(Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics)
MANHTATTAN, Kan. — Following a late season opener and a quick bye week, Kansas State begins its nine-game Big 12 schedule by traveling to Norman to face No. 3 Oklahoma (1-0) on Saturday inside Memorial Stadium. The game will kick at 11 a.m., and will be shown nationally on FOX with Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analyst) and Jenny Taft (sidelines) on the call. The game can be heard across the 39-station K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play), former K-State quarterback Stan Weber (analyst) and Matt Walters (sidelines) calling the action. Nationally, the game will be broadcast by Westwood One with Ted Emrich (play-by-play) and James Laurinaitis (analyst) on the call. Fans can also catch the game on SiriusXM (S: 121, X: 380, Internet: 970) in addition to the TuneIn app.
A LOOK AT K-STATE
- K-State is looking to rebound from a 35-31 last-minute loss to Arkansas State on Sept. 12.
- Playing in their latest season opener since 1992, the Wildcats dropped just their fourth season opener in the last 31 years and their second home opener during that same span.
- K-State enters conference play with 47 returning letterwinners – including 12 starters – from a year ago that ended tied for third in the competitive Big 12 with a 5-4 record.
- Among the 47 returning letterwinners are eight players that earned All-Big 12 honors last season, including first-team selections Wyatt Hubert (DE), Nick Lenners (FB/TE) and Joshua Youngblood (KR).
- Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson is in line to make his 29th career start against the Sooners. He is one of just four quarterbacks in school history to throw for 4,000 career yards and rush for 1,000 career yards, but he was the only one to do so prior to entering his senior campaign.
- Senior running back Harry Trotter earned the start against Arkansas state and had a team-high 16 carries, but it was true freshman Deuce Vaughn that led the team in rushing, which included his first-career touchdown. He became the first true freshman in school history to score a touchdown in a season opener.
- Defensively, Hubert added to his career sack total, which now stands at 12.5. His 0.50 career sacks is tied for fourth nationally among active players.
- Senior linebacker Justin Hughes, who was playing in his first game in 658 days, tied for team high honors with six tackles against the Red Wolves.
- Nickelback Will Jones II did have any tackles but made a major impact in his first start by blocking a punt and recording an interception, the first Wildcat to do both in the same game since 2008.
- Place kicker Blake Lynch went 1-for-3 on field goals against Arkansas State but still ranks second in school history and fifth nationally among active players with his 85.0% conversion rate.
A LOOK AT OKLAHOMA
- Oklahoma is 1-0 on the year after a 48-0 season-opening win over Missouri State on September 12.
- The Sooners scored 31 points in the first quarter en route to a 41-0 halftime lead over the Bears. They garnered 608 yards of total offense, including 484 passing yards between a pair of quarterbacks.
- Starting quarterback Spencer Rattler threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns on 14-of-17 aim, all coming in the first half.
- Marcus Major started the game at running back, but backup Seth McGowan led the team with 61 rushing yards and a touchdown.
- Defensively, the Sooners carded four sacks and nine tackles for loss against the Bears. Linebacker Brian Asamoah led the squad with seven tackles, while Delarrin Turner-Yell had four stops and a 42-yard interception return that led to the Sooners’ final score.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
- Oklahoma leads the all-time series, 76-20-4, including a 37-8-3 mark in Norman.
- The Wildcats won last year’s matchup over the fifth-ranked Sooners, 48-41, in Manhattan. In that game, K-State held a 48-23 lead in the fourth quarter and was able to hold on down the stretch to secure their first victory over a top-five team in 13 years.
- Kansas State will be looking for consecutive wins over OU since winning five-straight games from 1993 to 1997.
- Since the Big 12 began a round-robin schedule in 2011, K-State is 2-2 in Norman. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team to have two wins at Oklahoma during that stretch. The other seven conference opponents that play in Norman every other year have a combined four wins.
- K-State is 11-13 all-time in Big 12 openers after last year’s loss at Oklahoma State.
- The Cats are only 1-4 in their last five Big 12 openers.
BIG 12 ROAD OPENERS
- Opening Big 12 play on the road is nothing new to the Wildcats as this weekend will be the 20th time in the 25-year history of the conference that K-State will open league play away from home (18 road, 2 neutral), including the seventh time in the last eight years.
- The Wildcats are 10-14 all-time in their first Big 12 road game of the season and are looking for a win in their inaugural conference road game of the season since a 32-28 triumph at Iowa State in 2014.
QUICK CONFERENCE GAME
• After starting a season the latest it had since 1992, K-State is playing a conference opponent within the first two games of a season for just the third time in 56 years.
