MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State didn’t waste any time in getting the fireworks started on its 2022 football season.
It took all of 10 seconds.
Wide receiver Malik Knowles took a handoff and darted 75 yards for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage, the fastest opening score in K-State history, and Preseason All-American Deuce Vaughn rushed for 126 yards and one touchdown, as the Wildcats rolled to a 34-0 victory over South Dakota in front of a sellout crowd of 50,469 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State, 1-0, outgained South Dakota, 0-1, 393 to 270 overall, and stormed to a 27-0 halftime lead with three rushing touchdowns and another off a blocked punt. The Wildcats, who returned 13 starters and seethed with momentum after a dominant win over LSU in the Texas Bowl, appeared dominant from the start in an opening contest that was never in question ahead of an anticipated contest against former Big 12 Conference member Missouri.
“We’re a work in progress,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “We have a lot of talent. We need to see if we can develop depth. We just have to continue to improve every day. It’s just going to get tougher from here on out, but we’re excited about the team we have.”
A total of 66 different K-State players saw action as the Wildcats substituted as the game wore on over the final two quarters.
Adrian Martinez completed 11 of 15 passes for 53 yards and added 39 yards on 13 carries and a six-yard touchdown on the ground in his debut in the Wildcats’ offense under first-year offensive coordinator Collin Klein. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound transfer from Nebraska completed passes to six different targets, including Knowles, who had three catches for 14 yards. Martinez was efficient, didn’t commit a turnover, and managed the game well for his first game in a purple uniform.
“If (being a game manager) is what the game calls for and that’s what this team needs, that’s what I’m going to be,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of playmakers. I don’t need to put the team on my back, per se, I have to do what coach (Klein) wants me to do and what the team needs. Tonight, maybe it was more of a distributor and game manager type, but we got the win and that’s what matters.”
Redshirt freshman Jake Rubley played the entire fourth quarter and appeared poised in the pocket during the first action of his career. Rubley went 4 of 4 for 43 yards.
“He prepares and works really hard on his craft,” Klieman said. “It wasn’t mop-up time. Collin was calling the plays and called the card — let’s go — and I really appreciated Rubes because he came to play.”
K-State’s experienced defense was largely effective as defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman utilized the 3-3-5 alignment throughout the contest. Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, the Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, recorded the Wildcats’ first sack of the season early in the first quarter. Safety Cincere Mason recorded the first interception of the season for the Wildcats late in the first quarter.
“(Mason) is a really smart player,” Klieman said. “He’s a heady player. He made a big-time play because the kid was open, and he just read the quarterback’s eyes and jumped in front of it.”
It wasn’t until Carson Camp completed a 13-yard pass to Javion Phelps with 8:29 left in the third quarter that South Dakota reached 100 yards in total offense. However, the Coyotes saw their 11-play drive end with fourth-down incompletion.
The Coyotes threatened late when they reached the Wildcats’ red zone on their final drive of the game, but Cartez Crook-Jones stuffed Mike Mansaray at the four-yard line on fourth down to preserve the shutout.
“Zero points is huge,” defensive end Brendan Mott said. “Having the big fourth-down stop at the end was awesome. We had a lot of energy, and it was awesome for the guys who were in there to be able to stop them. We believe in each other. It was great to go out there and execute. There’s obviously stuff to work on.”
While K-State recorded its first shutout since 2019, the Wildcats enjoyed their first opening-play touchdown since against West Virginia in 2019.
Martinez handed the ball off to Knowles, who ran around the left side. Vaughn sprung him with a block. And Knowles raced down the Wildcats sideline as cheers swept through the stadium during the march into history.
K-State’s previous fastest opening touchdown came in an 11-second score against Louisiana Tech in 1988.
“We definitely had (play) one greased up and Deuce put a really good block on the second-level defender there, and Malik has the talent to make it happen,” Martinez said. “I saw the hole and saw him take off down the sideline. I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it.'”
Soon after, the special teams punt-block unit enjoyed a victory of its own when Seth Porter swept in and blocked a South Dakota punt and Desmond Purnell scooped up the football and returned in 17 yards for a touchdown with 8:14 left in the first quarter. Amazingly, it marked the Wildcats’ 126th non-offensive touchdown since 1999, which leads the FBS over the span. Alabama ranks second with 118 non-offensive touchdowns.
Vaughn scored his first touchdown of the season when he raced around the right side, cut inside, and weaved 39 yards into the end zone with 49 seconds remaining in the quarter for a 20-0 lead.
“We showed the type of team we are,” Vaughn said. “We’re going to compete every day for 60 minutes. I told the young guys that we’re going to have 50,000 behind you the entire game and you’re going to feel that from the first play to the last play. We felt that. To be in front of people who bleed purple and cheer like that every single game, it’s a big-time feeling.”
Vaughn, who recorded his seventh straight 100-yard rushing performance, has scored 26 touchdowns in 24 career games. He also moved into eighth place in K-State history with 3,219 career all-purpose yards.
“It felt good to be back inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium,” Vaughn said. “It felt good to be back in front of the fans and to get a big-time win to start the season.”