Kansas State football looks to build on momentum from Texas Bowl win

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  • Chris Klieman
    Chris Klieman
    American football player and coach
  • Skylar Thompson
    American football player

HOUSTON — Nobody had to tell Chris Klieman that Tuesday night's 42-20 Texas Bowl victory over LSU was a positive step forward for his Kansas State football team. Some momentum heading into winter conditioning, if you will.

"This was a big game for us," he said.

But part of him wanted to hold onto the feeling created with a 2021 held together by a senior leadership group that would soon be gone.

"Can I enjoy this one for a little bit?" he asked with a smile when asked what excited him most about next season. "I think you can build on what we did to win this bowl game in January. (But) give us a little bit of time off.

"We've got a really lot of talented guys coming back, and I think they'll have a lot of energy going into the offseason. But I'm going to try to cut it down and relax for a little bit.”

More: Kansas State football vs. LSU report card: Grading the Wildcats' 42-20 Texas Bowl victory

Once the Wildcats do turn their attention to the future, starting with offseason conditioning and moving on to spring practice, they have good reason to be optimistic. A dominating bowl victory just reinforced that belief.

"It creates just a confidence and a standard," said junior middle linebacker Daniel Green, the team's leading tackler. "It doesn't matter who we play against, we're going to have the same mentality.

"The standard's the standard and we're going to play all 60 minutes and we're going to play our heart out."

The return of All-America running back Deuce Vaughn (22) is just one reason Kansas State is optimistic about its football future after beating LSU, 42-20, in Tuesday's Texas Bowl.
The return of All-America running back Deuce Vaughn (22) is just one reason Kansas State is optimistic about its football future after beating LSU, 42-20, in Tuesday's Texas Bowl.

Junior wide receiver Phillip Brooks agreed that the Wildcats can carry their bowl success over to 2022.

"I feel like we can keep this momentum going," he said. "I feel like we showed what we're capable of (Tuesday) and I just feel like we've got to keep implementing what we've got."

More: Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson phenomenal against LSU in Texas Bowl, goes out on top

Gone is super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, the face of this year's team, who capped a stellar season with his most valuable player performance in the Texas Bowl. So are center Noah Johnson; defensive tackle Timmy Horne; weak-side linebacker Cody Fletcher and defensive backs Jahron McPherson; Russ Yeast and Reggie Stubblefield, all of whom took advantage of an extra COVID-19 season.

But the Wildcats return All-America running back Deuce Vaughn and all-Big 12 picks Cooper Beebe at left offensive tackle and Felix Anudike-Uzomah at defensive end. All three will be juniors.

Also back on offense are wide receivers Brooks and Malik Knowles, also an all-conference kickoff returner. In addition to Green and Anudike-Uzomah, the defense returns starting cornerbacks Ekow Boye-Doe and Julius Brents, and recently tackle Eli Huggins announced that he would be back for a fifth year of eligibility.

More: Skylar Thompson, Deuce Vaughn lead Kansas State football to Texas Bowl win over LSU. Here's what stood out.

By winning the Texas Bowl, the Wildcats matched the record of Klieman's first K-State team in 2019, which also went 8-5 but finished with a loss to Navy in the Liberty Bowl.

"Guys, 8-5 is a good season and we can build off of that," said Klieman, who won four FCS national championships at North Dakota State but became the first K-State coach other than Bill Snyder to win a bowl game. "A hell of a lot better than 7-6.

"These guys were not going to be denied (Tuesday)."

Adrian Martinez transferred in Kansas State after being the long-time starting quarterback at Nebraska.
Adrian Martinez transferred in Kansas State after being the long-time starting quarterback at Nebraska.

Klieman and his staff already have added some key players for next year via the transfer portal, most notably super-senior quarterback Adrian Martinez from Nebraska and defensive back Joshua Hayes from Virginia via North Dakota State. On Sunday, Maryland linebacker Branden Jennings, a former four-star prospect with three years of eligibility remaining, announced on social media that he was joining the Wildcats as well.

Green expressed confidence in the Wildcats going forward. He was speaking of the defense, but it echoed the sentiments of offensive returners Beebe and Brooks as well.

"The potential is what we make it," he said. "We have a standard.

"We had a decent game (against LSU), but we've got a lot to improve on. I feel like these guys in the locker room believe the same thing as me and we're going to be ready to get after it."

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas State football turns attention to future after Texas Bowl win

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