Courtesy of K-State Athletics
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Looking to rebound from an 0-2 start to Big 12 play, Kansas State returns to Bill Snyder Family Stadium following its lone bye week of the 2021 season as the Wildcats host Iowa State on Saturday. The game against the Cyclones, which kicks at 6:30 p.m., will be televised by ESPN2 with Clay Matvick (play-by-play), Rocky Boiman (analyst) and Tiffany Blackmon (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. Fans can also catch the game on SiriusXM (S: 132; XM: 200; App: 954) in addition to The Varsity Network app.
A LOOK AT K-STATE
• K-State looks to get into the winning column in Big 12 play after dropping games at Oklahoma State (31-20) and to Oklahoma (37-31), both of which reside in the top 12 in this week’s polls.
• The Wildcats’ two conference opponents, plus its difficult non-conference schedule in which they went 3-0 against, has their strength of schedule ranked fifth in the nation in the current Sagarin Ratings.
• Quarterback Skylar Thompson returned against the Sooners after missing the previous two games due to injury, and he put together one of the best passing performances of his career by setting highs in completions (29) and attempts (41), and tying his high for touchdown passes (3), while he threw for the second-most yards in his career (320).
• Thompson’s favorite receiver against OU was Deuce Vaughn, who hauled in 10 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. It was the second 100-yard receiving game of his career and just the seventh in school history by a running back or fullback.
• This year, Vaughn has totaled 650 scrimmage yards (444 rush/206 receive) and seven scores. In his 15 career games, Vaughn has at least 100 scrimmage yards 10 times – including all five games this year – and he ranks third nationally among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (124.73).
• Vaughn and Thompson have the luxury of playing behind an experienced line that brought back 100% of its starts from last year.
• Receivers Malik Knowles, Phillip Brooks and Landry Weber have combined for 39 receptions for 525 yards and two scores.
• The Wildcats, deploying a new 3-3-5 look and regularly rotating in over 25 players on defense, rank seventh in the nation against the run (86.4 yds/gm) and 16th in sacks (3.2 per game).
• Linebackers Cody Fletcher (32) and Daniel Green (29) lead the team in tackles, and each have three stops behind the line.
• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah leads the Big 12 and ranks eighth nationally with five sacks on the year.
• The Wildcats have five interceptions as safeties Russ Yeast and TJ Smith each recorded a pick against Stanford, defensive tackle Jaylen Pickle had one against Southern Illinois, cornerback Tee Denson picked off Nevada, and Julius Brents had one against Oklahoma.
• Malik Knowles has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of the last two games, and he leads the nation with a 39.3-yard return average.
A LOOK AT IOWA STATE
• Iowa State enters the game at K-State with a 3-2 record, including a 1-1 mark in Big 12 play.
• The Cyclones rank fifth in the Big 12 in rushing offense with 182.6 yards per game, while they are sixth in total offense at 442.0 yards per game.
• Quarterback Brock Purdy has thrown for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns on 94-of-132 aim and four interceptions.
• Purdy’s favorite target has been Xavier Hutchinson, who has 381 yards and three touchdowns on 31 receptions.
• Purdy ranks second on the team in rushing to Breece Hall, who has 551 yards and eight scores.
• Defensively, ISU ranks third nationally by allowing only 234.2 yards per game.
• Jake Hummel leads the Cyclones with 35 tackles, just ahead of Mike Rose’s 34 stops.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
• Iowa State leads the all-time series, 51-49-4, but K-State has won 11 of the last 13 meetings and is 25-6 in the last 31 meetings dating back to 1990.
• The home team has won the last four games in the series, and K-State has won seven-straight over ISU in Manhattan dating back to 2006.
• The last time in Manhattan, K-State earned a 27-17 victory in the regular-season finale. The game featured scoring runs by both teams as K-State scored the first 14 points of the game before ISU came back with 17-straight points to take a three-point lead. The Wildcats then scored 13-straight points of their own – capped by a field goal by Blake Lynch with 3:04 left – for the victory.
• In 2017 in Manhattan, K-State trailed 19-7 early in the fourth quarter before pulling to within five points thanks to a 13-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Following an ISU punt, K-State started a drive on its own 13-yard line with 1:55 left and proceeded to march 87 yards in 10 plays, capped by a Skylar Thompson touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber in the back of the end zone on the final play of the game to secure a 20-19 victory.
A LONG-STANDING RIVALRY
• This year marks the 105th-consecutive season Kansas State and Iowa State will meet on the gridiron, which is one of the longest uninterrupted series in FBS history.
• The current streak of 104 games ranks eighth among active uninterrupted series.
• Of the top eight uninterrupted series, K-State is involved in two of them (Kansas).
