Another season, another shutout victory in Week 1 for the Kansas State football team.
A day later, it is now time to look back on the action and hand out a few awards and grades. We also look ahead to next week’s game against the Troy Trojans, which promises to be a more difficult test for Chris Klieman’s squad.
Play of the game
Will Howard delivered many highlight plays for the Wildcats as he threw for 297 yards and scored touchdowns as a passer, runner and receiver, but one stood out from the group.
His 37-yard touchdown strike to RJ Garcia was a thing of beauty.
On the play, he held his ground in the pocket even though a SEMO defender was putting pressure on him and threw a perfect pass to Garcia as a he streaked across the left side of the field. Garcia then made a move and got into the end zone.
“The one to RJ was was good, because I had a little pressure in my face and I was able to stand in there and still make a good throw (under) pressure,” Howard said. “I think that makes it my favorite.”
It’s clear that Howard and Garcia have a strong connection on the football field. Perhaps we will see more plays like that as the season unfolds.
Player of the game
Will Howard is the obvious choice.
Nobody else in modern K-State history has thrown for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in the same game.
Other than one early mistake (an interception that was thrown into triple coverage) he played an incredible game and was able to watch most of the second half as a spectator after guiding the Wildcats to a 38-0 lead.
Stat of the game
Eleven, as in tackles for loss from the Wildcats.
Havoc is one of the most important defensive stats in all of college, and K-State delivered a lot of it on Saturday. Linebacker Austin Moore had three tackles for loss and the Wildcats combined for four sacks. SEMO only managed six rushing yards all night.
Quote to note
“I would give us a B-plus. I feel like there’s always going to be room for improvement. I thought we played well and we played pretty fast, but I feel like there were still a lot of mistakes and things that we can clean up.” — K-State safety Kobe Savage.
Offense: A. The Wildcats still haven’t scored 50 points in a game with Collin Klein as offensive coordinator. Other than that, there isn’t much to complain about after Game 1. K-State reached 360 yards, Ben Sinnott and RJ Garcia both eclipsed 100 yards receiving and running back DJ Giddens went for 128 on the ground. Now that’s balance.
Defense: A+. The Redhawks rushed for six yards and didn’t score a single point. The Wildcats caused all kinds of problems for them up front, even with a three-man front on the defensive line. Uso Seumalo looked as good as advertised at defensive tackle.
Special Teams: A. Chris Tennant had a solid outing in his return to kicking duties. He drilled a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter and delivered six touchbacks.
Coaching: A. Klieman knows how to get his team ready for the start of a season, especially against FCS opponents. It was fun to see the Wildcats call a trick play in the first half of the first game. They wanted to flex their muscles right out of the chute.
Next up: Troy Trojans
The Wildcats can begin shifting their focus to Troy.
Game 2 should be a much more difficult test than Game 1 was for K-State. The Trojans are one of the best teams in all of college football outside of the power conferences, as they have won 12 straight games dating back to last season. That is the second-longest active streak in the country, behind only Georgia. The Bulldogs have won 18 in a row.
Troy was best known for its defense last season when it won 12 games and claimed a Sun Belt championship. But the Trojans opened the 2023 season with a 48-30 victory over Stephen F. Austin that was filled with offense.
Kimani Vidal rushed for a team record 248 yards on 25 carries, Gunnar Watson threw for four touchdowns and Troy finished with 540 yards of offense. The final score was closer than expected, given that Stephen F. Austin only gained 240 yards.
This could be a tricky game for the Wildcats, who have a history of losing at home against teams from smaller conferences. K-State lost to Arkansas State in 2020 and fell to Tulane last season.