- In 2014, K-State played its second game at Iowa State before hopping back into non-conference play against Auburn and UTEP. In 1996, the Wildcats defeated Texas Tech in the inaugural Big 12 game to open the season.
- Outside of those two occurrences, the last time the Wildcats played a conference opponent within the first two games was 1964 (at Colorado).
TWO OF THE BIG 12’S BEST
- Saturday’s matchup between K-State and Oklahoma features two teams that rank in the top three in Big 12 wins since the league’s inception in 1996. The Sooners lead with 153 wins, while the Wildcats are third with 118 victories.
- The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at .605 (49-32), trailing only Oklahoma (.827; 67-14) and Oklahoma State (.642; 52-29).
A WINNING HISTORY
- A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds an 80-19 career record as his 80.8% winning percentage ranks 10th among all NCAA coaches – regardless of division – among those with at least seven full years of experience.
- Klieman came to Manhattan after capping his five-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State by winning his fourth national championship in 2018.
- A native of Waterloo, Iowa, Klieman guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record, making NDSU just the fifth team in FCS history to go undefeated and untied on the way to a national championship.
FOOTBALL IS FOOTBALL
- Despite not having any FBS head coaching experience prior to the 2019 season, Chris Klieman showed that “football is football” is more than just a saying.
- Klieman tallied eight victories last year to set the school record by first-year head coaches, topping College Football Hall of Famer Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf (7-2-1 in 1934) and Ron Prince (7-6 in 2006).
- In fact, Klieman is one of the most successful first-time Power 5 head coaches over the last five years as his eight regular-season wins were tied for fifth over that span.
- However, he is the only one in the top five to have taken over a team the year after that program produced a sub-.500 regular season.
- K-State has always been one to play ball control, and that was elevated in 2019 as the Wildcats finished ninth nationally in time of possession at 33:27.
- The mark in 2019 was the Wildcats’ best since they finished the 2011 season fourth in the nation at 33:55.
- K-State possessed the ball for over 40 minutes twice in 2019, including a 42:52 mark against Bowling Green to rank eighth in Big 12 history. They had two other games with over 38:00 of possession.
- Of the 14 games under head coach Chris Klieman and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, the Wildcats have won the time of possession nine times.
- Kansas State played 33 freshmen during the 2019 season, including 12 true freshmen, and that trend continued in the 2020 season opener.
- Against Arkansas State, 11 freshmen played – including starts by redshirt freshman right tackle Cooper Beebe and redshirt freshman nickelback Will Jones II. Of the group that played, five were true freshmen in Felix Anudike, Aamaris Brown, Will Howard, TJ Smith and Deuce Vaughn.
CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs
- K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 21-plus seasons as it has 118 since 1999, 10 more than the next closest team.
- Since 1999, the Wildcats are averaging 5.6 non-offensive touchdowns per year, while the yearly average for the other 105 teams to play FBS football since 1999 is 2.7.
- Kansas State’s average is boosted by the fact that it has at least five non-offensive touchdowns in seven of the last nine years, which included the 2019 season.
- K-State needed just two plays to get into the end zone for the first time in 2020 on a Skylar Thompson-to-Phillip Brooks 17-yard pass with 13:24 remaining in the first quarter against Arkansas State.
- It marked the third time in the last six years that K-State has scored within the first two minutes of a season opener. In 2017, Alex Barnes scored on a 1-yard run with 13:58 remaining in the first quarter, and, in 2015, Morgan Burns returned the opening kickoff 100 yards and crossed the goal line with 14:48 left in the first quarter.
BALANCED ON OFFENSE
- K-State showcased a balanced offense in 2019, totaling 2,352 passing yards and 2,314 rushing yards.
- The 38-yard difference between passing and rushing was the fewest in a season since at least 1948 as records of K-State’s season stats only go back to 1949.
- In the Wildcats’ upset over No. 5 Oklahoma last year, K-State was a perfect 50-50 split with 213 rushing yards and 213 passing yards.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
- Kansas State made the most of its opportunities in the red zone last season as it converted on a nation-leading 96.2% (50-of-52) of its trips.
- Its only two trips that did not result in points came within the first three games as the Wildcats are currently riding a streak of 44 red-zone opportunities that have resulted in scores dating back to last season.
- K-State finished the 2019 season with 39-straight scoring trips inside the red zone, the most by the Wildcats since at least 2003.
GOING THE DISTANCE
- K-State had three touchdown drives last season of at least 90 yards – 97 yards against Nicholls, 95 yards against TCU and 98 yards against Iowa State.
- The long drive against the Frogs was capped by a 3-yard run by Skylar Thompson with 2:45 left in a 24-17 victory.
