MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Collin Klein connected with Chris Harper on a 37-yard touchdown pass with 1:39 left, and Kansas State escaped with a sloppy 10-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night to give longtime coach Bill Snyder his 150th win.
Kansas State fumbled five times - losing four of them - and struggled to get anything going against its opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision.
The plucky Colonels, picked to finish third in the Ohio Valley Conference, took a 7-0 lead with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter when freshman quarterback Jared McClain plunged in from a yard out. The TD was set up when Kansas State running back Bryce Brown fumbled the ball away.
Anthony Cantele, who earlier missed a 37-yard field goal try, drew Kansas State within 7-3 when he hit from 36 yards out with 11:36 left in the game.
The Kansas State defense managed to stop Eastern Kentucky on its ensuing possession, giving Klein and the offense the ball at its 14. The junior quarterback hit Harper for 10 yards, mixed in a couple of runs, connected with Harper again on an 8-yard completion, and converted a third-and-3 situation when he scrambled for four yards in front of the Wildcats' bench.
Two plays later, Klein saw Harper coming open on a skinny post route and hit him in stride as the crowd of 50,292 erupted for the first time all night. The touchdown gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game, and allowed them to win their 22nd consecutive home opener.
Things started out poorly for Kansas State and didn't get a whole lot better.
Klein was forced to call timeout on third-and-9 on the Wildcats' opening possession, and then proceeded to fumble the snap and give the Colonels the ball. The defense stiffened, though, and Eastern Kentucky's Luke Pray eventually missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
The Wildcats went three-and-out on their next possession, a promising seven-play drive stalled at the Colonels 22, Ty Zimmerman fumbled a punt a few moments later, and the defense allowed Eastern Kentucky to march inside the Kansas State 10 before Nigel Malone intercepted McClain's pass late in the first quarter to preserve the scoreless game.
The comedy of errors continued once the teams switched directions.
Klein was picked off by Brooklyn Fox on a jump ball to end one drive, and another drive halted after Klein failed to notice the blitz and was sacked for a 13-yard loss.
The two teams went into the locker room with zeros on the scoreboard.
It remained that way most of the second half and at one point the Wildcats appeared like they might not score in a game for the first time since 1996. But the Wildcats managed to find just enough offense to hand Eastern Kentucky its 19th consecutive non-conference road loss.
The Colonels haven't beaten an FBS school since knocking off Louisville in 1985.
The Associated Press News Service
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