Courtesy of K-State Athletics
rv/rv Troy at 16/17 K-State
Date: Saturday, September 9, 2023
Kickoff: 11 a.m.
Location: Manhattan, Kan.
Stadium: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000)
Series: K-State Leads, 1-0
TV: FS1 (watch)
Eric Collins (Play-by-Play)
Devin Gardner (Analyst)
Radio: K-State Sports Network; k-statesports.com (Listen)
Wyatt Thompson (Play-by-Play)
Stan Weber (Analyst)
Matt Walters (Sidelines)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 83
X Updates: @KStateFB
THE TOP 5
1) K-State opened the season with a 45-0 shutout win over SEMO last week and now welcomes the Troy Trojans to Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday for an 11 a.m. battle that will be shown on FS1. The Wildcats dominated the Redhawks in all three phases last week, while the Trojans are coming off a 48-30 win over Stephen F. Austin in their opener. Saturday’s game against Troy is sold out.
2) Senior quarterback Will Howard is coming off a great season opener as he threw for a career-high 297 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-26 aim. He also became the sixth quarterback in Big 12 history to throw, rush and catch a touchdwon pass in the same game. Howard moved into 10th place in school history for career passing touchdowns as he enters this weekend’s game with 26.
3) Skill players abound for the Wildcats, including returner DJ Giddens and Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward at running back, All-Big 12 tight end Ben Sinnott, and a plethora of wide receivers. Giddens rushed for 128 yards in the opener, while Ward ran for a score and threw for another – an 8-yard pass to Howard. Sinnott (100 yards) and RJ Garcia II (119 yards) each hit the century mark in receiving yards.
4) The K-State defense returns five starters, led by a pair of senior linebackers in Daniel Green and Austin Moore. Moore was the team’s leading tackler last year, while Green is back for a sixth season. Notably, Khalid Duke is moving from linebacker back to his natural home at defensive end to help stabilize the line. The unit opened the year with a 45-0 shutout of SEMO, its second straight in season openers.
5) Known for its special teams prowess, K-State brings back a dynamic punt returner in Phillip Brooks, who will also add kickoff return duties to his repertoire. Sixth-year senior Jack Blumer serves as the primary punter for the first time in his career, while Chris Tennant is coming off a solid opener, connecting on a 51-yard field goal and booming six touchbacks on kickoffs.
588 – Total offense produced by the Wildcats against SEMO, the fifth most in school history and most ever in a season opener.
124 – Total career starts by K-State offensive linemen, including all 70 starts from a year ago.
78 – Number of players who saw action in last week’s win over SEMO, including 11 true freshmen.
75.7 – Career winning % by Chris Klieman, which ranks fourth nationally among FBS coaches with at least 10 years experience.
20.7 – Points per game allowed by K-State over the last two-plus seasons, ranking second among returning Big 12 teams.
WEEK 1 RECAP
• K-State opened the 2023 campaign with a 45-0 blanking of SEMO, marking the second straight year of pitching a shutout in the season opener.
• The Cats recorded 588 yards of total offense, the fifth-most in a game in school history and the most ever for a season opener.
• Will Howard became just the sixth player in Big 12 history to throw, rush and catch a touchdown pass in the same game and the second to accomplish all three in one quarter (Nebraska’s Eric Crouch vs. California in 1999).
• The defense held SEMO to six yards rushing, the fewest surrendered by K-State since 2011 (Eastern Kentucky: -13), while collected 11 tackles for loss, the most in a game since the 2020 Baylor game (13), with 3.0 of those coming from Austin Moore.
• Since 1990, K-State holds a 95-19 (83.3%) record in regular-season non-conference games.
• That stretch includes an 81-9 (90.0%) mark at home. During those 30 years (excluding the one-game non-conference schedule in 2020), the Wildcats have had perfect regular season non-conference ledgers 17 times and unblemished marks at home on 24 occasions.
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 134 victories, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.
