THE TOP 5
1) K-State looks to get back on the winning track this weekend as the Wildcats travel to Norman, Oklahoma, to face the sixth-ranked Sooners at 7 p.m., Saturday night. The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX and features a series that has been uber competitive over the last three seasons. In the last 3 matchups, the Wildcats are 2-1, and the average margin of victory in those three games has been 5.3 points.
2) Coming off a Consensus All-America season, running back Deuce Vaughn has picked up right where he left off, rushing for a Big 12-best 117.3 yards per game and three touchdowns. He had a string of eight-straight games with more than 100 rushing yards snapped last week after rushing for 82 yards against Tulane. He also had rushed for a touchdown in nine-straight games until last week.
3) A transfer from Nebraska, Adrian Martinez has earned the start at quarterback in each game as he became the first signal caller to start a season opener after transferring from a Division I school since Matt Miller (Texas A&M) started the 1994 opener. However, he is the first ever to come straight from one Division I school and start the next year’s season opener as Miller redshirted the 1993 season.
4) With seven returning starters on defense a year ago, the Wildcats have been stellar through three games, allowing just 9.7 points per game, 276.0 total yards per game while also forcing seven interceptions. This week, the Cats rank second nationally in interceptions, third in pass efficiency defense, 10th in passing yards allowed, 12th in scoring defense and 20th in total defense.
5) Known for its special teams prowess, K-State brings back both of its primary returners in Malik Knowles (kickoffs) and Phillip Brooks (punts), each of whom have garnered All-America status in their disciplines during their careers. In three games, the Cats have recorded two punt return scores – one coming via a blocked punt and the other on a 76-yard return from Brooks.
239.3 – Rushing yards per game this season, which ranks 12th in the nation and second in the Big 12.
18.9 – Points allowed per game since last season and after the switch to a 3-3-5 defensive alignment.
7 – Interceptions this year by the K-State defense, which ranks tops in the Big 12 and second nationally.
5.3 – Average margin of victory between K-State and OU over the last three years with the Wildcats winning two of those games.
3 – K-State ranks third in the Big 12 with 126 league wins since the conference’s first year in 1996.
BIG 12 ROAD OPENERS
• Opening Big 12 play on the road is nothing new to the Wildcats as this weekend will be the 22nd time in the 27-year history of the league that K-State will open Big 12 play away from home, including the eighth time in the last nine years.
• The Wildcats are 11-15 all-time in their first Big 12 road game of the season.
• This is the fourth-straight year the Wildcats will open Big 12 play in the Sooner State after starting in Norman in 2020 and in Stillwater in both 2019 and 2021.
A WINNING TRADITION
• Kansas State has been one of the best Big 12 teams since the inception of the conference in 1996. The Wildcats are third with 126 victories, 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% (57-42), trailing only Oklahoma (81.6%; 81-18) and Oklahoma State (66.7%; 66-33).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 32-18 (64.0%) at home in Big 12 play and 25-24 (51.0%) on the road.
AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
• K-State has 205 wins since 1996, which rank 25th among all FBS teams. The Wildcats are one of just 26 schools to reach the 200-win mark over the last 26 seasons.
• More recently, the Wildcats are tied for 26th in wins among current Power 5 teams since 2010 with 95.
• K-State has a strong postseason history, going to a bowl game 22 times since 1993, including 10 times in the last 12 years.
• K-State’s 22 bowl trips since 1993 rank fourth among current Big 12 teams.
• In an era when over 80 teams play in a bowl game each year, the Cats are one of just 25 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game 10 times in the last 12 years.
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 94-30 career record, as his 75.8% career winning percentage is tied for fourth among current FBS coaches that are at least in their 10th season.
• Klieman, who is 22-17 since arriving at K-State, 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.
• K-State was one of the least penalized teams in the nation over the final few weeks of the 2021 regular season, as the Cats totaled only four penalties (1.3 per game) for 41 yards (13.7 yards per game) over their final three regular-season games.
• Through three games this year, K-State ranks third in the Big 12 in fewest penalty yards with 41.7 per game.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
• Another staple of K-State football over the past decade has been committing very few turnovers, as the Wildcats rank third nationally among current Power 5 teams since 2012 in fewest turnovers per game at 1.20.
• That figure leads the Big 12 as the Wildcats’ 155 total turnovers over the last 11-plus seasons are 12 better than the next closest program (Oklahoma, 167).
• So far this season, the Wildcats are plus-6 in turnover margin with seven interceptions and just one lost fumble late in the win over Missouri.
