Courtesy of K-State Athletics
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Coming off a second-half comeback win at Texas Tech, Kansas State returns home on Saturday as it hosts TCU at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game against the Horned Frogs, which kicks at 2:30 p.m., will be televised by ESPNU with Mike Couzens (play-by-play) and Dustin Fox (analyst) 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: 98; XM: 200; App: 954) in addition to The Varsity Network app.
A LOOK AT K-STATE
• It was a tale of two halves last week at Texas Tech, as the Wildcats rallied from deficits of 21-7 and 24-10 to knock off the Red Raiders, 25-24.
• The Wildcats outscored the Red Raiders, 15-0, in the final 30 minutes and held Tech to 103 second-half yards.
• The Wildcats’ four conference opponents, plus its difficult non-conference schedule in which they went 3-0 against, has their strength of schedule ranked second in the nation in the current Sagarin Ratings.
• Quarterback Skylar Thompson has put together one of the best three-game passing stretches of his career against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas Tech. During that time, Thompson has thrown for 822 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception on 68-of-94 (72.3%) aim.
• Last week against Texas Tech, Thompson threw for 296 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-30 aim to set a new career high in completion percentage (80.0%).
• During the second half last week, Thompson connected on 14-of-15 passes, the best percentage in a half by a K-State quarterback since 2006.
• Thompson’s favorite receiver has been Deuce Vaughn, who leads the team with 30 receptions for 302 yards and three touchdowns.
• This year, Vaughn has totaled 897 scrimmage yards (595 rush/302 receive) and 10 scores. In his 17 career games, Vaughn has at least 100 scrimmage yards 12 times – including all seven games this year – and he ranks fourth nationally among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (124.59).
• Receivers Phillip Brooks, Malik Knowles and Landry Weber have combined for 54 receptions for 708 yards and four scores.
• The Wildcats, deploying a new 3-3-5 look and regularly rotating in over 25 players on defense, rank 23rd in the nation against the run (116.0 yds/gm).
• Linebackers Daniel Green (40) and Cody Fletcher (39) lead the team in tackles, and each have at least three stops behind the line.
• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah is second in the Big 12 and 11th nationally with six sacks on the year.
• The Wildcats have six interceptions, including two from safety Russ Yeast to tie for the Big 12 lead.
• Punter Ty Zentner ranks second in the Big 12 with a 47.6-yard average, while his 52.2-yard average in conference play leads the league.
• Malik Knowles has returned two kickoffs for a touchdown, and he ranks third in the nation with a 32.8-yard average.
A LOOK AT TCU
• TCU enters the game with a 3-4 overall record and a 1-3 mark in Big 12 play.
• The Horned Frog offense is led by a trio of weapons in quarterback Max Duggan, running back Zach Evans and wide receiver Quentin Johnston.
• Duggan has thrown for 1,593 yards and 14 touchdowns and four interceptions on 111-of-172 aim.
• He is also a threat on the ground as he ranks second on the team with 258 rushing yards and two scores.
• Evans has rushed for 108.0 yards per game this season and is averaging 7.0 yards per carry, while Johnston has 24 catches and five scores.
• Defensively, Dee Winters leads the way with 47 tackles, while Ochaun Mathis has a team-best 3.0 sacks on the year.
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
• K-State and TCU are tied in their all-time series, 7-7, which includes the Wildcats holding a 4-3 lead in games played in Manhattan.
• Kansas State also leads the series, 5-4, since TCU joined the Big 12 prior to the 2012 season.
• The Wildcats have won each of the last two meetings and are looking for their first three-game winning streak in series history.
• Last year in Fort Worth, Kansas State picked up a 21-14 victory. Will Howard became the first K-State freshman quarterback to win his first-career road start as he threw for 117 yards and rushed for 6 yards and a score. The Wildcats held a 21-7 advantage deep into the game thanks to a 37-yard interception return by AJ Parker, and K-State held on at the end as a Horned Frog Hail Mary fell incomplete as time expired.
• Last time in Manhattan, K-State earned a hard-fought 24-17 victory. The Wildcats went on an 11-play, 95-yard drive to score the game-winning touchdown with 2:45 left on a Skylar Thompson 3-yard touchdown run.
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 57.4% (54-40), trailing only Oklahoma (83.0%; 78-16) and Oklahoma State (64.9%; 61-33).
• 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 14-3 record in their other games.
• The average score for those three teams in their games not against K-State is 36.6-24.4.
• K-State’s first three Big 12 opponents – Oklahoma (4th), Oklahoma State (15th) and Iowa State (22nd) – each rank in the top 25 in this week’s Associated Press Poll.