ONE OF THE BIG 12’S BEST
• K-State ranks third in Big 12 wins since the league’s inception in 1996, 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% (53-39), trailing only Oklahoma (82.6%; 76-16) and Oklahoma State (65.2%; 60-32).
• The three opponents that the Wildcats defeated in non-conference play have found success when not playing K-State, as Stanford, Southern Illinois and Nevada have combined for a 12-2 record – including a 4-2 mark against Power 5 teams – in their other games.
• Nevada is receiving votes in this week’s AFCA Coaches Poll, while Southern Illinois is ranked No. 4 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
• The average score for those three teams in their games not against K-State is 37.5-24.0.
• K-State’s first two Big 12 opponents – Oklahoma (4th) and Oklahoma State (12th) – rank in the top 12 in the AP Poll.
• The Wildcats’ five opponents are a combined 23-2 when not playing K-State with wins over Baylor, Boise State (twice), Cal, USC, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia.
• Entering play this week, K-State’s strength of schedule ranks as one of the best in the nation, checking in at No. 5 in the Sagarin Ratings.
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds an 87-26 career record, as his 77.0% career winning percentage ranks fourth among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least eight years.
• 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.
WINNING THE FINAL FRAME
• Kansas State has been strong in the fourth quarter of games this season, as the Wildcats are outscoring their opponents, 52-17, in the final frame.
• The 35-point margin through the first five games of 2021 is the highest by the Wildcats through five games since the 2012 squad had a 70-point margin (91-21).
• The Wildcat offensive line and defense have been catalysts in the fourth quarter as K-State is averaging 38.8 rushing yards in the final 15 minutes as opposed to 12.8 yards per game by its opponents, which includes negative rushing totals by Southern Illinois (-6) and Nevada (-5).
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 124 since 1999, eight more than the next closest team.
• Kansas State already has two non-offensive scores this year as Malik Knowles has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of the last two games.
• Last year, K-State had three non-offensive touchdowns in its over Kansas as Phillip Brooks returned two punts for scores, and Justin Gardner had a pick-six. It was the first time the Cats had three in one game since doing so against Montana State in 2008.
• K-State has had at least five non-offensive scores in seven of the last 10 years. Last year, the Cats missed that mark by just one during their shortened 10-game schedule.
200 OR MORE
• Dating back to last season, Kansas State has rushed for at least 200 yards in five of its last seven games.
• The latest effort was a 269-yard output against Nevada, the sixth time under head coach Chris Klieman that the Wildcats have totaled at least 250 yards on the ground.
• The Wildcats rushed for 200 yards against Stanford, 208 yards against Southern Illinois and 269 yards vs. Nevada.
DOWN THE FIELD
• Although they excel in the running game, the Wildcats have been pushing the ball down the field as well, as K-State is tied for 15th in the nation with seven plays of 50 or more yards.
• K-State has at least one 50-yard play from scrimmage in all five games, the first time the Wildcats have started a year with at least one 50-yarder in each of the first five games since at least 1988.
• Of the seven 50-yard plays, six have been passes, including scores by Daniel Imatorbhebhe against Nevada (68 yards) and Deuce Vaughn at Oklahoma State (55 yards). Vaughn has the lone rush of 50 or more yards, going for a 59-yard touchdown in the season opener against Stanford.
• Out of Vaughn’s 110 touches this year, 23 have gone for 10 or more yards to tie for 17th in the nation, while he is also tied for 17th with a pair of 50-yard plays.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• In the first two-plus years under offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, Kansas State has converted on 97-of-103 (94.2%) of its red zone opportunities, which includes 68 touchdowns.
• Included in that stretch is a streak of 67-straight red zone conversions, as the Wildcats were true on their final 39 tries of 2019 and their first 24 opportunities of 2020.
• K-State’s 94.2.% conversion rate since 2019 is the top mark in the Big 12.
• The Wildcats are the only team in the nation to rank in the top five in red zone offense each of the previous two years, leading the nation in 2019 (96.2%) and ranking fourth last year (93.9%).
AN EXPERIENCED SIGNAL CALLER
• Skylar Thompson returned for the Oklahoma game after missing the previous two contests due to injury.
• It was Thompson’s 33rd career start, the most by a Wildcat since at least 1990. His start against the Sooners moved him out of a tie for first place with Ell Roberson, who made 32 starts over the 2001 through 2003 seasons.
• Thompson has 19 victories as a starter to rank fifth by a Wildcat since 1990, and he is just three behind a three-way tie for first place between Roberson, Collin Klein and Michael Bishop.
• Not only did Skylar Thompson return to end his career on a high note with the team, but he is also hunting some records during his final season in Manhattan.
• A product of Independence Missouri, Thompson ranks in the top 10 in school history in 15 career categories. A detailed list of records can be found on pages 49-50.
