Date: Saturday, September 23, 2023
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Location: Manhattan, Kan.
Stadium: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,00)
Series: K-State Leads, 1-0
TV: FS1 (watch)
Eric Collins (Play-by-Play)
Devin Gardner (Analyst)
Radio: K-State Sports Network; k-statesports.com (Listen)
Wyatt Thompson (Play-by-Play)
Stan Weber (Analyst)
Matt Walters (Sidelines)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 137 or 200; SXM App 954
X Updates: @KStateFB
THE TOP 5
1) For the second-straight year, Kansas State will open Big 12 Conference play looking to rebound from a close loss, as the Wildcats host UCF Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family in the Big 12 opener for both teams. The Wildcats are looking to bounce back from a 30-27 loss to Missouri last week, while the Knights head into their first-ever Big 12 matchup at 3-0. The sold-out contest will kick at 7 p.m. on FS1.
2) K-State scored over 40 points in each of its first two games of a season for a second time under head coach Chris Klieman (2019). The Cats have hit the 40-point mark in four of their last five regular-season games. Since Collin Klein took over as offensive coordinator for the 2021 Texas Bowl, K-State is averaging 33.8 points per game. The Cats currently rank fifth in the Big 12 in scoring offense (38.0 ppg).
3) Senior quarterback Will Howard has been workmanlike through three games as he enters the week second nationally in points responsible for (24.0 ppg), 14th in passing touchdowns (8) and 25th in total offense (292.0 ypg). Howard also now ranks eighth in school history with 32 career touchdown passes, while he is ninth in school history in touchdown responsibility (45).
4) The K-State defense enters the week ranking in the top 15 nationally in rushing defense (3rd – 50.0 yds/gm), tackles for loss (6th – 9.3 TFLs/gm) and 3rd down defense (15th – 29.5%). Since the Wildcats switched to a 3-3-5 alignment to start the 2021 season, K-State has allowed just 20.7 points per game to rank 21st in the nation and second in the Big 12 (Iowa State – 19.6).
5) Senior linebacker Austin Moore and safety Kobe Savage lead the team with 16 tackles, while Moore ranks seventh nationally with 6.0 tackles for loss. Defensive end Khalid Duke – who is moving from linebacker back to his natural home at defensive end – has 3.0 sacks over the first three weeks to rank 12th in the nation, while Jacob Parrish ranks 23rd in passes defended with four.
134 – Total career starts by K-State offensive linemen, including all 70 starts from a year ago.
133 – Number of Big 12 wins for K-State since the league was formed, which ranks third behind Texas and Oklahoma.
75.6 – Career winning % by Chris Klieman, which ranks fourth nationally among FBS coaches with at least 10 years experience.
50.0 – Rushing yards per game given up by K-State this season, which ranks third nationally.
20.7 – Points per game allowed by K-State since the start of 2021, ranking 21st nationally and second among returning Big 12 teams.
WEEKS 2-3 RECAP
• In K-State’s last home game, the Wildcats won their second game of the season, a 42-13 triumph over Troy to end the Trojans’ 12-game winning streak.
• Will Howard threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more to lead a Wildcat offense that amassed 397 total yards, including a 5-play, 66-yard touchdown drive during the final minute of the first half to take a 21-10 lead.
• K-State went on to out-score Troy, 21-3, in the second half, converting on 5-of-8 third-down attempts.
• The defense held Troy to just 70 rushing yards on 28 attempts (2.5 yds/att) with 46 yards coming on one rush.
• K-State, which collected 9.0 tackles for loss with 4.0 sacks, did not allow Troy to convert any of its seven third-down attempts in the second half as it held the Trojans to just 98 second-half yards.
• Last week, an SEC-record 61-yard field goal as time expired lifted Missouri to a narrow 30-27 win over the Wildcats in Columbia.
• Howard threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-39 aim with his 25 completions setting a career high, bettering the 21 he had last year against Oklahoma State and the previous week against Troy.
BIG 12 OPENERS
• K-State holds a 13-14 record all-time in Big 12 openers.