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 128 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team.
• Kansas State tallied three non-offensive scores in 2021, including two kickoff-return touchdowns by Malik Knowles. One of those was a 93-yard return against Oklahoma.
• The Wildcats already have two non-offensive scores this year as Seth Porter blocked a punt against South Dakota that was returned for a score by Desmond Purnell, while Phillip Brooks took a punt 76 yards for a score against Missouri.
KLEIN TAKES OVER AS OC
• A 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the best signal callers in school history, Collin Klein is in his first season as K-State’s offensive coordinator.
• Klein is one of just four Power 5 offensive coordinators to play quarterback at the school in which they work. The other three are Brandon Streeter (Clemson), Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) and Tavita Pritchard (Stanford).
• Klein was promoted to interim offensive coordinator for the 2022 Texas Bowl, and all he did was direct the Wildcats to 42 points – their highest output of the season and third highest in school bowl history – while their 442 yards of total offense was the second-best output of the 2021 season and ranked fifth in K-State bowl history.
• Klein was a co-offensive coordinator for one season at K-State (2018), as he begins a run as the Wildcats’ sole offensive play caller for the first time in his career.
OFF AND RUNNING
• K-State has opened the season with 718 rushing yards, as the Wildcats rank 12th nationally and second in the Big 12 by averaging 239.3 rushing yards per game.
• A majority of those yards come from 2021 Consensus All-American Deuce Vaughn, who ranks sixth in the nation and tops in the Big 12 with 117.3 rushing yards per game.
• K-State opened the season with 297 yards on the ground against South Dakota, which included Malik Knowles’ 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the season.
• Knowles’ score 10 seconds into the game was the fastest in school history, topping an 11-second score vs. Louisiana Tech in 1988.
• The 297 yards on the ground were the most by a Wildcat team since recording 342 in the 2019 Kansas game. They then posted 235 rushing yards against Missouri, the first time they had at least 230 rushing yards in consecutive games since the final two games of 2020.
AN EXPERIENCED QB
• One of the top transfer quarterbacks in the 2022 cycle landed at Kansas State in Adrian Martinez, who spent the previous four seasons at Nebraska.
• A career 38-game starter for the Huskers, Martinez set 17 school records, including career total offense (10,792) and completions (670).
• Martinez is one of only two active quarterbacks in the nation with 8,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in a career. He ranks second among active quarterbacks in career rushing attempts (547), rushing touchdowns (37) and rushing yards (2,451) by a quarterback, and fourth in total offense (11,246).
• This weekend’s game will actually be the second time in as many years that Martinez will play at Oklahoma. Last year with Nebraska, he threw for 289 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-25 aim while also rushing for a touchdown in the Huskers’ narrow 23-16 loss.
MIX OF NEW AND OLD
• The blueprint for success has been established for the offensive line under coach Conor Riley since he came to Manhattan with Chris Klieman in 2019. That should make for a smooth transition for three new starters in 2022.
• Junior Cooper Beebe, a 2021 First Team All-Big 12 performer who is a Preseason All-American and on the watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, is back started the season at left guard, but he can still play tackle.
• Another seasoned veteran lines up at right tackle in Christian Duffie, a player who has started 23-consecutive games for the Wildcats, the most on the team.
• However, K-State is replacing the interior of the offensive line. Senior Hayden Gillum started at center, while sophomore Hadley Panzer is listed as the starter at right guard.
VAUGHN RETURNS AFTER ALL-AMERICAN SEASON
• Running back Deuce Vaughn is looking to improve upon his 2021 campaign in which he became the 11th Consensus All-American in school history.
• A product of Round Rock, Texas, Vaughn is one of just six Consensus All-Americans returning from last season, joining Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, USC wide receiver Jordan Addison, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., Michigan kicker Jake Moody and USF returner Brian Battie.
• Vaughn currently ranks first nationally among all active non-kickers in career points scored per game (7.8), second among active players in career all-purpose yards per game (133.88), fifth in total touchdowns (32) and seventh in rushing yards per carry.
• A threat virtually every time he touches the ball, Vaughn has gone for at least 10 yards on 101 of his 504 career scrimmage touches as he is gaining at least 10 yards 20.0% of the time he either takes a hand off or receives a pass.
• The high career marks by Deuce Vaughn are not only due to his prowess as a runner, but he has been one of the best running backs in the nation in terms of catching the ball out of the backfield.
