A little over an hour after Jordan Voelker had knocked down Robert Griffin III's pass to cement Kansas State's improbable come-from-behind, 36-35 victory over Baylor, an exhausted Collin Klein, dressed in team custom tie and jacket, reached to shake my extended hand...sort of.
"A lot better than I deserve, by God's grace," Klein said. "He's protected me. And, again, I'm just very grateful that he's put me in this position to contribute on this team. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
Having said that, things like getting roughed up always hurt a little less when the pain comes with the reward that only a win can bring.
"That's fact," Klein said, smiling. "That's fact."
"It's a team game," Klein said. "Our team did a great job of hanging in there down the stretch and getting the amount of stops that we needed. I'm just so grateful that we were able to hang together as a team and get another team victory."
For this K-State team, right now, "team" isn't a noun. It is a living, growing, thriving action, evidenced by multiple players expressing it in their own way; even head coach Bill Snyder referring to it not as something he wished his Wildcats had (as he's done with other teams in his history), but with the enjoyment that comes from seeing the light come on with his group.
"Bottom line of all it is, it is kind of like - you hear me talk about it all the time during the offseason - it's about a bunch of goals, and they're all about values and how important those values really are," Snyder said following K-State's win. "That's what it's been about all year when you think about it. [The team] never gave up; the discipline to do the right things when you had to do the right things; the hard work - all of those things that we teach our kids, teach our children. It makes an amazing difference.
"It's hard for young people to really understand that, but I think they're starting to get the picture because it has been a great asset to them so far. I am really proud of them."
For a team that has a couple of speedsters at certain positions but isn't "fast," has some size but isn't "big," has a little in the way of big-play capability but works more on efficiency, it has blown away its competition to this point in terms of heart.
Junior fullback Braden Wilson made "team" sound like a verb in his current assessment of the Wildcats.
"Our unity, and everyone's willingness to sacrifice themselves right now," Wilson said. "We don't have any selfishness on the team. Right now, like I said, there's a lot of unity within the team. Everybody is willing to put themselves on the line for each other - just be tough, and work hard and finish."
"Coach [Chris] Cosh just had us in the right situation," Voelker said. "We had been reppin' it a lot in practice. The tight end released out, and I was in a two-point stance, so I was just reading that tackle. He blocked down, so I was thinking it was a passing situation. I got my hands up and luckily got a tip on the ball."
Against Miami, it was Tre Walker making the handful of plays to save the game. Against Baylor, it was his linebacking peer Arthur Brown who almost single-handedly brought the Wildcats back. But, after the heavy lifting was done against the Bears, it was Voelker who made the game-deciding play in a final quarter that also saw the K-State secondary adjust and hold Baylor star wideout Kendall Wright without a catch in the fourth quarter after he set a Bears single-game school record with 201 receiving yards through the first 45 minutes.
Assignment-sound football also led K-State to five sacks of Griffin against an offensive line that had allowed only two in three previous games.
"That's what we practice for," Voelker said. "We try to have everybody rely on each other, and know that they're going to be there and do their job when their time comes. That's the trust issue that you have. You just have to believe in everybody; that they're going to step up when they have that opportunity."
Still, while it has come through in crucial times, the defense did allow Baylor to rack up 429 yards in 62 plays. So, it's good, but...
Granted, the game plan called for keeping Griffin and company off the field by going on extended drives, which the Wildcats did by putting together three drives of five minutes or longer and winning total time of possession 38:47 to 21:13. But, the Wildcats weren't able to cash in a couple of short fields set up by the defense - having to settle for first half field goals instead of touchdowns.
That point wasn't lost on Klein, who said those situations should help keep the offense focused as K-State prepares to take on Missouri this Saturday in Manhattan and attempt to start the season 5-0 for the first time since current freshman wideout Tyler Lockett's uncle, Aaron, was a junior (2000).
"We made some plays that we haven't made in the past few weeks, and we missed some; I missed some," Klein said. "That's the game. You just have to keep coming back. We're all hungry for more. We know there's more out there, and we just have to keep our noses to the grindstone and get after it."