• Under head coach Chris Klieman, K-State is 2-2 in Big 12 openers with a 38-35 victory at No. 3 Oklahoma in 2020 and a 41-34 triumph at No. 6 Oklahoma last year.
A RARE OCCURRENCE
• For just the sixth time in the 28-year history of the Big 12 and the first time since 2017, K-State will be opening conference play in Manhattan.
• K-State is 16-11 all-time in its initial Big 12 home game, including a 2-2 mark under head coach Chris Klieman. The Wildcats lost in 2019 to Baylor and 2021 to Oklahoma, while they defeated Texas Tech in 2020 and 2022.
AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
• K-State has a total of 215 victories since 1996, which ranks 23rd nationally and 16th among Power 5 programs.
• Among current Big 12 teams, the Wildcats rank fifth behind Oklahoma (265), Texas (232), BYU (226) and TCU (226).
• Over the last 13 seasons, the Wildcats have won at least seven games 11 times.
• Kansas State has a strong history of being in the postseason, having advanced to a bowl game 23 times since 1993, including 11 times in the last 13 years.
• K-State’s 23 bowl trips since 1993 are tied for 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 19 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game 11 times in the last 13 years.
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 133 conference victories, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.
• The Wildcats are also third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 59.3% (64-44), trailing only Oklahoma (77.6%; 83-25) and Oklahoma State (64.8%; 70-38).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 35-19 (64.8%) at home in Big 12 play and 29-25 (53.7%) on the road.
TAKING DOWN TOP 10s
• K-State picked up three victories over AP top-10 teams in 2022, which culminated with a 31-28 overtime win over No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 Championship. It was the first time in school history the Cats took down multiple AP top-10 teams in one season.
• The Cats also defeated No. 6 Oklahoma, 41-34, in Norman, while they shut out No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0, at home.
• K-State was one of only two teams in the nation – along with Georgia – to post three wins over AP Top-10 teams.
• The Wildcats are now 6-3 in their last nine games against top-10 teams dating back to Nov. 18, 2017, a span that began with a 45-40 victory at No. 10 Oklahoma State. Prior to that, the Cats were just 1-15 in their previous 16 tries.
• Under head coach Chris Klieman, K-State has defeated five teams ranked in the top 10 by the Associated Press. No other current Big 12 team has more than three victories over AP Top 10 teams since 2019 (Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU all with three).
BIG 12 CHAMPS
• Kansas State earned its third Big 12 title with a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Big 12 Championship.
• It was the second for the Cats in a conference championship game as they took down No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-7, in 2003.
• Kansas State earned its first conference title since finishing with an 8-1 record in 2012 as there was no conference championship game conducted that year.
• The Wildcats are in search of winning a Big 12 title in consecutive years for the first time in school history. They are looking to become the second Big 12 program ever to defend its conference title (Oklahoma – 7 times).
• For the first time in six seasons, K-State entered a season ranked in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the Coaches Poll as they checked in at No. 16 and No. 17, respectively.
• K-State’s No. 16 preseason ranking in the AP Poll was its highest since beginning the 2004 campaign at No. 13.
TOUGH SLATE AHEAD
• In addition to having a target on their backs after winning the Big 12 in 2022 and entering the season in the top 20, the Wildcats are facing a difficult schedule in 2023.
• The 12 opponents K-State will face during the regular season combined for a 60.8% winning clip in 2022, which is the 10th-highest percentage in the nation.
• K-State is one of just four teams in the nation to play 11 games in 2023 against teams that made the postseason in 2022. Two of the other three programs that will face 11 postseason teams from last year reside in the Big 12 in Iowa State and Texas, in addition to Ole Miss.
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 104-34 career record, as his 75.4% career winning percentage ranks fourth among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least 10 seasons. He is also one of just 14 current Power 5 head coaches with at least 100 victories.
• Klieman, who is 32-21 since arriving at K-State, is 7-7 in his career against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with six of the victories coming at K-State.
CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs
• K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 24 seasons as it has 129 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team (Alabama – 122).
• Kansas State had three non-offensive scores in 2022, beginning with a blocked punt return touchdown by Desmond Purnell against South Dakota in the season opener.
