Kickoff: 6 p.m.
Location: Manhattan, Kan.
Stadium: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000)
Series: K-State leads, 5-0
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+ (watch)
James Westling (Play-by-Play)
LaDarrin McLane (Analyst)
Tori Petry (Sidelines)
Radio: K-State Sports Network; k-statesports.com (Listen)
Wyatt Thompson (Play-by-Play)
Stan Weber (Analyst)
Matt Walters (Sidelines)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 199, SXM App 953
Twitter Updates: @KStateFB
THE TOP 5
1) K-State opens its 127th season of football on Saturday when the Wildcats host South Dakota in a 6 p.m. contest inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It is the third time in the last eight years the Wildcats and Coyotes will open up a season after having previously met in the 2015 and 2018 season openers. K-State won the 2015 contest, 35-0, before earning a come-from-behind 27-24 victory in 2018.
2) Running back Deuce Vaughn returns for his junior year after being named a Consensus All-American in 2021, the 11th in school history. He is one of just six Consensus All-Americans returning from last season and the first Wildcat to return after a Consensus All-America campaign since David Allen in 1999. He could move into the top 10 in school history in career all-purpose yards on Saturday, needing 57 yards.
3) Senior Adrian Martinez will start at quarterback for the Wildcats after spending the previous four seasons at Nebraska. He is the first K-State quarterback to start a season opener after transferring from a Division I school since Matt Miller (Texas A&M) started the 1994 opener. However, he is the first ever to come straight from one Division I school and start the next year’s season opener.
4) K-State returns seven starters on defense from a year ago, a majority of those coming along the defensive line and at cornerback. Expected to start on Saturday after starting 10 or more games last season are nose guard Eli Huggins, defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah and corners Ekow Boye-Doe and Julius Brents. Also, safety TJ Smith is back after starting seven games a year ago.
5) Known for its special teams prowess, K-State brings back both of its primary returners in Malik Knowles (kickoffs) and Phillip Brooks (punts), each of whom have garnered All-America status in their disciplines during their careers. Sixth-year punter Ty Zentner is also back, while Chris Tennant, who ended the year as the primary place kicker, returns for his true sophomore season.
76.0 – Winning percentage by Chris Klieman, which ranks third nationally among coaches who have led programs at least nine years.
+56 – K-State’s scoring margin in the fourth quarter of games last year, which ranked second in the Big 12.
11.2 – Points allowed per game trimmed by the Cats from 2020 (32.2) to 2021 (21.0) after the switch to a 3-3-5 alignment.
6 – Consecutive 100-yard rushing games by Deuce Vaughn dating back to last season’s TCU contest.
1.22 – Turnovers per game by the Wildcats since 2012, the third lowest among all Power 5 programs behind Alabama and LSU.
CATS IN LID LIFTERS
• Entering its 127th year of football, Kansas State holds an all-time record of 86-35-5 (70.2%) in season openers, including a 28-4 (87.5%) mark since 1990.
• Chris Klieman, who enters his 10th year as a head coach, has earned a 7-2 (77.8%) record in season openers.
• All-time, Kansas State is 93-28-5 (75.8%) in home openers, while head coach Chris Klieman is 7-2 (77.8%) in home openers as a head coach.
• Since 1990, K-State holds a 92-18 (83.2%) record in regular-season non-conference games.
• That stretch includes a 78-8 (90.7%) mark at home. During those 30 years (excluding the one-game non-conference schedule in 2020), the Wildcats have had perfect regular season non-conference ledgers 17 times and unblemished marks at home on 24 occasions, which included last season.
A WINNING TRADITION
• Kansas State has been one of the best Big 12 teams since the inception of the conference in 1996. The Wildcats are third with 126 victories, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.
• The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 57.6% (57-42), trailing only Oklahoma (81.6%; 80-18) and Oklahoma State (66.7%; 66-33).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 32-18 (64.0%) at home in Big 12 play and 25-24 (51.0%) on the road.
AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
• K-State has a total of 203 victories since 1996, tying for 24th (with Oklahoma State) among all FBS teams. The Wildcats are one of just 25 schools to reach the 200-win mark over the last 26 seasons.
• Among current Big 12 teams, the Wildcats rank fourth behind Oklahoma (256), Texas (221) and TCU (211).
• More recently, the Wildcats rank 25th in wins among current Power 5 teams since 2010 with 93.
• Kansas State has a strong history of being in the postseason, having advanced to a bowl game 22 times since 1993, including 10 times in the last 12 years.
• K-State’s 22 bowl trips since 1993 rank fourth among current Big 12 teams.
• In an era when over 80 teams play in a bowl game each year, the Cats are one of just 25 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game 10 times in the last 12 years.