- The 98-yard drive against the Cyclones was the longest by the Wildcats since also going 98 yards against both Texas Tech and UCLA in 2017.
- In the 2020 season opener against Arkansas State, K-State had a touchdown drive that spanned 92 yards.
FEW OFFENSIVE TURNOVERS
• The Wildcats only had 10 offensive turnovers during the 2019 season (4 FUM, 6 INT), their fewest in a 13-game season in school history.
- Of the Wildcats’ nine total lost fumbles last season, three were on punt returns and one was on an interception return.
- K-State was the final team in the nation last year to commit an offensive turnover when it fumbled at OSU. The Cats went the first 189 minutes, 38 seconds of the 2019 season without committing an offensive turnover.
- The Wildcats did not commit a turnover in their season opener against Arkansas State.
REBUILDING THE LINE
• Preseason practices were a vital time for the Wildcats to start putting together pieces for the 2020 offensive line, one that did not return a single start from last season.
- It marked the first time since at least the 1989 season that the Wildcats did not return any starts from the previous season.
- Last year’s starting offensive line finished with a combined 208 games played and 159 career starts. This year’s two-deep totaled 52 games played and three starts entering the year. Of those, 13 career games and one start is from Logan Long, who is converting from tight end to offensive line this season.
- Josh Rivas, who rotated in at guard last season, returns and started at right guard in the season opener. Rivas earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press last year despite not starting a single game last year, but he did make a pair of starts as a redshirt freshman in 2018.
SKYLAR IN CHARGE
• Senior Skylar Thompson is in line to make his 29th career start on Saturday, which would put him in sole possession of third place among Wildcat quarterbacks since 1990.
- Ell Roberson (2001-03) ranks first on the list with 32, Josh Freeman (2006-08) is second with 31, and current quarterbacks coach Collin Klein (2010-12) is tied for third with Thompson.
- Thompson ranks in the top 10 in K-State history in 10 career categories, including completion percentage (4th; 59.48), completions (7th; 367) and passing touchdowns (9th; 28). More info on page 43.
- Additionally, the Independence, Missouri, product has 5,706 career offensive yards to rank seventh in school history, while his 47 career TDs responsible for are eighth.
• Skylar Thompson has proven to be equally effective in both the passing and running game as he is one of just four quarterbacks in school history with 4,000 career passing yards and 1,000 career rushing yards. However, he is the only one of the group to do so prior to their senior season.
- He needs just 346 passing yards to be the second player in school history to reach the 5,000/1,000 mark.
• K-State’s season opener against Arkansas State represented a couple of first in school history for true freshmen.
- When running back Deuce Vaughn plunged into the end zone from three yards out in the second quarter, he became the first true freshman in school history to score a touchdown in the season opener.
- Late in the third quarter, quarterback Will Howard connected on a 24-yard pass to Jax Dineen as Howard became the first true freshman quarterback in school history to complete a pass in a season opener.
- Howard is the first true freshman quarterback to complete a pass in any game since Josh Freeman did so when he started the final eight games of 2006.
• One of the top tight ends from the FCS level in 2018, Briley Moore is in his second senior season and his first campaign at K-State.
- Moore, a transfer from Northern Iowa, started his Wildcat career on the right foot by totaling a team-high six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
- His six receptions were most by a Wildcat tight end since Travis Tannahill also had six at Baylor in 2012. Moore’s 54 receiving yards were the most by a K-State tight end since Zach Trujillo went for 88 yards at Baylor in 2014.
- Moore ranked sixth in the FCS in receiving yards among tight ends in 2018, but he missed almost all of the 2019 season due to a season-ending injury in the opener at Iowa State before earning a medical hardship.
- Among FBS tight ends who have played this season, Moore has the fourth-most catches in a game.
KLANDERMAN TAKES OVER THE DEFENSE
• Kansas State’s coaching staff stayed mainly intact from the first year of the Chris Klieman era with the exception of safeties coach Joe Klanderman taking over the defense after Scottie Hazelton left for Michigan State.
- Klanderman, who has spent six seasons on Klieman’s staffs at K-State and North Dakota State, is coordinating a defense for a second time in his career as he held the position at his alma mater, Minnesota State, from 2007 to 2013.
- Klanderman served as the safeties coach last year as he guided Denzel Goolsby to Honorable Mention All-Big 12 accolades, the first Wildcat safety to do so since 2016.
GETTING OFF THE FIELD
• The K-State defense excelled in terms of getting off the field on third down during last season as the Cats ranked second nationally in third down defense at 28%, just 0.7% behind national leader Wisconsin (27.3%).
- The Cats allowed only 42 third down conversions in 2019, which was the fewest in the nation and six ahead of the Badgers (48).
