I’m not sure it’s any solace, but the Kansas State Wildcats could be in worse spot. Skylar Thompson will be back, and it sounds like he’ll be back sooner rather than later. I went through the same thing in high school. I jumped up for a header in preseason practice, landed funny, and something popped in my left knee. Everyone was distraught, assuming my season was over before it started. Even our hard ass of a coach called my house after I made it back from the hospital and blubbered about me being “irreplaceable” (he was a football coach, desperately trying to parlay his head soccer coaching job into a head football coaching job, and I was an integral part of that plan). I went into the MRI the next day expecting the worst, but got great news. That popping feeling that rang through my soul was my kneecap dislocating, not any of the ligaments tearing. Instead of being out for the season, I was out 4-5 weeks. My coach called up the house again and let me know that he got carried away and didn’t actually mean that “irreplaceable” (I was and everyone knew it). Being too tough for my own good, I went against doctors orders and made it back in three weeks with a big brace and no practice time before my first game. I played well. Crisis averted.
My knee still hurt, but worked well enough for me to play goalie (I was our best forward and goalkeeper, but my busted knee solved the position question). I missed a few preseason games, but made it back for the start of region play. We came in 2nd in our region (the 1st place team won the State Championship), made it to the quarterfinals in the state tournament, and our coach snagged his head football coaching job in the offseason. All-in-all it could have been much worse.
The moral of the story is that it’s easy to jump to the conclusions when you’re lying on the back with the popping feeling from your knee ringing though your body (seriously, I can’t watch knee injuries on television, I’ll either leave the room or put a blanket over my head like a middle schooler watching a horror film until the replays are over). I’ve had four non-contact knee injuries (one for each decade of life) and only one was of the catastrophic variety. All four were terrifying though. I’m sure Skylar was staring at the sky, thinking his season was over, and I guarantee that hurt worse than his knee. Thompson deserves an injury free season, but an injury paused season is significantly better than an injury lost season.
The rest of the team has to carry the load while the captain gets his knee back in working order. The fact that Skylar will be back should keep the team from falling into an, “Our quarterback is out for the year, we’re doomed!” slump. The injury is obviously not ideal, but in terms of timing, it’s not terrible. If we go with the best case scenario, and he’s back in time for the Iowa State game, he’ll miss the two least consequential games remaining on the schedule.
The Nevada game tomorrow would be great to win. I think the Wildcats can win it without Skylar, but if they don’t, it doesn’t matter unless you placed a sizable bet on K-State making the CFP. A loss won’t effect their standing in the Big 12, and subsequently, shouldn’t hurt their bowl positioning much. Every (rational) Wildcat goal is still on the table, regardless of the outcome of the Nevada game.
The Oklahoma State game is the tough one in this run, because K-State needs to win this game. I would be surprised if Skylar was back, and it’s going to be tough to win without him. I’m going to have to see how Kansas State and Oklahoma State look tomorrow before I make any predictions. Thus far, this isn’t a vintage Oklahoma State offense. They’ve yet to break 30 points despite starting the season with Missouri State and Tulsa. If they struggle on the road against Boise this weekend, I think it’s a pick em game with a slight nod to the homestanding Cowboys. Most years you have to put up points to beat OK St., but this isn’t most years. If the Wildcats are able to turn this thing into a rock fight, I like their chances.
Missing Skylar for Oklahoma is huge, but let’s be honest, in terms of winning the game, missing Skylar moves K-State’s chances of winning from 10% to 0%. That’s the smallest possible drop in odds on the schedule, other than Kansas, which would go from 100% win to 100% win regardless of the quarterback situation. Odds don’t matter against Oklahoma anyway. Kansas State has established their dominance over the Sooners, and they will find a way to lose the game in spectacular fashion, regardless of the odds. Lincoln Riley has a losing to Kansas State compulsion and can’t help himself when he see the Chris Klieman standing on the opposing sideline.
The off-week is positioned perfectly. Skylar gets a week to heal, and then, ideally, a week to gain confidence in the knee and knock the rust off in practice. I don’t expect him to run , at least in the first half the schedule, and that’ll hurt the offense, but his ability to read the defense and make the correct throw the vast majority of the time is, along with his leadership ability, the most important skill he brings to the table.
Will Howard played about as poor of a game as I’ve seen out of a college quarterback last Saturday. The coaching staff tried to run the Skylar game plan with Will, and it was a spectacular failure for two quarters before they dusted off the Howard play sheet from last year and ran it reasonably well. I expect the Nevada game to be a better showing for the sophomore. He’ll have a week of practice receiving starter reps, and the coaching staff will install a game plan that plays to Will’s strengths as a quarterback (QB runs and deep throws) instead of the quick decision oriented offense built around Thompson, that completely befuddled Howard last week.
As I mentioned above, every (rational) goal for the Wildcats is still on the table even with a losses to Nevada and Oklahoma. I implore you, don’t over react to a loss, and for the love of all that is good and righteous, declare Kansas State the kings of college football if they win. Things aren’t great, but they could be much worse, and in 2021, I’ll take “could be much worse” all day, every day.