WINNING THE FINAL FRAME
• Kansas State was strong in the fourth quarter of games in 2021, as the Wildcats outscored their opponents, 112-56, in the final frame.
• The 56-point difference was the second-highest in the Big 12 last season, while it was the most by a Wildcat squad since the 2012 team held an 80-point difference (152-72).
• The Wildcats won 10 of their 13 fourth quarters in 2021. The only three they did not were against Oklahoma State (0-0), Baylor (3-0) and Texas (3-0).
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 92-29 career record, as his 76.0% career winning percentage ranks third among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least nine years.
• Klieman, who is 20-16 since arriving at K-State, came to Manhattan after capping his five-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State by winning his fourth national championship in 2018. He guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record.
• K-State was one of the least penalized teams in the nation over the final few weeks of the 2021 regular season, as the Cats totaled only four penalties (1.3 per game) for 41 yards (13.7 yards per game) over their final three regular-season games.
• Entering the final three contests – which began against West Virginia – K-State ranked 77th nationally and ninth in the Big 12 in fewest penalties per game. However, the Wildcats concluded the regular season ranked 34th nationally (43-spot jump) and fourth in the Big 12 (five-spot jump).
• K-State only had one penalty for 10 yards against the Mountaineers, two penalties for 17 yards against Baylor and one penalty for 14 yards at Texas.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
• Another staple of K-State football over the past decade has been committing very few turnovers, as the Wildcats rank third nationally among current Power 5 teams since 2012 in fewest turnovers per game at 1.24.
• That figure leads the Big 12 as the Wildcats’ 154 total turnovers over the last 11 seasons are 13 better than the next closest program (Oklahoma, 167).
CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs
• K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 23 seasons as it has 125 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team.
• Kansas State tallied three non-offensive scores in 2021 as Malik Knowles returned a kickoff for a touchdown at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma, and Marvin Martin returned a block punt for a score against West Virginia.
• K-State’s initial two-deep includes 58 names, which is the most since the first depth chart of 2014 also had 58.
• Over Chris Klieman‘s first three seasons at K-State, the initial two-deep in 2021 listed 56 names, the first one of 2020 listed 54, and the first two-deep under Klieman listed 52.
KLEIN TAKES OVER AS OC
• A 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the best signal callers in school history, Collin Klein enters his first season as K-State’s offensive coordinator.
• Klein is one of just four Power 5 offensive coordinators to play quarterback at the school in which they work. The other three are Brandon Streeter (Clemson), Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) and Tavita Pritchard (Stanford).
• Klein was promoted to interim offensive coordinator for the TaxAct Texas Bowl, and all he did was direct the Wildcats to 42 points – their highest output of the season and third highest in school bowl history – while their 442 yards of total offense was the second-best output of the 2021 season and ranked fifth in K-State bowl history.
• Klein was a co-offensive coordinator for one season at K-State (2018), as he begins a run as the Wildcats’ sole offensive playcaller for the first time in his career.
RANKING HIGHLY IN 2021
• K-State returns 24 letterwinners – including six starters – from an offense that ranked highly in school history in many statistical categories.
• The 2021 Wildcats set the school record for completion percentage (69.59) and ranked third in yards per play (6.30). They also finished sixth in rushing yards per carry (4.83), seventh in passing efficiency (146.6), eighth in completions (204) and ninth in yards per pass attempt (8.36).
POINTS PER GAME GOING UP?
• One area in which K-State may improve this season in points per game. The Wildcats averaged 27.5 points per game in 2021, but they have two of the top scorers in the nation on their roster.
• Entering the 2022 season, running back Deuce Vaughn ranks first nationally among all active non-kickers in career points per game (8.1), while quarterback Adrian Martinez is third (5.5).
AN EXPERIENCED QB
• One of the top transfer quarterbacks in the 2022 cycle landed at Kansas State in Adrian Martinez, who spent the previous four seasons at Nebraska.
• A career 38-game starter for the Huskers, Martinez set 17 school records, including career total offense (10,792) and completions (670).
• Martinez enters the 2022 campaign as one of only two active quarterbacks in the nation with 8,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a career. He is tops among active quarterbacks in career rushing attempts (508), second in rushing touchdowns (35) and rushing yards (2,301) by a quarterback, and third in total offense (10,792) and points per game among non-kickers (5.5).
MIX OF NEW AND OLD
• The blueprint for success has been established for the offensive line under coach Conor Riley since he came to Manhattan with Chris Klieman in 2019. That should make for a smooth transition for three new starters in 2022.
• Junior Cooper Beebe, a 2021 First Team All-Big 12 performer who is a Preseason All-American and on the watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, is back and will start the season at left guard, but he can still play tackle.
• Another 13-game starter lines up at right tackle in Christian Duffie, a player who has started 21-consecutive games for the Wildcats, the most on the team.