• Over the first 26 games of his career, Vaughn has 2,398 rushing yards and 938 receiving yards. With 62 more receiving yards, he will be just the 59th FBS player overall since 1996 to reach the 2,000/1,000 mark and just the 10th from the Big 12.
• However, Vaughn could be one of the fastest players to hit the marks in terms of games played.
• Additionally, he would be just the second Big 12 player to hit those marks prior to the end of his junior year, joining former Texas Tech running back Taurean Henderson.
STREAKS COME TO AN END
• Deuce Vaughn saw a pair of impressive streaks come to an end last week against Tulane.
• He finished second in school history with eight-straight games with 100 rushing yards. It was just two behind the record of Darren Sproles, who had 10-straight games between spanning the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
• Vaughn also had a rushing touchdown in nine-straight games, which was the fifth-longest streak in school history.
A BIG TURNAROUND
• The K-State defense switched from a four-man front to a three-man front in 2021, and the change has paid off in spades.
• From 2020 to 2021, the Wildcats trimmed 11.2 points and 100.0 yards per game allowed off their averages.
• In the 16 games since the defensive switch, the Wildcats are allowing just 18.9 points per game and 331.8 yards per game.
PICK ME, PICK ME
• Through three games, K-State has recorded seven interceptions to rank second in the nation and tops among Power 5 teams.
• The seven picks through the first three games are tied for the most by a K-State defense since 1993.
• After opening the year with two picks against South Dakota, the Cats recorded four interceptions on four-straight possessions against Missouri. It was the first time they accomplished that feat since the 2010 Texas game when Tysyn Hartman and Ty Zimmerman each picked off two passes on four-consecutive drives.
• Daniel Green and Kobe Savage each picked off passes against Missouri and Tulane. It was the first time the same two K-State players had interceptions in the same consecutive games since 2014 (Dante Barnett and Randall Evans vs. West Virginia and Kansas).
• One area of emphasis for the Wildcat defense in 2021 was to limit opponents’ explosive plays, and the Wildcats made headway in that area by allowing 3.5 plays per game of 20 or more yards.
• It was the lowest per game mark allowed by K-State since the 2014 squad surrendered 3.3 plays per game of 20 or more yards (43 plays in 13 games).
• K-State’s 48 total plays allowed of 20 or more yards last year tied for the 18th fewest in the nation last season and ranked second in the Big 12.
• The Wildcats have allowed just eight plays of 20 or more yards this year, as they are tied for 17th in the nation and second in the Big 12.
FEW FIRST DOWNS
• The Wildcats also ranked highly in the nation last season in fewest first downs allowed, surrendering 17.9 per game to rank 20th in the nation.
• K-State allowed 20 or fewer first downs in 10 of its 13 games in 2021, including five contests with 15 or fewer.
• It was the second time under head coach Chris Klieman that K-State ranked in the top 20 in that category having placed 17th at 17.2 first downs allowed per game in 2019.
• Since the NCAA made first downs an official statistic in 2008, the Wildcats have only been under 20 first downs allowed per game on four occasions.
• K-State ranks 25th in the nation with 45 first downs allowed and has not surrendered more than 20 in any of the first three games.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE
• K-State tallied 90 tackles for loss last year to rank 10th in school history and 26th in the nation. It was the second most by a K-State team since 2004 (2006 squad had 91) and was the Wildcats’ best national ranking since placing 18th in 2006.
• K-State recorded 10.0 TFLs against both South Dakota and Missouri to start the 2022 season.
• It is the first time the Cats had 10 or more TFLs in consecutive games since carding 10 apiece against Miami and North Texas in 2012.
FINDING A NEW HOME
• K-State brought in eight transfers from either Division I or community college on the defensive side of the ball, including five that could see significant time early in the season.
• Transfers that are listed on the depth chart include safeties Drake Cheatum (Prairie View A&M), Josh Hayes (Virginia/North Dakota State) and Kobe Savage (Tyler JC), linebacker Gavin Forsha (Tyler JC) and cornerback Jordan Wright (Fullerton College).
GREEN MEANS GO
• One of the nation’s top tacklers a year ago, linebacker Daniel Green has also been a pest for opponents in the passing game as he has two interceptions on the year.
• Green is one of just five linebackers in the nation with multiple interceptions to begin the 2022 season.
• Those picks came against Missouri and Tulane as he is the first Wildcat linebacker with interceptions in consecutive games since Arthur Brown in 2012 against West Virginia and Texas Tech.