• Southern Illinois has turned out to be one of the best FCS teams in the nation, ranking fourth in this week’s Coaches’ Poll.
• The Wildcats’ six opponents are a combined 35-9 when not playing K-State with wins over Baylor, Boise State (twice), Cal, USC, Nebraska, Oregon, TCU, Texas (twice) and West Virginia (twice).
• Entering play this week, K-State’s strength of schedule ranks as one of the best in the nation, checking in at No. 2 in the Sagarin Ratings.
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds an 88-27 career record, as his 76.5% career winning percentage ranks fifth 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, 71-23, in the final frame.
• The 48-point margin through the first seven games of 2021 is the highest by the Wildcats through seven games since the 2012 squad had a 62-point margin (97-35).
• The Wildcat offensive line and defense have been catalysts in the fourth quarter as K-State is averaging 33.3 rushing yards in the final 15 minutes as opposed to 26.0 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, seven more than the next closest team.
• Kansas State already has two non-offensive scores this year as Malik Knowles returned a kickoff for a touchdown at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma.
• 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 six of its last 11 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.
• Earlier this year, the Wildcats rushed for 200 yards against Stanford, 208 yards against Southern Illinois and 269 yards against 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 23rd in the nation with six plays of 50 or more yards.
• K-State started the season with at least one 50-yard play from scrimmage in its first five games to become the first Wildcat team with a five-game streak since at least 1988.
• Of the six total 50-yard plays by K-State this year, five 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 153 touches this year, 32 have gone for 10 or more yards to tie for 12th in the nation and tie for the Big 12 lead along with Texas’ Bijan Robinson.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• In the first two-plus years under offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, Kansas State has converted on 102-of-109 (93.6%) of its red zone opportunities, which includes 72 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 93.6% 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 has started each of the last three games after missing the previous two contests due to injury.
• Last week at Texas Tech, Thompson registered his 35th career start, the most by a Wildcat since at least 1990. His start the earlier this year against Oklahoma moved him out of a tie for first place in that department with Ell Roberson, who made 32 starts over the 2001 through 2003 seasons.
• Thompson has 20 victories as a starter to rank fifth by a Wildcat since 1990, and he is just two behind a three-way tie for first place between Roberson, Collin Klein and Michael Bishop.
ICE IN HIS VEINS
• Skylar Thompson has led the Wildcats on six career touchdown drives in the fourth quarter or later to either tie or take the lead. Ironically, two of them have come at Texas Tech.
• Those six drives are tied for the most among K-State quarterbacks since 1990 along with current quarterbacks coach Collin Klein.
• Klein’s six drives came in 2011 against Eastern Washington, Miami, Baylor, Texas A&M and Iowa State, and in 2012 at Oklahoma.
CUTTING IT LOOSE
• Skylar Thompson is in the midst of one of the better three-game passing stretches of his career, combining to go 68-of-94 (72.3%) for 822 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception.
• Against Oklahoma, Thompson 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).
• At Texas Tech, Thompson went 24-for-30 through the air as his 80% completion mark against the Red Raiders was a career-best. His previous high was a 76.9% mark in 2017 against Iowa State and 2019 against Bowling Green.
• Thompson’s performance at Texas Tech included a 14-for-15 clip in the second half. His 93.3% completion rate in the final 30 minutes was highest in one half (minimum 15 attempts) by a K-State quarterback since Josh Freeman went 15-for-16 (93.75%) in the first half at Colorado in 2006.
FIRST IN SCHOOL HISTORY
• During the game at Texas Tech, Skylar Thompson became the first player in school history to throw for 6,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a career.
• Entering the season, Thompson was one of just two players to throw for 5,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, joining Ell Roberson.
• Additionally, the Independence Missouri, native ranks in the top 10 in school history in 15 career categories. A detailed list of records can be found on pages 52-53.
DEUCE ON THE LOOSE
• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Deuce Vaughn has been one of the best all-purpose backs in K-State history over the first 17 games of his career.
• Vaughn is just the third player in school history to eclipse 2,000 career all-purpose yards prior to the end of his sophomore year, joining Tyler Lockett and Darren Sproles. However, Vaughn was the quickest amongst the three to reach that mark, doing so in his 17th career game. Lockett reached it in his 18th game, while Sproles got there in his 19th game.
• In addition, Vaughn ranks fourth nationally with 124.87 all-purpose yards per game on a list that also includes two other Big 12 running backs in Texas’ Bijan Robinson (2nd; 127.88) and Iowa State’s Breece Hall (3rd; 126.06).
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 736 career receiving yards.
• Additionally, Vaughn leads all Big 12 running backs in receptions (30) and yards (302) this year, while he is tied for first in touchdown catches (3).
