Manhattan, Kan. (westernkansasnews.com)–It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. Kansas State overcame four first half turnovers that turned into 13 Saluki points, and held on for a 31-23 win Saturday night in their home opener at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, in front of 47,628. It was the first meeting between the two programs.
Kansas State would march down the field with ease on their opening drive. Deuce Vaughn collected his first touchdown of the night from four yards out with 11:45 left in the first quarter to put the Cats up 7-0 with the Taiten Winkel PAT. That was set up by a 43-yard pass to Malik Knowles from Skylar Thompson. The two teams would trade interceptions, as Cimarron’s Jaylen Pickle recorded his first career interception off a tip by Ryan Hennington. Thompson would be picked off on the very next play, but the Wildcat defense would force a Southern Illinois three-and-out.
On the ensuing series, K-State marched back down the field, and had a scary situation on their second scoring drive. Quarterback Skylar Thompson left with a leg injury while attempting to lead block for Deuce Vaughn. Backup quarterback Will Howard would come in and finish the drive with a one-yard rush with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter to put the Wildcats up 14-0.
Southern Illinois got on the board with a six-minute, 41-yard drive, on a Nico Gualdoni 32-yard field goal in the first minute of the second quarter to pull to within 14-3. K-State drove back down the field in four minutes, as Vaughn rushed in from a yard out to extend the Wildcat lead to 21-3 with the Winkel field goal. The game would see a huge shift in momentum.
The Salukis came right down and scored on a four-yard rush by Javon Williams with 5:09 left before halftime to pull to within 21-9. Their two-point conversion swinging gate attempt failed. Kansas State fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive, setting up Southern Illinois at the Cat nine. Two plays later, Williams scores from a yard out to pull them to within 21-16. The Salukis would take the lead just 58 seconds later. On third down, a Will Howard pass was over thrown and intercepted by PJ Jules, and returned 41 yards to the end zone to put the Salukis up 23-21 with 3:16 left before the break.
In the third quarter, Kansas State settled down, and took the lead back on a Taiten Winkel 34-yard field goal with 5:56 left in the period to put the Cats up 24-23. It was a drive that took 7:38 off the clock.
The teams would keep trading possessions, and the Wildcats would get one more score that proved to be big. They completed a 21-yard pass play on third and 10, and with 1:57 left, Deuce Vaughn scored from four yards out to put K-State up 31-23. Southern Illinois drove down the field to the Wildcat 21, before Felix Anudike-Uzomah sacked Saluki quarterback Nic Baker, forces a fumble recovered by Timmy Horne, and Kansas State escaped with a 31-23 win.
Skylar Thompson was 3-4 for 96 yards passing in the first quarter with an interception. Will Howard threw for 76 yards on 8-17 passing with an interception. Deuce Vaughn had 120 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns, as Kansas State rushed for 208 yards and finished with 380 yards of offense.
For Southern Illinois, Nick Baker threw for 176 yards on 16-27 passing with an interception. Javon Williams had 46 yards on 12 carries with two rushing touchdowns, as the Salukis had 100 rushing yards as a team and had 276 total yards.
At 2-0 on the year, Kansas State will wrap up non conference play against Nevada Saturday afternoon at 1 pm. Southern Illinois is 1-1, and will host Dayton Saturday evening.
Kansas State officially opened their $50 million Shamrock Zone on the south side of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, attached to Bramlage Coliseum. They also announced that they have raised $96.5 million of the $126.5 million cost to begin on three facilities, including the Shamrock Zone. This includes a new football indoor turfed practice field, an outdoor turf practice field, new volleyball arena and Olympic performance center. Construction is set to begin in early 2022, and all three new facilities will be completed by fall of 2023.
Athletic Director Gene Taylor on new facilities
Head Coach Chris Kleiman
Quarterback Will Howard
Tackle Cooper Beebe
Defensive End Felix Anudike
Linebacker Cody Fletcher