedneday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Wednesday

By Mark Janssen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Around 10:30 tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium, an era comes to an end.

It's about that time that No. 7 ... Collin Klein ... will take his final snap as a Kansas State Wildcat.

The hope is that it will come in an unprecedented 12th victory for a single K-State season, and a win that will make Klein the all-time winningest starting Wildcat quarterback with 23 victories.

That would be one more than Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson, who each lost in their final Wildcat game at the 1998 Alamo Bowl and the 2003 (season) Fiesta Bowl, respectively.

"He's been such a great leader for us and one that has created so many plays," said pass game coordinator Del Miller. "You really don't like to put such a load on one person, and we didn't necessarily try to, but so much of our offense came from keeping the ball in his hands."

First as a little-recruited quarterback, then moved to a backup receiver, and then back to quarterback where he eventually placed third in the Heisman Trophy voting and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Klein said, "It's definitely been a journey. It's been a great experience. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am just so blessed that God gave me the opportunity in this place and on this team."

Fiesta Tuesday: Bowl Day 5


View Tuesday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Tuesday

By Mark Janssen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - September 15, 2009: Louisiana 17, Kansas State 15.

It was on that day, and against that team, and by that score, that Braden Wilson was introduced to losing.

"Honestly, it didn't hit me that hard," said the Wildcat fullback. "It was just on to the next game."

In Wilson's prep career at Smith Center (Kan.) High School that he was a part of 54 victories and 0 losses.

Yes, that's zero ... as in 0 ... losses.

"We lost a game when I was in seventh grade," said Wilson, who was on the Redmen team that once scored 72 points in the first quarter of a game for a national record, and was the stud running back who accounted for 1,807 yards on just 112 rushing attempts, plus scored 29 touchdowns, and, was part of the defense that didn't allow a point through the first 11 games of the season and allowed just 20 (840-20) in a 14-game season. "The next loss came on Sept. 15, 2008. It really didn't sink in for a while that I had been on a team that lost a game."

Wilson is now heading into the final game as a Wildcat with a K-State record of 34-16. In the last two seasons that mark is 21-4, with a Big 12 Championship and a conference record of 15-3.

While not compiling huge numbers himself - 21 all-time rushes for 44 yards and two touchdowns, plus 18 receptions for 144 yards - it's been Wilson's blocking from his fullback position that allowed Collin Klein to finish third in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and for John Hubert to have rushed for nearly 1,900 yards in the last two years.

"My top goal is to win the game. It's not in accumulating statistics," said Wilson. "I've just never been big on numbers other than wins and losses. When we're winning, all is good."

Fiesta Monday: Bowl Day 4


View Monday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Monday

By Mark Janssen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Kansas State's coaching staff isn't into picking "surprise" players, but if really pressured, the name of Cornelius Lucas would most certainly come up in the conversation.

So, are you a "surprise," Cornelius? "I wouldn't say that because I knew I had this in me."

Out of New Orleans, La., Lucas redshirted in 2009, had a few snaps in 2010, and a few more in 2011. But he never started, and never played at his home of offensive tackle when the game was on the line ... until this year when he started every game and became a first-team All-Big 12 performer at left tackle.

"It's just been a process," said Lucas. "Awards like that have always been my aspiration, but it's just taken working toward it every day."

Lucas admitted that perhaps his "drive to excel" wasn't what it should have been before because there were fixtures on the line ahead of him.

"It wasn't right, but I knew I wasn't going to play on Saturday so maybe I didn't put enough into it," said Lucas. "This year I had guys in front of me leaving, so I knew the door was open ... .it would be up to me. My motivation to play and practice harder went way up."

Of the 6-foot-9, 324-pound Lucas going from a non-factor in 2011 to a first-team all-conference player in 2012, line coach Charlie Dickey said, "He became committed to those '16 Goals' that coach has set. He decided he wanted to be a great player. You know, it takes time to grow, get stronger and learn the offense. With Cornelius, it's been a process. He's always been committed, but it's been a process."

Fiesta Sunday: Bowl Day 3


View Sunday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Sunday

By Mark Janssen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - For the first time in a long, long time, a K-State press conference was thrown and Collin Klein was not the man in the spotlight.

At Sunday morning's gathering of the media it was Chris Harper that gathered the most microphones and poised pens as the Wildcat wide receiver was asked and re-asked to reflect on his days as an Oregon Duck in 2008.

"I didn't remember any of the names, but some of the faces were familiar," said Harper of the Oregon media types. "I think some of them wanted to stir up some bad blood, but I have no hard feelings about Oregon. I had already committed to K-State, but Oregon was a place where my parents wanted me to go, so that's where I went. But I liked (Chip) coach Kelly and I don't regret my one year there one bit."

A PrepStar All-American out of Wichita Northwest High School as a quarterback, Harper was a hit with the Ducks becoming the first player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season.

"It only came down to being around family and going where I wanted to go in the first place," said Harper.

Of going against some old friends and his former school, coach Bill Snyder said, "Chris is Chris. I don't think he will be overwhelmed."

Fiesta Saturday: Bowl Day 2


View Saturday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Saturday

By Mark Janssen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Kansas State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said, "Without question we've missed Ty. We've missed his abilities, but also his leadership on the field." 

The good news is that Ty Zimmerman is expected to be "nearly" at 100 percent for the Jan. 3, Fiesta Bowl game against the Oregon Ducks. It was in the 23-10 victory over TCU on Nov. 10 that Zimmerman suffered a significant injury to his leg or foot. 

"It was something like that," grinned the Wildcat safety staying true to coach Bill Snyder's rule of not talking about injuries. What followed was a 52-24 loss to Baylor, followed by a 42-24 victory over Texas for the Big 12 Championship. 

"It's been very frustrating having to watch from the sidelines," said Zimmerman, who recorded 45 tackles this season with two fumble recoveries, and a Big 12-high of five interceptions, which included picks in four consecutive games ... a first for a Wildcat since 1989. "As a player you never want to sit on the sidelines and just watch. You can say only so much that can help your team." 

Zimmerman, who had started 35 straight games prior to the injury, said he was never given a timetable for his return, but instead told that the rehabilitation process would be monitored on a weekly basis.

Fiesta Friday: Bowl Day 1


View Friday's photo gallery | Watch video recap from Friday 

By Mark Janssen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - All have arrived in sunny, but coolish Phoenix as the Wildcat football team touched down in time for a two-hour practice on Friday at Scottsdale Community College, while the rest of the travel party arrived around 4:45.

The rigors of bowl-week begin Saturday with a 7 a.m. wakeup call for those attending the FCA breakfast, which will be followed by a press conference at 9:30.