• The Wildcats are also third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 59.3% (64-44), trailing only Oklahoma (77.6%; 83-25) and Oklahoma State (64.8%; 70-38).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 35-19 (64.8%) at home in Big 12 play and 29-25 (53.7%) on the road.
AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
• K-State has a total of 213 victories since 1996, which ranks 23rd nationally and 16th among Power 5 programs.
• Among current Big 12 teams, the Wildcats rank fifth behind Oklahoma (263), Texas (230), BYU (224) and TCU.
• Over the last 13 seasons, the Wildcats have won at least seven games 11 times.
• Kansas State has a strong history of being in the postseason, having advanced to a bowl game 23 times since 1993, including 11 times in the last 13 years.
• K-State’s 23 bowl trips since 1993 are tied for 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 19 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game 11 times in the last 13 years.
TAKING DOWN TOP 10s
• K-State picked up three victories over AP top-10 teams in 2022, which culminated with a 31-28 overtime win over No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 Championship. It was the first time in school history the Cats took down multiple AP top-10 teams in one season.
• The Cats also defeated No. 6 Oklahoma, 41-34, in Norman, while they shut out No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0, at home.
• K-State was one of only two teams in the nation to post three wins over AP Top-10 teams last year (Georgia).
• The Wildcats are now 6-3 in their last nine games against top-10 teams dating back to Nov. 18, 2017, a span that began with a 45-40 victory at No. 10 Oklahoma State. Prior to that, the Cats were just 1-15 in their previous 16 tries.
• Under head coach Chris Klieman, the Wildcats have defeated five teams ranked in the top 10 by the Associated Press. No other current Big 12 team has more than three victories over AP Top 10 teams since 2019 (Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU all with three).
BIG 12 CHAMPS
• Kansas State earned its third Big 12 title with a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Big 12 Championship.
• It was the second for the Cats in a conference championship game as they took down No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-7, in 2003.
• Kansas State earned its first conference title since finishing with an 8-1 record in 2012 as there was no conference championship game conducted that year.
• The Wildcats are in search of winning a Big 12 title in consecutive years for the first time in school history. They are looking to become the second Big 12 program ever to defend its conference title (Oklahoma – 7 times).
• For the first time in six seasons, Kansas State entered a season ranked in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the AFCA Coaches Poll as they checked in at No. 16 and No. 17, respectively.
• K-State’s No. 16 preseason ranking in the AP Poll is its highest since beginning the 2004 campaign at No. 13.
TOUGH SLATE AHEAD
• In addition to having a target on their backs after winning the Big 12 in 2022 and entering the season in the top 20, the Wildcats will face a difficult schedule in 2023.
• The 12 opponents K-State will face during the regular season combined for a 60.8% winning clip in 2022, which is the 10th-highest percentage in the nation.
• K-State is one of just four teams in the nation to play 11 games in 2023 against teams that made the postseason in 2022. Two of the other three programs that will face 11 postseason teams from last year reside in the Big 12 in Iowa State and Texas, in addition to Ole Miss.
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 103-33 career record, as his 75.7% career winning percentage ranks fourth among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least 10 seasons. He is also one of just 14 current Power 5 head coaches with at least 100 victories.
• Klieman, who is 31-20 since arriving at K-State, is 7-7 in his career against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with six of the victories coming at K-State.
CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs
• K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 24 seasons as it has 129 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team (Alabama – 122).
• Kansas State had three non-offensive scores in 2022, beginning with a blocked punt return touchdown by Desmond Purnell against South Dakota in the season opener.
• The next week against Missouri, Phillip Brooks took a punt 76 yards for a score.
• Then, at West Virginia, Cincere Mason returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, the Wildcats’ first pick-6 since 2020.
• Of the 129 non-offensive scores since 1999, 44 have been punt returns, 40 interception returns, 33 kickoff returns, 10 fumble returns and 2 missed/blocked field goal returns.
OH CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
• Kansas State is utilizing the services of seven team captains in 2023, tied for the second-most captains in a single season in school history.