• However, K-State will be replacing the interior of the offensive line with some mix of Hayden Gillum, Hadley Panzer and Taylor Poitier.
VAUGHN RETURNS AFTER ALL-AMERICAN SEASON
• One of the top returning players in all of college football by multiple media outlets, running back Deuce Vaughn will look to improve upon his 2021 campaign in which he became the 11th Consensus All-American in school history.
• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Vaughn is one of just six Consensus All-Americans returning from last season, joining Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, USC wide receiver Jordan Addison, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., Michigan kicker Jake Moody and USF returner Brian Battie.
• Vaughn, who earned First Team All-America honors by the Associated Press and Sporting News, enters the 2022 season ranking first nationally among all active non-kickers in career points scored per game (8.1), second among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (134.48), and fifth in total touchdowns (31) and rushing yards per carry (5.8).
• Vaughn is coming off a season in which he was one of only three players in the nation with 1,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards, while he ranked fourth nationally with 22 touchdowns and was fifth in points per game (10.2).
• The high career marks by Deuce Vaughn is not only due to his prowess as a runner, but he has been one of the best running backs in the nation in terms of catching the ball out of the backfield.
• Vaughn enters the 2022 campaign with 2,046 rushing yards and 902 receiving yards in his career. With 98 more receiving yards, he will be just the 59th FBS player overall since 1996 to reach the 2,000/1,000 mark and just the 10th from the Big 12.
• However, Vaughn could be one of the fastest players to hit the marks as he has played in just 23 career games.
• Additionally, he would be just the second Big 12 player to hit those marks prior to the end of his junior year, joining former Texas Tech running back Taurean Henderson.
• Senior Malik Knowles received great offseason momentum from his performance in the Texas Bowl as he hauled in two touchdowns to help K-State to a 42-20 win over LSU.
• His two touchdowns tied for the third most in K-State bowl history and pushed his career total to 12, which is tied for eighth in school history.
• In last year’s season opener, Knowles posted a career-high 112 yards against Southern Illinois.
A BIG TURNAROUND
• The K-State defense switched from a four-man front to a three-man front in 2021, and the change paid off in spades as the Wildcats trimmed 11.2 points and 100.0 yards per game allowed off their averages from the year prior.
• Those categories were just some of the major improvements from years past.
• One area of emphasis for the Wildcat defense in 2021 was to limit opponents’ explosive plays, and the Wildcats made headway in that area by allowing 3.5 plays per game of 20 or more yards.
• It was the lowest per game mark allowed by K-State since the 2014 squad surrendered 3.3 plays per game of 20 or more yards (43 plays in 13 games).
• K-State’s 48 total plays allowed of 20 or more yards last year tied for the 18th fewest in the nation last season and ranked second in the Big 12.
FEW FIRST DOWNS
• The Wildcats also ranked highly in the nation in fewest first downs allowed, surrendering 17.9 per game to rank 20th in the nation.
• K-State allowed 20 or fewer first downs in 10 of its 13 games in 2021, including five contests with 15 or fewer.
• It was the second time under head coach Chris Klieman that K-State ranked in the top 20 in that category having placed 17th at 17.2 first downs allowed per game in 2019.
• Since the NCAA made first downs an official statistic in 2008, the Wildcats have only been under 20 first downs allowed per game on four occasions.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE
• K-State tallied 90 tackles for loss last year to rank 10th in school history and 26th in the nation. It was the second most by a K-State team since 2004 (2006 squad had 91) and was the Wildcats’ best national ranking since placing 18th in 2006.
• The Wildcats return 56 of those 90 TFLs from last year (62.2%), a majority coming from the top two in the category last year in linebacker Daniel Green (16.0) and defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah (14.5).
• K-State tallied at least six tackles for loss in 10 games last year, which included each of the final six regular-season contests.
• The Wildcats tallied a season-high 10 TFLs against Baylor and TCU, while they had nine against West Virginia and Texas.
FINDING A NEW HOME
• K-State brought in eight transfers from either Division I or community college on the defensive side of the ball, including six that could see significant time early in the season.
• Transfers that are listed on the initial depth chart include safeties Drake Cheatum (Prairie View A&M), Josh Hayes (Virginia/North Dakota State) and Kobe Savage (Tyler JC), linebackers Gavin Forsha (Tyler JC) and Shawn Robinson (Missouri/TCU), and cornerback Jordan Wright (Fullerton College).
• After making a name for himself in 2021, junior defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah will look to improve off an All-American campaign in which he was also named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
• A Preseason All-American by multiple outlets in addition to being named to the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award watch lists, Anudike-Uzomah finished the 2021 season tied for the national lead in forced fumble per game (0.46), while he ranked 11th nationally and second among sophomores in sacks per game (0.85).