• The next week against Missouri, Phillip Brooks took a punt 76 yards for a score.
• Then, at West Virginia, Cincere Mason returned an interception 37 yards for a score, the Wildcats’ first pick-6 since 2020.
• Of the 129 non-offensive scores since 1999, 44 have been punt returns, 40 interception returns, 33 kickoff returns, 10 fumble returns and 2 missed/blocked field goal returns.
• Kansas State has scored at least 40 points in four of its last five regular-season contests dating back to last season, including a stretch of four-straight games prior to last week, which was the longest since the 2002 season.
• During K-State’s march to the 2022 Big 12 title game, the Wildcat offense was one of the most productive Power 5 units in the nation as they averaged 40.2 points per game over the final five regular-season contests, which ranked fifth nationally among Power 5 teams and tops in the Big 12 during that time frame.
• Since Collin Klein started calling plays during the 2021 Texas Bowl, K-State’s offense has averaged 33.8 points per game.
• K-State totaled at least 375 yards in all nine conference games last season in addition to the Big 12 Championship. It marked the first time ever in Big 12 play (since 1996) that the Wildcats totaled at least 375 yard in every league game.
• Overall, the Wildcats averaged 418.8 yards of offense, which ranked fifth in school history and was the most since the 2014 squad (421.6).
• The 2023 opener saw the Cats total 588 yards, the fifth-most in school history, most ever in a season opener and most since a school-record 658 yards in the 2005 North Texas game.
• K-State, which collected 408 yards last week at Missouri, enters this week’s game ranked 30th nationally and sixth in the Big 12 by averaging 464.3 yards per game.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
• A staple of K-State football over the past decade has been committing very few turnovers, as the Wildcats are tied for second in the nation among Power 5 teams in fewest turnovers since 2012 with 169.
• That figure leads returning Big 12 teams, as the Wildcats are 14 better than the next closest program (Texas, 183).
• The Wildcats finished the 2022 season tied for eighth nationally and tops in the Big 12 in turnover margin (+0.86 / game). It was the first time K-State finished in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin since 2016 (fourth).
PUTTING IT WHERE ONLY OUR GUY CAN GET IT
• Since Collin Klein took over coaching the quarterbacks in 2017, K-State has only thrown 46 interceptions, equating to 0.62 per game.
• K-State’s 46 total interceptions thrown the last six-plus seasons is the lowest in the Big 12 (Oklahoma is second with 48) and tied for 13th in the nation.
• Last season, Adrian Martinez set a new single-season school record with an interception percentage of 0.54%, bettering the mark of 1.36% by Michael Bishop in 1998.
PRODUCING A CLEAN POCKET
• K-State has excelled in pass blocking since offensive line coach Conor Riley arrived in 2019, as the Cats have allowed fewer than 2.0 sacks per game each of the last four seasons. It is the Wildcats’ first four-year stretch under 2.0 sacks allowed per game since 1997 to 2000.
• K-State is the only Big 12 program – including the four new programs in 2023 – to currently hold a streak of at least four years allowing less than 2.0 sacks per game each season, and the Wildcats are only one of 10 FBS programs to lay that claim.
KEEPING IT 100
• Those that produced the clean pocket for the Wildcats last year all return as K-State brought back 100% of its 70 starts along the offensive line from a year ago.
• To open the 2023 campaign, the Wildcats brought back a nation-leading 116 starts from their starting unit from last season. K-State also ranked 12th nationally in total returning games played among all offensive linemen with 204.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• Kansas State has been one of the best teams in the Big 12 in terms of scoring in the red zone since 2019, as the Wildcats rank second in the league at 91.0%.
• One of only two league teams to eclipse the 90% mark over the last four seasons, K-State is 182-for-200 with 130 touchdowns in the red zone during that span.
• This year, the Cats are 13-of-14 in the red zone with 12 touchdowns, the latter of which ranks second in the Big 12 (OU – 14).
IT’S WILL’S TURN
• Even though he has played in 22 career games with 15 starts entering 2023, this is the first time that Will Howard entered a season as the No. 1 starter.
