No. 22 K-State Opens Big 12 Play at Oklahoma State

Courtesy of K-State Athletics

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Following an impressive 31-24 comeback victory at No. 23 Mississippi State and a bye week, No. 24/22 Kansas State begins its Big 12 slate on Saturday at Oklahoma State. The game will kick at 6 p.m., and be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with Mark Neely (play-by-play), Ray Bentley (analyst) and Ed Aschoff (reporter) 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. The game can also be heard on SiriusXM (S: 134; XM: 200; Internet: 954) in addition to the TuneIn app.

A LOOK AT K-STATE
• K-State has opened the Chris Klieman era with three impressive victories as the Wildcats defeated Nicholls and Bowling Green by a combined score of 101-14, and it followed that up with the win at No. 23 Mississippi State.
• The victory at MSU marked the first time in program history that K-State won a road game against an SEC team that was in the league at the time of the game. K-State had previously been 0-11 in such games.
• The Wildcats went from not receiving any votes in either the Amway Coaches or Associated Press polls two weeks ago to ranking No. 22 in the Amway Coaches Poll and 24th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25.
• K-State’s offense has been propelled by a rushing attack that has averaged 280.0 yards per game to rank seventh in the nation. The Wildcats also have 12 rushing touchdowns to tie for seventh nationally in rushing scores after tallying only 20 rushing scores a year ago.
• The rushing attack has been anchored by a pair of graduate transfers in seniors James Gilbert (277 yards) and Jordon Brown (154 yards), in addition to junior Harry Trotter (97 yards). K-State backs have accounted for 10 rushing touchdowns after the group only had 13 a year ago.
• The backs have an experienced offensive line in front of them as there are five senior starters, led by 41-game starter Scott Frantz (left tackle), 33-game starter Tyler Mitchell (right guard) and 28-game starter Adam Holtorf (center).
• Skylar Thompson has been one of the most efficient signal callers in the country as he ranks fifth nationally in ESPN’s QBR.
• The K-State defense has been one of the nation’s best through four weeks as the Wildcats rank second in third down defense (16.1%), second in passing defense (118.7 yds/gm), ninth in total defense (256.0 yds/gm) and 13th in scoring defense (12.7 points/gm).
• Safety Denzel Goolsby, who earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors following the MSU game, and linebacker Da’Quan Patton lead the team with 15 tackles apiece.
• Cornerback AJ Parker has a team-high two interceptions, while Daniel Green, Kyle Ball and Trey Dishon each have a sack this season.

A LOOK AT OKLAHOMA STATE
• The Cowboys head into the matchup with a 3-1 record following a 36-30 loss at No. 12 Texas last week.
• The offense is dynamic with quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace.
• Sanders has thrown for seven touchdowns and 890 yards and also is the team’s second-leading rusher.
• Hubbard is one of the nation’s top running backs, averaging 160.5 yards per game and totaling 9 rushing touchdowns.
• Wallace leads the Big 12 in receiving yards per game at 118.2 and has six receiving touchdowns.
• On defense, Malcolm Rodriguez leads the team with 38 tackles, while Amen Ogbongbemiga has 36, including 6.0 for losses.

A LOOK AT THE SERIES
• Oklahoma State leads the all-time series, 26-39, but K-State leads the series, 8-7, since the Big 12 began in 1996.
• Games between the Wildcats and Cowboys have been hotly contested as of late with eight of the last 12 games being decided by a touchdown or less.
• The latter is expecially true in Stillwater as the last six meetings at OSU have been decided by a touchdown or less and by an average margin of 4.0 points.
• Last season in Manhattan, K-State held a slim 6-3 lead at halftime before outscoring the Cowboys, 28-6, in the second half for a convincing 31-12 victory.
• Two years ago, Kansas State earned a 45-40 win over No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, the Wildcats’ first win at OSU since 1999.
• In that game, Skylar Thompson threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns, while he ran for another.

INTO THE RANKINGS
• Kansas State went from unranked and not receiving votes in either the Amway Coaches Poll or AP Top 25 the first three weeks of 2019 to being ranked No. 22 in the Coaches poll and 24th in the AP poll this week.
• It is the first time K-State has been ranked in both polls since the third week of 2017 (Sept. 10, 2017) when the Wildcats were No. 18 in both polls.

CONFERENCE OPENERS
• K-State is 11-12 all-time in Big 12 openers after last year’s loss at No. 12 West Virginia.
• The Cats are only 1-3 in their last four 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 19th time in the 24-year history of the conference that K-State will open league play away from home (17 road, 2 neutral), including the seventh time in the last eight years.
• The Wildcats are 10-13 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.

TWO OF THE BIG 12’S BEST
• Saturday’s matchup between K-State and Oklahoma State features two teams that rank in the top four in Big 12 wins since the league’s inception in 1996. The Wildcats rank third with 113 Big 12 wins, while Oklahoma State is fourth with 102 victories.
• The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at .611 (44-28), trailing only Oklahoma (.819; 59-13) and Oklahoma State (.655; 47-26).