• This will be the third time in head coach Chris Klieman‘s five seasons that K-State will use seven captains, which include offensive linemen Cooper Beebe and Hayden Gillum, linebacker Daniel Green, quarterback Will Howard, linebacker Austin Moore, wide receiver Seth Porter and safety Kobe Savage. Gillum, Moore and Porter started as walk-ons in the program.
• Interestingly, Porter’s captaincy marks the third time in school history that a father-son duo will serve as captains as his father, Mark, was a team captain in 1988. The other two are Kevin (1996) and Tyler (2013, 2014) Lockett as well as Stan (1984 – current K-State Sports Network analyst) and Stanton (2015) Weber.
• K-State’s initial depth chart includes 60 names, which is the most for a season-opening depth charts since the first depth chart of 2004 (60).
• Over Chris Klieman‘s four three seasons at K-State, the initial depth chart in 2022 listed 58 names, 2021 listed 56 names, the first one of 2020 listed 54, and the first depth chart under Klieman in 2019 listed 52.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
• A staple of K-State football over the past decade has been committing very few turnovers, as the Wildcats rank third in the nation among Power 5 teams in fewest turnovers since 2012 with 167.
• That figure leads returning Big 12 teams that, as the Wildcats are 15 better than the next closest program (Oklahoma, 182).
• The Wildcats finished the 2022 season tied for eighth nationally and tops in the Big 12 in turnover margin (+0.86 / game). It was the first time K-State finished in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin since 2016 (fourth).
PUTTING IT WHERE ONLY OUR GUY CAN GET IT
• Since Collin Klein took over coaching the quarterbacks in 2017, K-State has only thrown 44 interceptions, equating to 0.58 per game.
• K-State’s 44 total interceptions thrown the last six-plus seasons is the lowest in the Big 12 (Oklahoma is second with 47) and tied for 13th in the nation.
• Last season, Adrian Martinez set a new single-season school record with an interception percentage of 0.54%, bettering the mark of 1.36% by Michael Bishop in 1998.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• Kansas State has been one of the best teams in the Big 12 in terms of scoring in the red zone since 2019, as the Wildcats rank second in the league at 90.6%.
• One of only two league teams to eclipse the 90% mark over the last four seasons, K-State is 173-for-191 with 122 touchdowns in the red zone during that span.
• Last season, the Wildcats scored at an 89.3% clip as they went 50-of-56 with 32 touchdowns.
• K-State totaled at least 375 yards in all nine conference games last season in addition to the Big 12 Championship. It marked the first time ever in Big 12 play (since 1996) that the Wildcats totaled at least 375 yard in every league game.
• Overall, the Wildcats averaged 418.8 yards of offense, which ranked fifth in school history and was the most since the 2014 squad (421.6).
• The 2023 opener saw the Cats total 588 yards, the fifth-most in school history, most ever in a season opener and most since a school-record 658 yards in the 2005 North Texas game.
• Kansas State has scored at least 45 points in each of its last three regular-season contests dating back to last season, the longest streak since also going three-straight games in 2012. The last time the Wildcats went four-straight regular season games with scoring at least 45 points came in 1998 (twice).
• During K-State’s march to the Big 12 title game, the Wildcat offense was one of the most productive Power 5 units in the nation as they averaged 40.2 points per game over the final five regular-season contests.
• The Wildcats’ 40.2-point average over the final five weeks of the regular season ranked fifth nationally among Power 5 teams and tops in the Big 12.
PRODUCING A CLEAN POCKET
• K-State has excelled in pass blocking since offensive line coach Conor Riley arrived in 2019, as the Cats have allowed fewer than 2.0 sacks per game each of the last four seasons. It is the Wildcats’ first four-year stretch under 2.0 sacks allowed per game since 1997 to 2000.
• K-State is the only Big 12 program – including the four new programs in 2023 – to currently hold a streak of at least four years allowing less than 2.0 sacks per game each season, and the Wildcats are only one of 10 FBS programs to lay that claim.
