Kansas State won its first road game of the 2023 season last night, beating Texas Tech 38-21, literally running over the Red Raiders in the process. A Jon Morse’s recap notes, the game went from cringefest to rout thanks to a key change in personnel.
Freshman phenom Avery Johnson finally had his number called, and he did not disappoint. His 5 rushing scores in the game are the most in FBS this season and matched the school record, his name now listed alongside Collin Klein and Jonathan Beasley.
Johnson is a speedy (OMG, he’s SO fast) and athletic runner who seems to be able to find the gaps when needed and provided the Wildcats’ stalled out offense with a much-needed spark. He is, in short, a future star (and maybe the future is now?)
For parts of yesterday’s game, it felt like the entire offense was better and performed like a well-oiled machine when Johnson was on the field. Some of that was just letting the offense take what the Texas Tech defense was giving them, but a lot of it was that Kansas State is a team built to run the ball, and with Johnson involved, the running game is multi-dimensional and more difficult for opposing defenses to stop.
That said, this is a good time to pump the brakes just a tiny bit. Will Howard is clearly hobbled by whatever injury he suffered against Missouri. Howard can run the ball, but the coaches seem to be protecting him somewhat, which makes the Kansas State rushing attack somewhat toothless. It also forces Howard to throw the ball around when his receivers can’t find separation and/or are not in synch. We have a new receivers coach and no go-to all-Big 12 receiver on the roster, so this was maybe inevitable.
After last week’s loss, I said the playcalling showed more panic than anything else, and I think that’s still true. But simplifying the approach for Johnson allowed Collin Klein to go back to the basics: running the ball, QB power, and mostly short dump-offs in the passing game to keep the sticks moving. That’s all we really need, no matter who is playing quarterback.
If we’ve learned anything from our recent history, Kansas State cannot make it through an entire football season with just one quarterback. We need two guys who are both ready to go at any given time. They both need to be taking practice reps with the 1s, and it doesn’t really matter which one starts the game. You know as well as I do that Howard will have to come off the bench to save the game some time this season, assuming Johnson gets the nod from here on out. This is just who we are and how we do things.
Freshman runner Josephine Wanjiku won the 6K orange race at the pre-national Panorama Farms Race in Charlottesville, setting a personal best mark in the process, and the Kansas State women’s team finished first in the event, well ahead of the rest of the field.
The men’s team was also in action in Charlottesville and finished in 5th place in the 8K orange race, with senior Kerby Depenbusch having the best Kansas State performance at 7th.
Both teams will be in action next at the Big 12 Championships on October 28 in Ames.
At the ITA Central Regionals in Lawrence, Kansas State started the day with three players and participating in the main draw in both singles and doubles. Unfortunately, Veronica Kulhava, Vanesa Suarez, and Manami Ukita all lost their singles matches, and Suarez and Ukita were unlucky in the doubles draw as well. They will continue play in the consolation bracket or back draw of the event.
The VolleyCats were in Orlando to take on new Big 12 opponent UCF. Despite fighting hard, Kansas State was defeated in a tough five-set battle (16-25, 25-18, 24-26, 25-16, 7-15). The Knights remain undefeated in Big 12 play, while the Wildcats are now 4-4.
Aliyah Carter (22 kills, 11 digs) and Izzi Szulczeweski (19 assists, 11 digs) both had double-doubles for the VolleyCats.
Next up, the team will play in a two-match series against Oklahoma, which features an intriguing matchup as the Sooners are coached by head Jason Mansfield’s brother, Aaron.