• Additionally, Thompson needs 419 more passing yards to become the first player in school history with 6,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a career.
CUTTING IT LOOSE
• Skylar Thompson had one of the best passing games of his career last time out against Oklahoma, as he set career highs in completions (29) and attempts (41), and he had the second-most yards in his career (320).
• Thompson’s 29 completions were the most by a Wildcat since Jake Waters had 31 in the 2015 Alamo Bowl (after the 2014 regular season), while his 41 attempts were the most by a K-State signal caller since Joe Hubener also had 41 at Texas Tech in 2015.
• His three passing scores tied a career high he originally set at Iowa State in 2018.
DEUCE ON THE LOOSE
• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Deuce Vaughn has been one of the best all-purpose backs in the nation over the first 15 games of his career.
• Vaughn ranks third nation with 124.73 all-purpose yards per game on a list that also includes two other Big 12 running backs in Texas’ Bijan Robinson (2nd; 124.87) and Iowa State’s Breece Hall (4th; 123.07).
ON THE RECEIVING END
• One of the main reasons Deuce Vaughn has a high all-purpose yardage mark is his work as a receiver, as he ranks third in school history among running backs/fullbacks with 640 receiving yards.
• Additionally, Vaughn leads all Big 12 running backs in receptions and yards, while he is tied for first in touchdown catches.
• Vaughn also has the second-most receiving yards by any running back nationally since the start of 2020 (Hawaii’s Calvin Turner Jr.; 947 yards)
• Vaughn is trying to become the first player in school history with 1,000 career yards as both a rusher and a receiver. The closest a Wildcat came to accomplishing that feat was Mack Herron (1968-69), who had 1,244 receiving yards and 815 rushing yards.
• If Vaughn hit the 1,000/1,000 mark, he would be one of only 11 players in Big 12 history to do so. However, if he did so this year, he would become just the second to reach the milestone as a sophomore (Taurean Henderson, Texas Tech), which would be impressive since Vaughn’s young career has included a shortened 10-game freshman season in 2020 due to COVID-19.
THROUGH THE AIR VS. OU
• Deuce Vaughn’s high numbers as a receiver is due to his performances against Oklahoma as 233 of his 640 career receiving yards have come in the two games against the Sooners (129 yards in 2020; 104 yards in 2021).
• Vaughn has two of the Wildcats’ seven 100-yard receiving games by a running back/fullback in school history. Mack Herron also had two, while three other players had one apiece.
• Vaughn’s 100-yard receiving game against the Sooner this year came on 10 catches, the most by a Wildcat since Darren Sproles had 10 against Texas Tech in 2004. That mark that is the most by any K-State running back or fullback in the Big 12 era.
• In five games this season, K-State has allowed just 432 total yards rushing on 160 carries, as the Wildcats are rank seventh nationally in both rushing yards allowed per game (86.4) and yards allowed per rush (2.7).
• The 432 total rushing yards allowed in the first five games are the fewest by the Wildcats since the 2016 squad surrendered 404 yards against Stanford (105), Florida Atlantic (82), Missouri State (30), West Virginia (124) and Texas Tech (63).
• Stanford rushed for 39 yards in the 2021 opener, Southern Illinois had 100 yards on 40 carries, while Nevada had 25 yards.
• It was the first time the Wildcats allowed 100 or fewer rushing yards in three-straight games since the first three games of the 2007 season against Auburn (62), San Jose State (73) and Missouri State (69).
• One area of emphasis for the Wildcat defense in 2021 was to limit opponents’ explosive plays, and through the first five games, K-State has allowed just 17 plays of 20 or more yards, which includes just one rush.
• It is the Wildcats’ fewest 20-plus yard plays allowed through five games since the 2017 team surrendered 15. In the first five games last year, K-State conceded 25 plays of 20 or more yards.
• This year marks the first time since 2003 that the Wildcat defense allowed less than two runs of 20 or more yards in the first five games.
• K-State is one of only six schools nationally to allow less than two runs of 20 or more yards this season (UTSA: 0, Georgia: 1, Iowa: 1, Minnesota: 1, Navy: 1).
BEHIND THE LINE
• Kansas State has tallied at least six tackles for loss in four of the first five games this year, as 18 players have at least a half TFL.
• The Wildcats totaled 68 tackles for loss in just 10 games a year ago, which were the most by the Wildcats since the 2016 squad had 70 during a 13-game season.
MEET ME AT THE QB
• Through five games in 2021, K-State is ranked 16th in the nation and tops in the Big 12 at 3.2 sacks per game.
• Kansas State has at least one sack in 27 of the 28 games since Chris Klieman took over as head coach in 2019 with the lone non-sack game being the 2019 opener against Nicholls.