• Making his first-career start in the 2020 opener, nickelback Will Jones II accomplished a rare feat against the Red Wolves as he blocked a punt and also had an interception.
- He became the first Wildcat to block a kick (punt, PAT or FG) and have a pick in the same game since defensive tackle Raphael Guidry did so against Iowa State in 2011. He was the first Wildcat to block a punt, specifically, and have a pick in the same game since Courtney Herndon against Montana State in 2008.
- Since 2000, a Wildcat has blocked a punt and had an interception in the same game just five times.
WELCOME BACK JUSTIN
• When senior Justin Hughes started at linebacker vs. Arkansas State, it marked his first game played in 658 days following a season-ending injury during 2019 spring practices.
- Hughes, who earned a medical hardship for the 2019 season, started each of the final seven games in 2018 and was penciled in as a starter last season prior to his injury.
- Alongside Hughes is his former high school teammate Elijah Sullivan, who has started 18 career games, including a current streak of 14.
WYATT’S COMING FOR YOU
• One of the top young defensive ends in the Big 12 the last two seasons will look to improve his production as a junior as Wyatt Hubert is back after earning First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2019.
- Hubert also earned votes for the league’s defensive player of the year and defensive lineman of the year awards last season.
- The Topeka native is currently tied for fourth nationally among active players in career sacks per game (0.50), while he ranks seventh in tackles for loss per game (0.50).
D-TACKLE DOUBLE TEAM
• Defensive tackles Eli Huggins and Drew Wiley – both of whom were making their first-career starts against Arkansas State – each came away with a sack.
- It marked the first time since the 2017 Oklahoma State game that two Wildcat defensive tackles recorded a sack in the same game (Trey Dishon and Will Geary).
SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• Kansas State has been far and away the best team among FBS programs over the last 15-plus years when it comes to scoring via a kickoff or punt return.
- The Wildcats have a combined 53 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns since 2005, 21 more than any other FBS school during that stretch.
- Of the 116 other schools to play FBS football since 2005, the average total over those 15 years is 13.3, or nearly 40 less than K-State.
- Of the 117 schools to play FBS football since 2005 (including K-State), the Wildcats are the only team to have at least one kickoff- or punt-return touchdown every season, and only three schools (Marshall, Oregon and USC) have done so in 14 of 15 seasons.
TO THE HOUSE
• K-State led the nation in 2019 with four kickoff-return touchdowns, a mark that tied the school record (2009, 2015).
- Last season, the Wildcats had as many or more KOR touchdowns than the combined conference totals of four FBS leagues (Pac-12: 4; Sun Belt: 4; SEC: 3; MAC: 2).
- The Wildcats, who represented 0.7% of FBS teams (1 of 130) in 2019 had 8.2% (4 of 49) of kickoff-return touchdowns in the nation last season.
• Redshirt freshman Will Jones II blocked Arkansas State’s first punt attempt on the game, which subsequently led to K-State’s first touchdown of the season.
- It was the Wildcats’ first blocked punt since Brock Monty had one against Texas Tech in 2018, while it was the first for K-State in a season opener since Bruce Libel did so against Temple in 1999.
LYNCH IS ACCURATE
• A former walk-on, Blake Lynch has proven to be an accurate kicker as he his career field goal percentage of 85.0% (34-for-40) currently ranks fifth nationally among active players and is second in school history.
- Lynch, a two-time Lou Groza Award candidate, ranked third in school history a year ago with his 90.5% mark (19-of-21).
YB ALL THE WAY
- Just a true freshman in 2019, Joshua Youngblood ended his rookie campaign with a nation-leading three kickoff-return touchdowns, all coming over the final four regular-season contests.
- His three kickoff-return touchdowns ranked third in school history for a season – and were tops among freshmen – while he already ranks fourth in K-State history for a career.
- Youngblood also finished third in Big 12 history and tops among freshmen for single-season kickoff-return touchdowns, while he is already tied for seventh in league history for a career.
A SPECIAL PLAYER
- Joshua Youngblood is the continuation of great return men in K-State history as he was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year in 2019 by the league’s coaches in addition to being named to multiple All-America teams.
- Youngblood became the first true freshman in Big 12 history to earn the league’s top honor on offense, defense or special teams.
- It was the fifth time a Wildcat earned the top special teams honor since the award was established in 2005, joining Morgan Burns (2015), Tyler Lockett (2013 and 2014) and Brandon Banks (2009).
- Youngblood was also named a First Team All-Big 12 kick returner, the first Wildcat true freshman to be named to the first team since the league’s inception in 1996.
- His All-America designation made him the first Wildcat true freshman to land on a first or second team since Lockett in 2011.