Courtesy of K-State Athletics
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Coming off a 35-10 win over Kansas for its sixth victory of the season, Kansas State returns to Manhattan for the first of two-straight home contests as it hosts West Virginia on Saturday. The game against the Mountaineers kicks at 11 a.m., and will be televised by FS1 with Eric Collins (play-by-play) and Petros Papadakis (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: 206; App: 968) in addition to The Varsity Network app.
A LOOK AT K-STATE
• K-State has put together two solid performances in a row following a 31-12 win over TCU and 35-10 triumph at Kansas.
• Deuce Vaughn has totaled 390 yards from scrimmage (271 rush/119 receive) over the last two games, and Felix Anudike-Uzomah collected a school-record tying 4.0 sacks in a dominating defensive effort against the Horned Frogs.
• Skylar Thompson has put together the best five-game passing stretch of his career in the last five games. During that time, Thompson has thrown for 1,318 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions on 100-of-139 (71.9%) aim.
• He is the first K-State quarterback with five-straight games of 200 yards passing since Jake Waters did so in the last game of 2013 and all 13 games in 2014.
• At Texas Tech, Thompson threw for 306 yards – the third 300-yard game of his career – and a touchdown on 24-of-30 aim to set a new career best in completion percentage (80.0%).
• During the second half, Thompson connected on 14-of-15 passes, the best percentage in a half by a K-State quarterback since 2006.
• Thompson’s favorite receiver this year has been Vaughn, who leads the team with 38 receptions for 421 yards and three scores.
• This year, Vaughn has totaled 1,287 scrimmage yards (866 rush/421 receive) and 15 total touchdowns. In his 19 career games, Vaughn has at least 100 scrimmage yards 14 times, which includes each of the last 11 games dating back to last year.
• Vaughn enters the week ranked 10th nationally in yards from scrimmage (143.0), while he is second nationally among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (132.00).
• Receivers Phillip Brooks, Malik Knowles and Landry Weber have combined for 63 receptions for 894 yards and five scores.
• The Wildcats, deploying a new 3-3-5 look and regularly rotating in over 25 players on defense, rank 23rd in the nation and fourth in the Big 12 against the run (117.3 yds/gm).
• Linebackers Daniel Green (57) and Cody Fletcher (48) lead the team in tackles.
• Anudike-Uzomah leads the nation in both sacks and forced fumbles, while he is sixth in tackles for loss.
• He earned three national player of the week awards and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors following a school-record tying 4.0 sacks against TCU.
• Punter Ty Zentner ranks third in the Big 12 with a 45.7-yard average, while his 48.4-yard average in conference play is second in the league.
• Malik Knowles has returned two kickoffs for a touchdown, and he ranks third in the nation with a 31.2-yard average.
A LOOK AT WEST VIRGINIA
• West Virginia heads into Saturday with a 4-5 overall record and a 2-4 mark in Big 12 play.
• The Mountaineers won at TCU, 29-17, before topping Iowa State at home, 38-31, and falling at home to 11th-ranked Oklahoma State, 24-3.
• WVU is led on offense by quarterback Jarret Doege and running back Leddie Brown. Doege has thrown for 2,180 yards and 11 scores on 184-of-277 aim, while Brown has 666 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
• Defensively, West Virginia ranks 27th nationally against the run and is led by Dante Stills (11.5 TFLs and 6 sacks) and Josh Chandler-Semedo (81 total tackles).
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
• West Virginia leads the all-time series between the Mountaineers and Wildats, 6-5, thanks to a current five-game winning streak.
• K-State won the first four games between the two teams after WVU entered the Big 12 prior to the 2012 season, while the teams split a pair of games in Morgantown in the 1930s.
• K-State will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak against WVU in Manhattan.
• Each of the last three games between K-State and WVU in Manhattan have been close, as they have been decided by one (24-23 win in 2015), five (28-23 loss in 2017) and four (24-20 loss in 2019) points.
• With the win over Kansas, K-State moved to 6-3 and will play in a bowl game for the 23rd time in school history at the conclusion of the 2021 regular season.
• Of the 23 bowl appearances, 22 will have come since 1990, which includes this season.