A NEW ERA
• The new era of K-State Football under Chris Klieman has opened with three wins.
• Klieman, who was named the 35th head coach in school history on December 10, 2018, is just the fourth head coach in K-State history to start 3-0 and could become the first in program history to begin his tenure 4-0 with a win at Oklahoma State.
• Additionally, Klieman-led teams have won 24-straight games as the last loss was when his North Dakota State squad suffered a 33-21 setback at South Dakota State on November 4, 2017.

A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris 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.
• 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.
• A native of Waterloo, Iowa, Klieman has a career record of 75-13 (.852), as he went 69-6 in his five seasons at North Dakota State, 3-7 in one year as the head coach at Division III Loras College in 2005 and 3-0 so far at K-State.
• Klieman’s overall winning percentage ranks third among all active NCAA coaches – regardless of division – and tops among active FBS coaches.

VERY EFFICIENT
• K-State has been one of the most efficient teams in the nation through the first four weeks as the Wildcats rank eighth in the country in team efficiency according to ESPN.
• One of the main reasons the Wildcats rank highly in efficiency is due to the fact they are the only team in the nation to rank in the top five in third-down conversions (4th), third-down defense (2nd) and time of possession (3rd).

HIGH T.O.P.
• K-State enters conference play ranked third nationally and first in the Big 12 in time of possession at 36:58.
• The Wildcats’ best season time of possession average since 1985 was 33:55 during the 2011 season.
• K-State possessed the ball for a total of 41:09 against Nicholls, the most in the nation in the opening weekend. The Wildcats followed that up with 42:52 against Bowling Green to rank as the most is the most by at K-State team since at least 1988, while it ranked eighth in Big 12 history and was the most by a Big 12 team since 2011.

CONTROLLING THE TEMPO
• K-State has showcased a balanced offense in the opening three games, highlighted by a 280.0-yard average on the ground to rank second in the Big 12 and seventh nationally.
• The Wildcats had 573 yards of total offense against Nicholls, which tied for the seventh most in school history and were the most ever in a season opener.
• With 521 yards against Bowling Green, K-State eclipsed the 500-yard total offense mark in the first two games of a season for the first time ever.

CONVERT AT A HIGH RATE
• K-State has converted on 22-of-38 third downs through three games as the Cats rank fourth nationally with a 57.9% conversion rate.
• In the opener, K-State converted on 10-of-12 third downs (.833), a mark that was not only the highest in week one of the season but also the second highest in Big 12 history.
• The Wildcats’ rate against Nicholls was also the highest by K-State since at least 1989.

RUN TO WIN
• The Wildcats have shown that they will establish the run from the outset of 2019 as they rank seventh nationally by averaging 280.0 rushing yards per game.
• K-State carded over 300 yards rushing in each of the first two games, marking the first time since at least 1965 that the Wildcats went over the 300-yard mark twice to open a season.
• Kansas State’s 840 total rushing yards in the first three games are the most since at least 1949. It is only the fourth time during that stretch that K-State has over 800 rushing yards in the first three games, joining the 2001 (806 yards), 1997 (804 yards) and 1957 (828 yards) teams.
• Six different Wildcats have tallied rushing touchdowns this year for a team total of 12. Last year K-State had 20 total rushing touchdowns in 12 games.
• The Wildcats’ 4.0 rushing touchdowns per game mark is tied for second in the nation behind Louisiana (4.5).
• K-State running backs have accounted for 10 rushing touchdowns this season after the position group only had 13 in 2018.

GOOD START ON DEFENSE
• K-State currently leads the Big 12 and ranks second nationally in passing defense (118.7), while the Wildcats rank first in the league in total defense (256.0) and scoring defense (12.7). The latter two figures rank ninth and 13th in the country, respectively.
• The Cats held Bowling Green to 140 total yards, marking the first time since the 2011 Eastern Kentucky game (129) that an opponent under had fewer than 150 yards.
• Bowling Green was also 0-for-11 on third downs, marking the first time since the 2003 KU game that the Wildcats have held an opponent to zero first downs (0-11). It was also the first time since 2011 that a Big 12 team did not allow a third down conversion.
• K-State held Bowling Green to just five first downs, the fewest it allowed since North Texas also had five in 2005.

WELL RESTED
• Not only is the K-State defense rested after a bye week, but the Wildcats are one of the nation’s leaders in fewest defensive snaps played.
• K-State has defended against just 156 plays in its three games as the Wildcats’ 52.0 defensive snaps per game rank second in the nation to Iowa (51.7).

GETTING OFF THE FIELD
• The K-State defense has excelled on getting off the field on third down during the first three games of the year as the Wildcats rank second in the nation in third down defense (16.1%) behind Wisconsin (10.5%)
• The Wildcats are allowing only 1.67 third down conversions per game, ranking second in the country.
• K-State has already forced opponents to 14 three-and-out possessions after just 19 such occurrences all of last season. It is the most 3-and-outs by the Wildcat defense through three games since the 2008 team also had 14.
• The Cats forced eight 3-and-outs against Bowling Green, the most since forcing nine against North Texas in 2005.

SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• Kansas State has been far and away the best team among FBS programs over the last 15 years when it comes to scoring via a kickoff or punt return.
• The Wildcats have a combined 49 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns since 2005, 20 more than any other FBS school during that stretch.
• After only having one in 2018 – a punt-return score in the season opener – Malik Knowles got things going in 2019 with a 100-yard return at Mississippi State.