• Thus far the Downingtown, Pennsylvania, native has not disappointed as he is tied for second in the nation in points per responsible for (24.0 pts/gm), ranks 14th in passing touchdowns (8) and is 25th in total offense (292.0 yards per game).
• He opened the year against SEMO with a career high 297 passing yards, the most in a season opener since 2017.
• Last season, Howard threw 15 touchdowns in his seven games played (five starts) en route to a 149.6 passer rating to rank eighth in school history.
• That included a 159.4 rating over the final five weeks of the season and the Big 12 Championship game, which ranked eighth nationally and third among Power 5 quarterbacks behind USC’s Caleb Williams (173.9) and Oregon’s Bo Nix (168.3).
• In addition to his passing showcase in the opener against SEMO, Will Howard also recorded a touchdown run and a touchdown catch.
• It was the sixth time in Big 12 history a quarterback threw a touchdown pass, rushed for a touchdown and had a receiving touchdown in the same game. Howard accomplished all three in the second quarter, the second time in Big 12 history that had been done (Nebraska’s Eric Crouch vs. California in 1999).
THE TRIFECTA x 2
• K-State boasts the only two players in the nation that have passed for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass this season in Will Howard and running back Treshaun Ward.
TWO CAPABLE RUNNERS
• Although K-State lost the services of two-time Consensus All-American Deuce Vaughn, the Wildcats have shown they have plenty of experience in the running game with sophomore DJ Giddens and Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward combining for 384 rushing yards on 73 carries (5.3 yds/rush).
• During his redshirt freshman season of 2022, Giddens rushed for 518 yards, the third most by a freshman in school history.
• Ward, a fifth-year senior, earned All-ACC Honorable Mention accolades a year ago after rushing for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, both career highs.
• Tight end Ben Sinnott burst onto the scene last season, and that has continued in 2023 as he hauled in five passes for 100 yards in the opener against SEMO and logged a two-touchdown game at Missouri.
• He is one of only nine tight ends nationally with a 100-yard game, but his 20.0-yard average ranks second.
• Sinnott was the first K-State tight end with a 100-yard receiving game since Jeron Mastrud at Kansas in 2006 (103 yards).
• At Missouri, he produced his second-career game with two touchdowns, and he now has six receiving scores in his career to tie for second in school history by a tight end (Henry Childs, 10, 1971-73).
SWISS ARMY KNIFE
• Ben Sinnott’s skill set allows him to line up in many different spots. Thus far in 2023, the Waterloo, Iowa, product has lined up 121 times as an inline tight end, 38 times in the slot, 26 times in the backfield and 10 times as a wide receiver.
A VERSATILE LINEMAN
• Preseason All-American offensive lineman Cooper Beebe has shown off his versatility this year as he has taken snaps at left guard and both tackle positions.
• Starting each game at left guard in which he has taken 95 snaps, Beebe has also produced over his 106 snaps at right tackle and four snaps at left tackle.
• According to Pro Football Focus, Beebe has not allowed a sack in his last 908 pass blocking snaps, dating back to the 2020 Iowa State game. He has also only been flagged for a post-snap penalty four times in his career.
A BIG TURNAROUND
• The K-State defense switched from a four-man front to a 3-3-5 alignment in 2021, and the change has paid off.
• In the 30 games since the defensive switch, the Cats are allowing just 20.7 points per game, which ranks second in the Big 12 and 21st in the nation.
• The Wildcats surrendered just 21.0 points per game in 2021 and 21.9 points per game last year. It marked the first time K-State allowed less than 22.0 points per game in consecutive seasons since going 13-straight years from 1991 to 2003.
• The Wildcats allowed 13 points or less over their first two games for a second-straight season (2022: 0 vs. South Dakota, 12 vs. Missouri). It is the first time they have surrendered 13 points or less in the first two games in consecutive seasons since 2001 (6 points) and 2002 (3 points).
• K-State has held five teams without a touchdown since the beginning of the 2022 season, four of which came last year against South Dakota, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
• The last time K-State did not surrender a touchdown in four games overall in a season was 2002 (Western Kentucky, ULM, Kansas, Missouri), while the last time they did so in three Big 12 games was 2001 (Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri).