• Green returned his interception against Tulane 49 yards to set up a field goal prior to halftime, the longest return by a Wildcat since safety Dante Barnett went 51 yards against Michigan in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. It was also the longest by a K-State linebacker since Alex Hrebec had a 51-yard return against Iowa State in 2008.
• In terms of tackles, Green has 173 stops in his career as he is 77 away from becoming the 27th player in school history with 250 tackles in a career.
• Of those tackles, 124 have been solo stops as Green is 44 away from entering the school’s career top-10 list.
• After making a name for himself in 2021, junior defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah is looking to improve off an All-American campaign in which he was also named the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
• A Preseason All-American by multiple outlets in addition to being named to the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award watch lists, Anudike-Uzomah finished the 2021 season tied for the national lead in forced fumble per game (0.46), while he ranked 11th nationally and second among sophomores in sacks per game (0.85).
• Anudike-Uzomah has seven forced fumbles in his career, just two shy of tying the school record.
• A product of Kansas City, Missouri, Anudike-Uzomah leads the nation among active player in career forced fumbles per game (0.33), while he is sixth in sacks per game (0.69) and 17th in tackles for loss (0.90).
• After carding 2.5 sacks so far this season, Anudike-Uzomah is now 4.0 sacks shy of entering K-State’s career top-10 list.
OLD FACE, NEW PLACE
• Safety Josh Hayes is in his sixth year of college football and third school after transferring in the spring from Virginia.
• However, Hayes, a product of Lakeland, Florida, is reuniting with head coach Chris Klieman and defensive coordinator/safeties coach Joe Klanderman in Manhattan after the trio were together at North Dakota State. Hayes played as a true freshman and sophomore in 2017 and 2018 under Klieman before he became the K-State head coach for the 2019 season.
• Hayes saw time in all 15 games in 2017, including his first-career start in NDSU’s national championship win over James Madison.
• He went on to play 37 more games with 24 more starts for the Bison before transferring to Virginia for the 2021 season, playing in three games before utilizing his redshirt and transferring to K-State.
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-plus seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 60 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (39) and 27 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State – 33).
• Of the 60 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 19.
• With the Wildcats’ two punt-return touchdowns to begin the 2022 season, K-State has now tallied a punt-return score in every season since 2014, as the nine-year stretch is the longest in school history.
BACK TO BACK
• Desmond Purnell returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against South Dakota, while Phillip Brooks returned one 76 yards for a score against Missouri.
• It was the first time the Wildcats had punt-return scores in consecutive games since 2008 against Texas Tech and Texas A&M, while it was the first time they had one in each of the first two games of a season since 1998 against Indiana State and Northern Illinois.
BROOKS BACK IN THE END ZONE
• Phillip Brooks recorded his fourth-career punt-return touchdown against Missouri, a 76-yarder en route to Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
• He now leads the nation among active players in career punt-return score and punt-return average (17.7), while he is ninth in total punt-return yards (549).
• His four punt-return touchdowns rank second in school history and re tied for fourth in Big 12 history.
KNOWLES WITH A KNACK
• Malik Knowles is the latest Wildcat with a knack for kickoff returns as he was a 2021 Second Team All-American by Phil Steele and a 2022 Preseason All-American by multiple outlets.
• Knowles was the 2021 First Team All-Big 12 kick returner, marking the 15th time in the 26-year history of the Big 12 that K-State had a First Team All-Big 12 returner. The next closest team is former Big 12 member Colorado with four.
• Knowles is tied for fourth in school history in both career and single-season kickoff return touchdowns, thanks to scores last year in back-to-back weeks at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma.
• Knowles, who also had a 100-yard return in 2019 at Mississippi State, is tied for second nationally among active players with three career kickoff-return scores.
• Knowles currently ranks ranked fourth in school history in career kickoff-return average and touchdowns, while he is tied for second nationally among active players in touchdowns and ranks fourth in average.
ZENTNER ENTERS TOP 10
• Punter Ty Zentner is taking advantage of a second senior season in 2022 as he returns after earning All-Big 12 status a year ago.
• A product of Topeka, Kansas, Zentner ranks third in school history with a 42.99-yard average. That average is held up by five career games with an average of at least 45.0, including a 54.2-yard average against Missouri. His contest against the Tigers featured a career-long punt of 66 yards.
• Zentner was also the Wildcats’ primary kickoff man last year, totaling 36 touchbacks on his 67 kickoffs (53.7%), the most by a Wildcat since at least 2004.