• Chris Klieman will be the first head coach in school history to have his team play in a bowl game twice in the first three seasons and to be bowl eligible for his first three years at the helm.
• Entering the 2021 season, Kansas State’s 21 bowls since 1993 was tied for 19th in the nation and ranked fourth in the Big 12.
ONE OF THE BIG 12’S BEST
• K-State ranks third in Big 12 with 125 wins since the league’s inception in 1996, trailing only Oklahoma (165) and Texas (142).
• The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 58.3% (56-40), trailing only Oklahoma (83.2%; 79-16) and Oklahoma State (65.6%; 63-33).
• 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 16-8 record in their other games.
• K-State’s first three Big 12 opponents – Oklahoma (4th), Oklahoma State (10th) and Iowa State (RV) – are each listed in the Associated Press Poll.
• Southern Illinois has turned out to be one of the best FCS teams in the nation, ranking ninth in this week’s Coaches’ Poll.
WINNING THE FINAL FRAME
• Kansas State has been strong in the fourth quarter of games this season, as the Wildcats are outscoring their opponents, 88-30, in the final frame.
• The 58-point margin in the fourth quarter this year is the highest mark in the Big 12.
• The 58-point margin through the first nine games of 2021 is the highest by the Wildcats through nine games since the 2012 squad had a 72-point margin (124-52).
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 90-27 career record, as his 76.9% career winning percentage ranks third 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. He guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record.
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 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.
DOWN THE FIELD
• Traditionally a run-oriented offense, the Wildcats have been pushing the ball down the field more this year, as K-State is tied for 12th nationally with nine 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 nine total 50-yard plays by K-State this year, seven have been passes, including scores by Daniel Imatorbhebhe against Nevada (68 yards) and TCU (73 yards), Malik Knowles vs. KU (68 yards) and Deuce Vaughn at Oklahoma State (55 yards). Vaughn has the two lone rushes of 50 or more yards, going for a 59-yard touchdown in the season opener against Stanford and an 80-yard score on the first play of the second half last week at Kansas.
• His touchdown against the Jayhawks was the first time the Wildcats scored on their first offensive play of the second half since the 2009 Texas A&M game.
• Vaughn has 44 touches that have gone for 10 or more yards to rank to third in the nation and tops among Power 5 players
• With 192 total plays this year (154 rushes/38 catches), Vaughn is gaining at least 10 yards 22.9% of the time he touches the ball.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• In the first two-plus years under offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, Kansas State has converted on 107-of-115 (93.0%) of its red zone opportunities, which includes 77 touchdowns.
• Included in that 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 93.0% conversion rate since 2019 ranks second 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%).
• Kansas State totaled 504 yards of offense against Kansas, the first time the Wildcats hit the 500-yard mark since the first two games of 2019 against Nicholls and Bowling Green.
• It was the first time K-State produced 504 yards in a Big 12 game since going for 505 yards against Kansas in 2014.
• The Wildcats were extremely balanced against the Jayhawks as they passed for 262 yards and rushed for 242.
• It was the fourth time this season K-State rushed for over 200 yards, also hitting the mark against Stanford (200), Southern Illinois (208) and Nevada (269).
• The Wildcats have produced at least four 200-yard rushing games twice in the last three seasons.
AN EXPERIENCED, WINNING SIGNAL CALLER
• Skylar Thompson has started each of the last five games after missing the previous two contests due to injury.
• Thompson has started 37 career games, the most by a Wildcat since at least 1990. Of those 37 starts, the Wildcats have 22 victories, as he is tied for first among K-State signal callers since 1990 in wins with Ell Roberson, Collin Klein and Michael Bishop.
CUTTING IT LOOSE
• Skylar Thompson is in the midst of the best passing stretch of his career, combining to go 100-of-139 (71.9%) for 1,318 yards with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.
• It is the most passing yards by a K-State quarterback over a five-game stretch since the final five games of Jake Waters’ career in 2014 (1,623 yards).
• It is the first time a K-State signal caller has thrown for at least 200 yards in five-straight games since Waters did so in the last game of 2013 and all 13 games of 2014.
• 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).
• Skylar Thompson has returned from injury to be one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the nation. He enters play this week ranked seventh in the nation in completion percentage (71.3%) and 10th in passing efficiency (166.4), and both marks are currently tops in school history.