• Vaughn also has the second-most receiving yards by any running back nationally since the start of 2020 (Hawaii’s Calvin Turner Jr.; 1,060 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 considering Vaughn’s young career included a shortened 10-game freshman season in 2020 due to COVID-19.
WELL-TRAVELED TIGHT END
• Kansas State transfer tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is making a splash with the Wildcats in his seventh and final season of college football.
• Imatorbhebhe is on his fourth FBS school as he signed and went through spring practices with Florida in 2015, transferred to USC for the 2015 through 2019 seasons and spent the 2020 campaign at Illinois.
• He is one of just two active players to have spent time at four FBS schools, joining Texas Tech offensive lineman T.J. Storment (Old Dominion, Colorado State, TCU).
• In seven games this season, K-State has allowed just 812 total yards rushing on 232 carries, as the Wildcats rank 23rd nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (116.0) and 32nd in yards allowed per rush (3.50).
• The 812 total rushing yards allowed in the first seven games are the fewest by the Wildcats since the 2016 squad surrendered 664 yards.
• 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. Through the first seven games, K-State has allowed just 27 plays of 20 or more yards, which includes just six rushes.
• It is the Wildcats’ fewest 20-plus yard plays allowed through seven games since the 2018 team surrendered 25. In the first seven games last year, K-State conceded 34 plays of 20 or more yards.
• The six runs this year of 20 or more yards allowed are fewest in the first seven games of a season since the 2017 allowed five.
BEHIND THE LINE
• Kansas State has tallied at least six tackles for loss in five of the first seven games this year, as 21 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.
• This year, K-State is on pace for 74 tackles for loss in the regular season.
MEET ME AT THE QB
• Through seven games in 2021, K-State is ranked second in the Big 12 at 2.57 sacks per game.
• Kansas State has at least one sack in 28 of the 30 games since Chris Klieman took over as head coach in 2019 with the lone non-sack games being the 2019 opener against Nicholls and two weeks ago against Iowa State.
• The 27-game sack streak snapped against Iowa State was the longest by the Wildcats since a 29-game streak that spanned the 1995 through 1997 seasons.
• 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).
• K-State is on pace for 31 sacks in the regular season.
STRONG AT THE START
• The Kansas State defense has been strong at the beginning of games since the start of 2020 as 10 of the Wildcats’ last 17 opponents have come up empty on their first possession of the game.
• Over the last 17 games, K-State has allowed only 20 total first downs (1.2 per game), while drives have covered just 525 total yards (30.8 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 94 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 94 starts from the transfers with the rest of the secondary, the Wildcats are currently at 164 combined career starts by defensive backs.
FELIX IS FLASHING
• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah has broken out over the first seven games of his sophomore year, as he ranks second in the Big 12 and 11th nationally with six 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 were the most by a Wildcat since Jordan Willis had 3.5 against Louisiana Tech in 2015. His two forced fumbles were the most by a Wildcat since Reggie Walker also had two against Texas Tech in 2018.
• With five games left in the regular season, Anudike-Uzomah needs two more sacks to enter the top three in K-State history in sacks by a sophomore.
• In addition, Anudike-Uzomah tackled a Texas Tech player in the end zone for a safety last week. It was the Wildcats’ first safety via a tackle in the end zone since Steven Cline had one against Missouri in 2005.
• Nicknamed “Deuce” by the defensive staff, linebacker Daniel Green has been impressive through the first six games of 2021.
• Green leads the team with 40 tackles 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 105-consecutive games and 344 kickoff returns defended without allowing a score. The last team to take one to paydirt on K-State was Louisiana in 2013.
• K-State 105-game streak ranks seventh in the nation behind Florida State (229), Memphis (165), Akron (129), Virginia Tech (110), UTEP (108) and New Mexico (107).
• 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 included a two-game streak this year against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
• It was 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, he holds a 32.8-yard average this year and a 27.9-yard average for his career. His mark this season ranks third in the nation, while his career figure ranks second nationally among active players.
ZENTNER HAS BEEN IMPRESSIVE
• Punter Ty Zentner has averaged 47.6 yards per punt overall this year to rank second in the Big 12. His average would rank in the top 10 nationally if he had three more punts to meet the NCAA required minimum.
• In Big 12 games only, Zentner leads the league with a 52.2-yard average, which includes a Big 12-leading 10 punts of 50 or more yards. Last season, Zentner only had five total punts of 50 or more yards.
• Last week at Texas Tech, Zentner had a career-best average of 55.7 yards per punt, which is tied for the eighth highest in the nation in a game this season.
• One of his punts was a 63-yarder – the second longest of his career – which immediately preceded at K-State safety that swung the game in the Wildcats’ favor.