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Kansas State vs NC State: Pop Tarts Bowl

The Wildcats and Wolfpack square off in the 2023 Pop Tarts Bowl. Winner gets the mascot for dinner.

Oct 21, 2023; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Avery Johnson (5) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium.
Time for the Kansas Kid to show us what he’s got.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back Kansas State football fans. It’s finally time for the last game of the season, as your #25 Wildcats (8-4, 6-3 Big 12) take on the #18 NC State Wolfpack (9-3, 6-2 ACC).

We won’t talk about NC State here, because what more could be said than what Drew already so wonderfully provided.

But as much as this is the final game of the 2023 season for K-State, it’s also the beginning of a new era in Manhattan. For the first time since 2016, Collin Klein will not be on the sidelines as a coach for the Wildcats, as the now-former OC will be taking on the same role at Texas A&M next season. Also gone is Will Howard, who started games in each of the last four seasons, including leading K-State to a victory in the 2022 Big 12 Championship game. The school record holder in career touchdown passes will use his COVID season at USC, putting off NFL dreams for one more season. There are other starters and non-starters from this season who won’t be joining the Wildcats in Orlando, but these two are easily the highest-profile.

So we’ll get to see much of the future at work today. Avery Johnson, the heralded freshman who led K-State to a comeback win at Texas Tech off the bench earlier this season, will the get the first of his K-State career, and is set to enter the offseason as the unquestioned starter and future at quarterback. Also, much like Klein did in the 2021 Texas Bowl win over LSU, Conor Riley, who has been with head coach Chris Klieman since their days at North Dakota State, will get to audition for the role of offensive coordinator — really, he’s been auditioning for a few weeks, but today is the final exam.

For teams not competing for a major bowl crown or in a CFP playoff game, these bowl games are about getting one final shot at glory for the guys graduating (and not already declared for the NFL) as well as getting the younger guys on the roster a big boost headed into the offseason. Win or lose, this will be good for the growth of younger guys on the roster.

But winner today gets to eat the mascot. And I think we’d all like to see that mascot surrounded by a purple mob.

We’ve got a 4:45pm CT kickoff from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL being aired on ESPN with Anish Shroff (Play-by-Play), Andre Ware (Analyst), and Paul Carcaterra (Sidelines) on the call. You should also be able to watch the game live online at WatchESPN, if you already have the correct cable/streaming package.

If you don’t have ESPN, or can’t access the stream, the game can be heard across the 32-station K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play), former K-State quarterback Stan Weber (analyst), and Matt Walters (sidelines) calling the action. The game will also be on SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 84, and available online at Live stats are also available at, and social media updates (@KStateFB) will also be a part of the coverage.

Go Cats!