• The 27-game sack streak is the longest by the Wildcats since a 29-game streak that spanned the 1995 through 1997 seasons.
• The streak is the longest in the Big 12, bettering a 25-game streak by Oklahoma State and 22-straight by Oklahoma.
• Last season, K-State totaled 28 sacks in 10 games, which were the most for the Wildcats during an entire season since a 13-game 2016 campaign (30).
STRONG AT THE START
• The Kansas State defense has been strong at the beginning of games since the start of 2020 as nine of the Wildcats’ last 15 opponents have come up empty on their first possession of the game.
• Over the last 15 games, K-State has allowed only 17 total first downs (1.13 per game), while drives have covered just 375 total yards (25.0 yards).
• Included in that span is four three-and-outs and an interception this year against Nevada.
DEPTH IN THE SECONDARY
• Of the six defensive transfers K-State brought in prior to the 2021 season, four are in the secondary.
• Including the 2021 season, that group has combined for 92 career Division I starts by Julius Brents, Cincere Mason, Reggie Stubblefield and Russ Yeast.
• Prior to coming to K-State, Yeast started 29 games over four years at Louisville, Mason started 28 games over three seasons at Kennesaw State, Stubblefield started 18 games over four years at Prairie View A&M, and Brents started five games in 2018 at Iowa.
• Pairing the 92 starts from the transfers with the rest of the secondary, the Wildcats are currently at 150 combined career starts by defensive backs.
FELIX IS FLASHING
• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah has broken out over the first five games of his sophomore year, as he leads the Big 12 and ranks eighth nationally with five sacks.
• Three of his sacks came against Southern Illinois, which included a pair of forced fumbles that were recovered by K-State.
• His three sacks are tied for the sixth most nationally in a game this season, while it was the most by a Wildcat since Jordan Willis had 3.5 against Louisiana Tech in 2015.
• Anudike-Uzomah’s two forced fumbles are tied for the most in the nation in a game this year and are the most by a Wildcat since Reggie Walker also had two against Texas Tech in 2018.
• With seven games left in the year, Anudike-Uzomah needs three more sacks to enter the top three in K-State history in sacks by a sophomore.
• Nicknamed “Deuce” by the defensive staff, linebacker Daniel Green has been impressive through the first five games of 2021.
• Green ranks second on the team with 28 tackles – just two behind leader and fellow linebacker Cody Fletcher – despite missing two full halves this year due to targeting calls.
• A product of Portland, Oregon, Green had nine tackles in two different games this season, coming against Stanford and Nevada.
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 57 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 20 more than second-place Alabama (37) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State: 31).
• Of the 57 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 19.
DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS
• On the flipside, K-State has excelled in kickoff-return defense, as the Wildcats have gone 103 games and 342 kickoff returns defended without allowing a score. The last team to take one to paydirt on K-State was Louisiana in 2013.
• K-State 103-game streak ranks seventh in the nation behind Florida State (228), Memphis (163), Akron (127), Virginia Tech (108), UTEP (107) and New Mexico (105).
• The Wildcats have scored 14 kickoff-return touchdowns since surrendering their last one.
KNOWLES WITH A KNACK
• Junior Malik Knowles is the latest K-State kickoff return man with a knack of finding the end zone as he has three in his career, which includes each of the last two games.
• It is the fourth time in school history a player had returns in consecutive weeks, two of which have come under Chris Klieman as Joshua Youngblood did so in 2019 at Texas Tech and against Iowa State.
• Knowles is tied for fourth in school history in both career and single-season kickoff return touchdowns, while he is tied for fourth nationally among active players in career kickoff-return scores.
• Additionally, his 28.5-yard career kickoff-return average ranks first nationally among active players and ranks sixth in K-State history.
WINKEL IN AS NEW KICKER
• Junior Taiten Winkel has taken over as the Wildcats’ new kicker in 2021, the first time in three years that K-State is breaking in a new kicker.
• So far this season, Winkel has connected on 6-of-7 field goal attempts, which includes a long of 45 yards at Oklahoma State. Additionally, Winkel is 18-for-18 on extra-point attempts, including a 5-for-5 mark against Nevada.
• Prior to K-State, Winkel was primarily a punter at Butler Community College as he was just 1-for-3 on field goals in 2019.
ZENTNER HAS BEEN IMPRESSIVE
• Punter Ty Zentner has averaged 45.3 yards per punt this year to rank fifth in the Big 12. Included in his total is six punts of 50 or more yards after just five last season.
• He had one of his best performances at Oklahoma State as he punted seven times for a 49.9-yard average that included three that landed inside the Cowboy 20-yard line.
• Zentner’s punt total and average were new career highs, while he tied his career best for punts settled inside an opponent’s 20-yard line.