KEEPING IT 100
• Those that produced the clean pocket for the Wildcats last year all return as K-State brought back 100% of its 70 starts along the offensive line from a year ago.
• To open the 2023 campaign, the Wildcats brought back a nation-leading 116 starts from its starting unite from last season. K-State also ranked 12th nationally in total returning games played among all offensive linemen with 204.
IT’S WILL’S TURN
• Even though he has played in 22 career games with 15 starts entering 2023, last Saturday against SEMO represented the first time that Will Howard started a season opener.
• The Downingtown, Pennsylvania, native did not disappoint in his 2023 debut, setting a career high with 297 passing yards to go along with two touchdowns. It was the most passing yards by a Wildcat in a season opener since Jesse Ertz threw for 333 yards against Central Arkansas in the 2017 opener.
• Last season, Howard threw 15 touchdowns in his seven games played (five starts) en route to a 149.6 passer rating to rank eighth in school history.
• That included a 159.4 rating over the final five weeks of the season and the Big 12 Championship game, which ranked eighth nationally and third among Power 5 quarterbacks behind USC’s Caleb Williams (173.9) and Oregon’s Bo Nix (168.3).
• In addition to his passing showcase in the opener, Will Howard also recorded a touchdown run and was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Treshaun Ward.
• It was the sixth time in Big 12 history a quarterback threw a touchdown pass, rushed for a touchdown and had a receiving touchdown in the same game. The last was TCU’s Kenny Hill against Stanford in 2017.
• Howard accomplished all three in the second quarter, the second time in Big 12 history that had been done (Nebraska’s Eric Crouch vs. California in 1999).
• Although K-State lost the services of two-time Consensus All-American Deuce Vaughn, the Wildcats showed they have plenty of experience in the running game with sophomore DJ Giddens posting 128 yards and transfer Treshaun Ward coming up with 56 yards and a touchdown in the 2023 opener.
• During his redshirt freshman season, Giddens rushed for 518 yards – the third most by a freshman in school history – and six touchdowns as he earned votes from the league’s coaches for the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award.
• Ward, a fifth-year senior transfer from Florida State, earned All-ACC Honorable Mention accolades a year ago after rushing for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, both career highs. He is also a threat in the passing game, catching 28 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown during his time at FSU.
CONTINUING WHERE HE LEFT OFF
• Tight end Ben Sinnott burst onto the scene last season as he hauled in 31 passes for 447 yards and four scores, and he had a successful season opener by hauling in five passes for 100 yards.
• He was one of only four tight ends nationally with a 100-yard game, but his 20.0-yard average was tops in the country (minimum five receptions).
• He was the first K-State tight end with a 100-yard receiving game since Jeron Mastrud at Kansas in 2006 (103 yards).
• Last season, Sinnott led all Big 12 tight ends and ranked fourth nationally at the position with a 14.4-yard average.
• His best game was at Baylor when he had 89 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most touchdown catches by a K-State tight end since 1996 (Jarrett Grosdidier vs. Indiana State).
A BIG TURNAROUND
• The K-State defense switched from a four-man front to a 3-3-5 alignment in 2021, and the change has paid off.
• In the 28 games since the defensive switch, the Cats are allowing just 20.7 points per game, which ranks second in the Big 12 and 22ND in the nation.
• The Wildcats have surrendered just 21.0 points per game in 2021 and 21.9 points per game last year. It marked the first time K-State allowed less than 22.0 points per game in consecutive seasons since going 13-straight years from 1991 to 2003.
• Kansas State posted another season-opening shutout as it blanked SEMO last week.
• It is the second-straight year that the Wildcats shut out its opponent in the season opener, the first time K-State has done that since 1998 and 1999.
• It is the third shutout in the last 15 games by the Wildcats, their most in a 15-game stretch since posting three in the 2002 season.
