Just like their first meeting in 1997, as the first iteration of the Bill Snyder era was reaching its peak, the Falcons came to Manhattan and were absolutely dominated. The result this time was only six points different than the first as K-State rolled to a 52-0 win in front of a very happy crowd of Wildcat faithful.
The first K-State drive stalled at the Bowling Green 6, and having to settle for a 24-yard Blake Lynch field goal may have been cause for concern. Any worries were quickly doused, however, as the Cats found the end zone twice before the first quarter ended while smothering the Falcon offense.
A breakdown of how the game transpired is far less useful than this data point: K-State outgained Bowling Green 372-82 — in the first half. 47 of those 82 yards came on Bowling Green’s final possession of the second quarter, when the defense went a little lax and allowed a couple of plays to develop.
In the end, the Cats won the yardage battle 521-140. A little math will allow one to realize that meant that K-State outgained the Falcons 149-58 in the second half. 38 of those yards were with the first team offense, but the second team and freshmen still dominated Bowling Green 111-58.
Oh, yes. The third string ground out a 14-play 68-yard touchdown drive which ate 8:22 off the clock in the third and fourth quarters. Nick Ast was 3-3 for 28 yards passing, and freshman Joe Ervin had eight carries for 28 yards, getting his first career touchdown on a 6-yard romp to close out the day’s scoring. Freshman Jacardia Wright led K-State with 14 carries, getting 59 yards for his efforts.
Of course, it was the starters that made that possible. K-State ran the ball 58 times for 333 yards (5.7 YPC), but at one point midway through the second quarter the Cats were averaging over nine yards a tote. James Gilbert cracked the 100-yard mark for the second week in a row, breaking that barrier on his final carry as he finished with 103 on eight carries with two touchdowns. Jordon Brown had 64 yards on four carries with a score. Harry Trotter was less effective, but ate clock with nine carries for 22 yards, and he scored as well — the second game in a row that all three “starting” tailbacks found the end zone.
The quarterbacks combined for 49 yards on the ground themselves, and Malik Knowles added a 12-yard jet sweep. Mostly absent after a 64-yard effort last week was Tyler Burns, and that’s because he only had one carry.
Skylar Thompson didn’t take the day off passing, though. The junior racked up an absurd 225.3 passer rating on the strength of a 10-13 day, throwing for 151 yards and two scores. His primary partner in crime was Knowles, who planted his flag as the teams WR1 by catching five passes for 99 yards and both of those touchdowns. Two of his receptions were utterly absurd, putting to rest some game-one concerns about his hands pretty much for good. Chabastin Taylor had four catches in a possession role, none for over 10 yards. Brown, Dalton Schoen, Wykeen Gill, Seth Porter, and Joel Youngblood each had a single reception. In limited duty between Thompson and Ast, John Holcombe III was 1-3 for 9 yards.
As for special teams... well. Hmm. Phillip Brooks may have lost his job as punt returner despite posting a kickoff return for 44 yards because he muffed two punts. One of those, he lost inside the Wildcat 35; the shutout was saved a play later when Daniel Green sacked Darius Wade, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Khalid Duke. Devin Anctil finally — finally! — got to punt midway through the third quarter... and hurt himself. It wasn’t serious, and he returned to punt again later, but it was still disturbing.
Landry Weber, he of the brand-new scholarship, did manage to recover a kickoff in the first quarter which the Falcons somehow neglected to field, so special teams weren’t entirely a disaster. But they appear to be a bit of a work in progress.
Aside from Anctil’s injury, we saw Wyatt Hubert lose his helmet to the concussion protocol and Walter Neil hobble off tenderly after being down for a bit. This being a new era in Manhattan, we actually know things! Hubert’s status is still unknown, even by Klieman; post-game, the coach said that Neil could have returned to the game but was kept out because he wasn’t needed.
So, what did we learn today?
1) Chris Klieman goes for the throat.
Late in the second quarter, already leading 31-0, K-State faced 4th-and-3 at the Bowling Green 34. Klieman chose to go for it.
Klieman called a pass.
To the end zone. Thompson hit Knowles, touchdown, and everything went nuts.
For K-State fans, this is a big deal. Love or hate it, Bill Snyder would already have had the second string in the game running off-tackle by this point. Klieman is having none of that, and it’s an instinct that perhaps this team is going to need in the high-octane Big 12.
2) Malik Knowles is going to be a Big Damn Star.
Knowles’s physical talent has never been in doubt. He’s got speed, he’s got ups, he’s got moves. What we were concerned about after last week was whether he’s got hands after a couple of drops.
Question no more. Knowles made one catch while completely extended and parallel less than a foot off the ground, and secured the ball firmly before it made contact. The touchdown pass referenced just above, he gathered in while completely blanketed by a defender and kept hold of it while a wrestling match ensued.
(Sidenote: this play was reviewed, and it was hilarious because the only question was whether Knowles had retained possession long enough before the defender took it away from him. But the replay clearly showed Knowles deliberately relinquishing possession of the ball to get up and celebrate after looking up and seeing the official with his arms raised; Knowles was clearly thinking, “Okay, you called it a touchdown, I’ll stop fighting now.”)
Also give Knowles credit for being tough. On the jet sweep play, Knowles ran like a damned bull.
He’s now K-State’s number one receiver, and appears to be Thompson’s favorite target. They’re going to be fun to watch.
3) The defense is still a question, but only out of an abundance of caution.
Look, we get it. The first two games have not been against Oklahoma, and they’ve only had to be on the field for about a half-hour all season. But they’ve gotten the job done in dominating fashion, and more importantly they’re passing the eye test. Yes, there seems to be one drive a game when they take a nap, and Klieman’s going to have to address that. But in this game, even that drive ended with a cold, hard stop. And that’s a good thing.
4) Nick Ast may be the next man up.
A lot of people tend to think, and would like to see, Holcombe take the reins should something happen to Thompson. But Ast was perfect today, joining Thompson in the 200+ passer rating club, and seemed much more poised and controlled than Holcombe during his snaps.
5) This team is deep.
But then, given everything we wrote above, that much seems obvious. But check this out.
Seven guys on this team already have 50 yards rushing this season. SEVEN. The three-headed tailback has 403 yards in two games, but the other guys have added 291 yards.
Six guys on this team have caught at least two passes, which is pretty impressive considering the preseason take on this team was that there were no receivers for Thompson to throw to.
Eight guys on this team have recorded tackles for loss — despite the defense only facing 85 snaps.
It’s a team effort, with everyone pitching in and getting the opportunity. And it’s glorious, so far.
Of course, next week the true test begins, and we’ll see whether this is real or just a mirage. But for now, kick back and enjoy it. K-State has played two great Saturdays of football, they’re 2-0, and maybe a bowl game in Klieman’s first year isn’t such a stretch after all.