That was a heartbreaker, wasn’t it? Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Will Howard was visibly upset after two costly mistakes late in Saturday’s 20-18 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. A fumble returned for a touchdown that killed a drive that may have given K-State back the lead, then an interception to kill the last chance for a Wildcat win.
But Howard — a true freshman who just turned 19 on Sept. 24 — hopefully understands he’s been thrown into a challenging situation and will need some time to find his rhythm at this level. A week removed from a three-interception performance against West Virginia, Howard played well for most of the game.
The fumble could’ve been a game-ender, but Howard fought back on the ensuing drive and scored to put his team right back in it. The next drive’s interception was challenging to end an otherwise solid game against an excellent team. Under the circumstances coming into this year, not many likely expected K-State to be firmly in the Big 12 Championship race on Nov. 7. The way the season is going, the Championship still isn’t out of the question.
The team was a few bad breaks away from a solid win Saturday. A much needed week off should allow them to make necessary adjustments and heal from a tough two weeks. Howard will hopefully have a short memory. His talent showed in flashes against the Cowboys, and his potential is unmistakable. He has nothing to be ashamed of. He’s operating an offense designed for Skylar Thompson’s experience and skill-set. He’s doing so in a year where spring workouts were cut short by COVID, and the receivers have been MIA.
If he can weather the storm of the past two weeks and not let it go to his head, this team still has a realistic shot at a conference title and — at the very least — should be able to muster enough wins to earn a bowl berth. It hasn’t been a fun two weeks, but this kind of experience can teach a young player to bounce back quickly. With the right coaching and the right mindset, Howard could grow to be the best K-State quarterback since Collin Klein.