• Anudike-Uzomah has six forced fumbles in his career, needing just two enter the school’s top-five list.
• A product of Kansas City, Missouri, Anudike-Uzomah enters his junior campaign ranked second nationally in career forced fumbles per game (0.33) and third in career sacks per game (0.67), while he is 6.5 sacks shy of entering K-State’s career top-10 list.
GREEN MEANS GO
• Linebacker Daniel Green is back for his senior season after leading the team in both tackles (89) and tackles for loss (16.0) last year en route to All-Big 12 honors.
• He ranked 18th nationally and fourth in the Big 12 with 5.3 solo tackles per game last season. He also finished eighth in the Big 12 with 6.85 tackles per game, the highest ranking by a Wildcat since 2017.
• During the 2021 season, Green totaled at least nine tackles five times, including a season high 11 against Baylor.
• Green enters his senior campaign with 162 career tackles, which is 88 shy of becoming the 27th player in school history with 250 career stops. He would be the first one to accomplish that feat since 2014.
• Of his 162 career tackles, 115 are solo stops as he is 54 shy of entering the school’s top-10 list.
OLD FACE, NEW PLACE
• Safety Josh Hayes is entering his sixth year of college football and third school after transferring in the spring from Virginia to K-State.
• However, Hayes, a product of Lakeland, Florida, is reuniting with head coach Chris Klieman and defensive coordinator/safeties coach Joe Klanderman in Manhattan after the trio were together at North Dakota State. Hayes played as a true freshman and sophomore in 2017 and 2018 under Klieman before he became the K-State head coach for the 2019 season.
• Hayes saw time in all 15 games in 2017, including his first-career start in the national championship when NDSU topped James Madison. He went on to play 37 more games with 24 more starts for the Bison before transferring to Virginia for the 2021 season, playing in three games before utilizing his redshirt and transferring to K-State.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• One of the main reasons the Wildcats have been a successful program the last three decades is a knack for momentum-swinging plays in the return game.
• Since 2005 (17 seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 58 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (37) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State – 32).
• Of the 58 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 19.
• With the Wildcats’ blocked punt-return touchdown against West Virginia last year, K-State has now tallied a punt-return score in every season since 2014, as the eight-year stretch is the longest in school history. The score against the Mountaineers was the only punt-return touchdown in the Big 12 in 2021.
DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS
• On the flipside, K-State has excelled in kickoff-return defense, as the Wildcats have gone 111-consecutive games and 357 kickoff returns defended without allowing a score. The last team to take one to paydirt on K-State was Louisiana in 2013.
• Entering the 2022 season, K-State’s 111-game streak is tied for sixth in the nation with New Mexico behind Florida State (234), Memphis (169), Akron (132), Virginia Tech (116) and UTEP (114).
• The Wildcats have tallied 14 kickoff -return scores since surrendering their last one.
KNOWLES WITH A KNACK
• Malik Knowles is the latest Wildcat with a knack for kickoff returns as he was a 2021 Second Team All-American by Phil Steele and a 2022 Preseason All-American by multiple outlets.
• Knowles was the 2021 First Team All-Big 12 kick returner, marking the 15th time in the 26-year history of the Big 12 that K-State had a First Team All-Big 12 returner. The next closest team is former Big 12 member Colorado with four.
• Knowles is tied for fourth in school history in both career and single-season kickoff return touchdowns, thanks to scores last year in back-to-back weeks at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma.
• Knowles, who also had a 100-yard return in 2019 at Mississippi State, is tied for second nationally among active players with three career kickoff-return scores.
• Knowles comes into the 2022 season ranked fourth in school history in career kickoff-return average and touchdowns, while he is tied for second nationally among active players in touchdowns and ranks fifth in average.
ZENTNER BACK FOR SENIOR SEASON
• Another All-Big 12 performer returns at punter, as Ty Zentner is taking advantage of a second senior season in 2022 after averaging 43.5 yards per punt a year ago to tie for fifth in school history.
• His average would have ranked second in the Big 12 had he punted eight more times to reach the required minimum of attempts.
• Zentner was also the Wildcats’ primary kickoff man, totaling 36 touchbacks on his 67 kickoffs (53.7%), the most by a Wildcat since at least 2004.
TAKING A STEP FORWARD
• After serving as the primary place kicker each of the final five regular-season contests, Chris Tennant looks to hold down the spot during his second season in Manhattan.
• A true freshman in 2021, Tennant connected on 5-of-8 field goals and all 16 extra-point attempts as he became K-State’s first true freshman to make a field goal since 2001 (Joe Rheem).
• One of those makes was a 51-yarder at Texas, which tied for the longest by a true freshman in school history (Jaime Rheem, 1996 vs. Nebraska) and tied for the seventh longest by a true freshman during the 2021 season.