• Thompson threw for 306 yards at Texas Tech on 24-for-30 accuracy, 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.
• At Kansas, Thompson connected on 12 of his first 13 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. He finished the game by completing 79.2% of his passes (19-of-24), the second-most yards of his career.
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.
• Additionally, the Independence Missouri, native ranks in the top 10 in school history in 15 career categories, while he currently has the top mark in school history in single-season completion percentage (71.34%) and passing efficiency (166.4).
• A detailed list of records can be found on pages 57-58.
• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Deuce Vaughn is the only player in the nation with 800 or more rushing yards and 400 or more receiving yards.
• Vaughn ranks 10th in the nation in yards from scrimmage (143.0 yard per game), while he ranks 11th in the nation in all-purpose yards per game.
• Earlier this year, Vaughn became 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 second nationally with 132.00 all-purpose yards per game. Behind Vaughn is another Big 12 running back in Iowa State’s Breece Hall (3rd; 128.58).
CLOSING IN ON 1,000
• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Deuce Vaughn has 866 rushing yards this season as he is close to producing the 17th 1,000-yard rushing season in school history.
• It would only be the third time in school history a freshman or sophomore reached 1,000 rushing yards in a year, a feat accomplished by sophomore Darren Sproles in 2002 (1,465) and sophomore Cornelius Davis in 1966 (1,028).
• Vaughn currently ranks fourth in school history in rushing yards by a sophomore.
ON THE RECEIVING END
• A playmaker on the receiving end as well, Deuce Vaughn has a high all-purpose yardage mark is his work as a receiver, as he ranks second in school history among running backs/fullbacks with 855 career receiving yards.
• Additionally, Vaughn ranks second in the nation in receiving yards by a running back since the beginning of 2020.
• Vaughn leads all Big 12 running backs in receptions (38) and yards (421) this year, while he is tied for first in touchdown catches (3).
• 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
• Transfer tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is making a splash with the Cats in his seventh and final season of college football.
• Imatorbhebhe is third among Big 12 tight ends with 274 receiving yards. That mark includes touchdowns of 68 yards (vs. Nevada) and 73 yards (vs. TCU), the latter being the second-longest reception by a tight end in school history.
• He is the only tight end in the nation this year with two receptions of 65 yards or longer, while he is the first K-State tight end with two in a season since at least 1977.
• K-State is Imatorbhebhe’s 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).
MALIK MAKING MOVES
• Wide receiver Malik Knowles became the 33rd player in school history to eclipse the career 1,000-yard receiving mark during the Kansas game.
• Knowles, who enters this week with 1,042 career yards, has 10 career receiving touchdowns to sit just one shy of entering the school’s top-10 list.
• In nine games this season, K-State has allowed just 1,056 total yards rushing on 303 carries, as the Wildcats rank 22nd nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (117.3).
• 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 nine games, K-State has allowed 33 plays of 20 or more yards to rank third in the Big 12.
• It is the Wildcats’ fewest 20-plus yard plays allowed through nine games since the 2014 team surrendered 27. In the first nine games last year, K-State conceded 51 plays of 20 or more yards.
BEHIND THE LINE
• K-State has tallied at least six tackles for loss in seven of the first nine games this year, as 24 players have at least a half TFL.
• K-State is on pace for 85 tackles for loss this year, which would be its highest mark since the 2006 team had 91 to tie for eighth in school history.
• The Wildcats tallied a season-high 10 TFLs against TCU, the most since they had 13 at Baylor last year.
MEET ME AT THE QB
• Through nine games in 2021, K-State is ranked second in the Big 12 at 2.56 sacks per game (23 total).
• Kansas State has at least one sack in 30 of the 32 games since Chris Klieman took over as head coach in 2019 with the lone non-sack games being the 2019 opener against Nicholls and this year against Iowa State.
• 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 33 sacks in the regular season, which would be its highest mark since the 2015 team had 38.
STRONG AT THE START
• The K-State defense has been strong at the beginning of games since the start of 2020 as 12 of the Wildcats’ last 19 opponents have come up empty on their first possession of the game.