• Kansas State posted another season-opening shutout as it blanked SEMO in the opener.
• It is the second-straight year that the Wildcats shut out its opponent in the season opener, the first time K-State has done that since 1998 and 1999.
• It was the third shutout in the last 15 games by the Wildcats, their most in a 15-game stretch since posting three in 2002.
• K-State held all of its Big 12 opponents last season under their season averages coming into the game.
• The most dramatic difference came against Oklahoma State, as the Wildcats shut out an offense that was averaging 44.7 points per game at the time. The Wildcats also held Baylor to just a field goal as the Bears averaged 38.3 points per game enter their contest against the Wildcats.
• Since head coach Chris Klieman‘s first year of 2019, the Wildcats have held 30 of their 37 Big 12 opponents under their season average at the time it faces the Wildcats.
LIVING IN THE BACKFIELD
• Kansas State has totaled 28 tackles for loss over the first three games as it enters the week ranked sixth in the nation and tops in the Big 12.
• It is K-State’s most TFLs in the first three games of a season since carding 29 over the first three contests of 2017.
• K-State is also tied for 16th in the country and second in the Big 12 with 10 sacks.
LATE DOWN STOPS
• A year after ranking 78th nationally and sixth in the Big 12 by allowing a 35.4% conversion rate on third down, K-State finished the 2022 season ranking 27th in the country and third in the conference with a 34.0% rate.
• The Cats allowed their opponents to convert on third down under 50% of the time in 11 of 14 games, including the Big 12 Championship game when TCU was just 2-of-15 on third downs.
• K-State enters this week ranked 15th nationally by allowing opponents to convert on just 29.5% of its third downs.
BACK FOR MOORE
• K-State’s leading tackler from a year ago is at is again as Austin Moore is tied for the team lead with 16 tackles and paces the Wildcats with 6.0 tackles for loss.
• A former walk-on turned team captain, Moore enters the week ranked seventh nationally and second in the Big 12 in TFLs, thanks in part to a career-best 3.0 TFLs in the season opener against SEMO.
DUKE BACK HOME AT DE
• Moving back to his natural position of defense end has paid off for Khalid Duke, who is tied 12th in the nation and tops in the Big 12 with 3.0 sacks.
• A linebacker each of the last two seasons, Duke is back at defense end, a spot he played in 2019 and 2020.
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 (18-plus seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 60 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (39) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State – 34).
• Of the 60 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest teams are Houston and San Diego State with 20.
• With two punt-return touchdowns in 2022, K-State has now tallied a punt-return score in every season since 2014, as the nine-year stretch is the longest active streak in the nation.
• Special teams have been an area of emphasis under head coach Chris Klieman, and the stats back it up.
• K-State is one of only two teams in the nation (Houston) with at least five kickoff-return touchdowns and five punt-return touchdowns since 2019.
• On the flipside, K-State is one of just 13 returning FBS teams to not allow a kickoff- or punt-return touchdown since 2019, while the Wildcats are the only Big 12 team to lay that claim.
DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS
• Kansas State has not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2013 season, going the last 387 returns without allowing opponents to find paydirt on a kickoff return.
• The streak is the longest among the returning Big 12 teams.
• Since K-State allowed its last kickoff-return touchdown, the Wildcats have scored 14 of their own.
BROOKS IS BACK
• Taking advantage of a sixth year of eligibility, Phillip Brooks – one of the best punt returners in Big 12 history – is back.
• He is currently tied for sixth in Big 12 history with four career punt-return touchdowns, while he ranks in the top 10 in school history in punt-return touchdowns (second), average (fifth; 14.5), yards (fifth; 709) and attempts (seventh; 49).
• Among active FBS players, the Lee’s Summit, Missouri, product ranks first in non-offensive touchdowns, punt-return yards, punt-return average and punt-return touchdowns, fifth in combined kickoff- and punt-return yards (1,545) and 16th in all-purpose yards (3,358). Additionally, he ranks fourth in career games played (56).