Is K-State's offense sustainable?

 

Collin Klein is averaging 22 carries per game. That’s more than any quarterback in the country (even the amazing Denard Robinson!) and less than only nine running backs.

Sure, that number is lower if you don’t include sacks and scrambles, but the last time I checked he’s still getting hit on those plays. In fact, those are probably the plays where he’s getting hit the worst. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I much prefer the stat-padding kneeldowns or QB sneaks at the end of the games. 

We all saw* how beat up the Honey Badger was on Saturday against a fast, athletic, strong, and (thankfully) undisciplined Miami defense, and how heroically he handled that beating. At the time, he seemed as invincible as Ron Swanson after eating a turkey leg wrapped in bacon.

*Full disclosure: I didn’t actually watch the majority of the game Saturday, because I was, sort of like our fearless quarterback, abusing my body at a Warrior Dash. For those of you into that sort of thing, I would highly recommend it.

But now that it’s three days later, it’s time to look in the mirror and ask if it’s really a good idea to put the guy who suddenly seems to be far and away our best quarterback into harm’s way so often. After all, he is still human. I think.

Now, before KSB goes on a rant here and reminds us how he was right all along and we should just let Klein do his thing, let me be clear. If any quarterback can handle 22 carries a game against the big scary linebackers in the Big 12 Conference, it’s the Honey Badger. At 6'5", he's a big man, and he can probably handle more abuse than a lot of running backs.*

*In case you were wondering, Daniel Thomas averaged almost 23 carries per game last year, and he really had no help in the backfield. If you think DT is only one carry per game better at running than Collin Klein, then I'm sorry, but you're insane.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about his rushing numbers is that of the 10 guys with as many or more carries than Klein per game, only five of them get more yards per carry. Before you scoff, remember that they’re all running backs, and if you take away Klein’s sacks, that number might well improve.

And yet, I can’t help but hope that the Honey Badger runs a little bit less in conference play. Give it to the running backs more, I guess, or better yet, let’s see him continue to improve that passing game that really seemed to be good at times on Saturday.

In fact, the best-case scenario is that this is all a part of HCBS’s master plan, and he’s just using all this running early so he can surprise all the Big 12 schools when he unleashes Klein’s laser rocket arm on an unsuspecting public in the next few weeks. That would be fantastic.

Klein also isn’t the same runner as Denard Robinson, or even James Franklin (the other two guys with more carries). Sure, the Honey Badger looks really fast after watching Carson Coffman run for a year (about 14 yards per carry too much, in case you were wondering), but he’s just not quick enough to avoid the contact that could eventually put him out of commission or slow him down.

Plus, he thrives on that contact. I would never ask Klein to change his running style, for reasons that I don’t have to spell out here. But even Jesus Christ Tim Tebow and Michael Bishop never really got all that close to 22 carries per game.

 

Of course, circumstances are a little different. Clearly, those guys had significantly better supporting casts and backfield buddies.* But K-State isn’t Minnesota, who has one of three quarterbacks with more carries than the Honey Badger (all have played 4 games). We’re not following in KU’s footsteps and desperately trying to find some way to win games. 

*I’m siding with KSB on John Hubert’s unexpectedly awesome second half. He still doesn’t look like a consistently quality Big 12 back. I really hope I’m wrong.

 

At the end of the day, I think Snyder and the coaches know all this. They probably didn’t want to use Klein’s running game as much as they did, particularly against Eastern Kentucky and Kent State. They know that to be the best they can be in the Big 12, K-State will need a better passing game and a more consistent effort from its backs.

Plus, it’s a safe bet that the Big 12 defensive coordinators have been watching some film, and their gameplans will focus at least as much on stopping the Honey Badger on the ground as Hubert. I’d be shocked if we get all the way through the year with a quarterback averaging 20+ carries in every game, one way or another.

In these first three games, the ‘Cats needed a leader who could show he wasn’t afraid of anything, even Hurricanes. They found that in Mr. Klein, and now it’s time to protect that investment.

 

We’re going to need it against an overachieving Big 12, starting with the Baylor Bears and the best quarterback in the league country this Saturday. There will surely be times where a strong running game and a guy behind center who is ready to run through a wall will come in quite handy, and there’s no one I’d rather have to do it then a certain 22-year-old man badger from Loveland, Colorado.
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