• Over the last 19 games, K-State has allowed only 22 total first downs (1.2 per game), while drives have covered just 551 total yards (29.0 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 99 career Division I starts by Julius Brents, Cincere Mason, Reggie Stubblefield and Russ Yeast.
• Pairing the 99 starts from the transfers with the rest of the secondary, the Wildcats are currently at 175 combined career starts by defensive backs.
• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah has broken out during his sophomore season as he leads the nation in sacks and forced fumbles, while he ranks sixth and is tops in the Big 12 in tackles for loss.
• A native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Anudike-Uzomah has 11.0 sacks this season to tie for fifth in school history, and he is just a half sack shy of tying the school record.
• Ranking third on the team in tackles with 39, Anudike-Uzomah has 13.0 TFLs this year as 33.3% of his tackles have resulted in lost yardage.
• Anudike-Uzomah has recorded at least 3.0 sacks in two games, the only player in the nation this year to accomplish that feat and the first in school history with two 3.0-sack games in a season.
FELIX’S HISTORIC GAME
• Felix Anudike-Uzomah tallied 4.0 sacks, forced two fumbles and eight tackles against TCU, earning him three national defensive player of the week accolades in addition to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
• His four sacks tied the school record originally set by Chris Johnson at Missouri in 2000. However, Anudike-Uzomah was close to tying the NCAA record of 6.0.
• His two forced fumbles came on potential sacks that caused the ball to be recovered beyond the original line of scrimmage, thus making them rushes by NCAA rule. If the ball had been recovered on the TCU side of the line – regardless of who recovered – those two would have been counted as sacks to tie the FBS record and break the Big 12 mark.
• Nicknamed “Deuce” by the defensive staff, linebacker Daniel Green has been impressive as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.
• Green leads the team with 57 tackles and ranks second with 8.5 tackles for loss despite missing two full halves this year due to targeting calls.
• A product of Portland, Oregon, Green has totaled nine tackles in three different games this season, coming against Stanford, Nevada and TCU. It is the second time in three years a Wildcat has posted at least nine tackles in three different games (Elijah Sullivan in 2019).
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 107-consecutive games and 349 kickoff returns defended without allowing a score. The last team to take one to paydirt on K-State was Louisiana in 2013.
• K-State 107-game streak ranks seventh in the nation behind Florida State (231), Memphis (166), Akron (130), Virginia Tech (112), UTEP (110) and New Mexico (108).
• 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 scores this year against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
• 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 31.2-yard average this year and a 27.4-yard average for his career. His mark this season ranks seventh in the nation, while his career figure ranks fifth nationally among active players.
ZENTNER HAS BEEN IMPRESSIVE
• Punter Ty Zentner has averaged 45.7 yards per punt overall this year to rank third in the Big 12. His average would rank in the top 20 nationally if he had six more punts to meet the NCAA required minimum.
• In Big 12 games only, Zentner ranks second in the league with a 48.37-yard average, just 2.05 yards per punt behind the leader. His performance during Big 12 play includes a league-leading 11 punts of 50 or more yards. Last season, Zentner only had five total punts of 50 or more yards.
• At Texas Tech, Zentner had a single game career-best average of 55.7 yards per punt, which ranks 11th in the nation for a game this season.
• One of his punts against the Red Raiders 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.
BROOKS LOOKS TO ADD TO IMPRESSIVE RESUME
• Junior Phillip Brooks was one of the top return men in the nation last season as he was a Third Team All-American selection after averaging 23.7 yards on 11 attempts.
• This year, Brooks has earned Preseason All-America honors from Phil Steele, USA TODAY, CBS Sports and 247Sports.
• A product of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Brooks ranks second in school history and tied for sixth in Big 12 history with three punt-return touchdowns, while he has 446 career punt-return yards to rank 10th in school history.
• He ranks second nationally among active players in yards per return (17.2) and first in punt-return touchdowns (3).
TENNANT SEES FIRST ACTION
• True freshman Chris Tennant saw his first-career action against TCU, making a 42-yard field goal and all four extra-point attempts. He then made all five extra points attempted at Kansas.
• Tennant is the first true freshman at K-State to make a field goal since Joe Rheem went 4-of-6 on field goals in 2001.