• K-State was one of five teams to record a shutout on the opening weekend, three of which came from Big 12 teams (BYU, Oklahoma).
• K-State held all of its Big 12 opponents last season under their season averages coming into the game.
• The most dramatic difference came against Oklahoma State, as the Wildcats shut out an offense that was averaging 44.7 points per game at the time. The Wildcats also held Baylor to just a field goal as the Bears averaged 38.3 points per game enter their contest against the Wildcats.
• Since head coach Chris Klieman‘s first year of 2019, the Wildcats have held 30 of their 37 Big 12 opponents under their season average at the time it faces the Wildcats.
• K-State has held five teams without a touchdown since the beginning of the 2022 season, four of which came last year against South Dakota, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
• The last time K-State did not surrender a touchdown in four games overall in a season was 2002 (Western Kentucky, ULM, Kansas, Missouri), while the last time they did so in three Big 12 games was 2001 (Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri).
LATE DOWN STOPS
• A year after ranking 78th nationally and sixth in the Big 12 by allowing a 35.4% conversion rate on third down, K-State finished the 2022 season ranking 27th in the country and third in the conference with a 34.0% rate.
• The Cats allowed their opponents to convert on third down under 50% of the time in 11 of 14 games, including the Big 12 Championship game when TCU was just 2-of-15 on third downs.
• Last week, SEMO converted on just 4-of-14 third downs (28.6%).
BACK FOR MOORE
• Kansas State brings back its leading tackler from a year ago in linebacker Austin Moore, who totaled 87 tackles and 10.0 tackles for loss a year ago, and he picked up where he left off against SEMO by carding a team-leading six tackles to go along with a career-best 3.0 tackles for loss.
• Now a senior, the former walk-on was elected a team captain by his teammates for the 2023 season.
GREEN READY TO GO AGAIN
• Daniel Green returned for his second senior season as the sixth-year linebacker is back after battling injuries during the 2022 campaign when he came away with 58 tackles.
• A native of Portland, Oregon, Green is also looking to cement his name in the K-State record book as he is 31 tackles shy of becoming the 27th player in school history with 250 career tackles. Additionally, he needs 17 solo tackles to enter the top 10 in K-State history.
SAVAGE RETURNS FROM INJURY
• Safety Kobe Savage had a breakout season last year after transferring in from Tyler JC as he earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors.
• After totaling 58 tackles and three interceptions, Savage was injured at Baylor and missed the final four games of the season.
• Voted a team captain for the 2023 campaign, Savage ranked sixth in the Big 12 and tied for 43rd nationally with his three picks.
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 (18-plus seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 60 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (39) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State – 34).
• Of the 60 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 20.
• With two punt-return touchdowns in 2022, K-State has now tallied a punt-return score in every season since 2014, as the nine-year stretch is the longest active streak in the nation.
• Special teams have been an area of emphasis under head coach Chris Klieman, and the stats back it up.
• K-State is one of only two teams in the nation (Houston) with at least five kickoff-return touchdowns and five punt-return touchdowns over the last four-plus seasons.
• On the flipside, K-State is one of just 15 FBS opponents to not allow a kickoff- or punt-return touchdown over the last four-plus years, while the Wildcats are only one of two Big 12 teams (TCU) to lay that claim.
DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS
• Kansas State has not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2013 season, going the last 384 returns without allowing opponents to find paydirt on a kickoff return.
• The streak is the longest among the returning Big 12 teams, 34 more than the next closest team (TCU – 350).
• Since K-State allowed its last kickoff-return touchdown, the Wildcats have scored 14 of their own.
BROOKS IS BACK
• Taking advantage of a sixth year of eligibility, Phillip Brooks – one of the best punt returners in Big 12 history – is back.
• He is currently tied for sixth in Big 12 history with four career punt-return touchdowns, while he ranks in the top 10 in school history in punt-return touchdowns (second), average (fifth; 14.6), yards (fifth; 641) and attempts (eighth; 44).