Saturday’s 38-17 win over Nevada catapulted Kansas State into the AP-top 25 for the first time since October 2020.
The ranking solidifies the rest of the country is starting to take notice of the Wildcats’ revival. Chris Klieman’s 4-6 campaign is clearly in the rearview mirror. Now the Wildcats are one of three Big 12 teams that are ranked. With Kansas State at No. 25, it adds more luster to the road clash at Oklahoma State. Not to mention it’ll be a matchup of undefeated teams.
It’s impressive that Klieman is getting it done without veteran quarterback Skylar Thompson in the starting lineup. Will Howard has filled in nicely for Thompson and is coming off the best performance of his career. The former three-star prospect scored three touchdowns in the victory over Nevada. He finally looked poised in the pocket. Most importantly, Howard didn’t turn the ball over and the offense hasn’t missed a beat.
In fact, Howard appears to be making others around him better. All-Big 12 running back Deuce Vaughn hasn’t suffered a sophomore slump at all. The Texas native has went over the century mark in rushing in all three games, with 371 yards on the ground and five touchdowns.
Kansas State’s passing attack isn’t flashy, but is effective enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Wide receiver Malik Knowles had a career day, with 112 receiving yards in the win over Southern Illinois. Phillip Brooks has been the Klieman’s most consistent wideout, with five catches apiece against Stanford and Nevada.
The offensive line has done a marvelous job protecting the quarterback also. Kansas State has only allowed one sack over the past two games, including none in Saturday’s victory. Everything is starting to gel together for the offense. Howard is improving with every rep in practice and the results are showing on the gridiron.
On defense the Wildcats have been dominant against the run. The unit takes pride in bringing ball carriers down behind the line of scrimmage. Stanford was held to 39 yards on the ground. Southern Illinois only managed 100 rushing yards and Nevada finished with a mere 25. That’s going to take the Wildcats a long way this fall, considering they’ll be facing some talented running backs on the Big 12 slate.
The last time Kansas State was ranked, it only lasted three weeks. However, this time around there’s more team unity. Klieman is going to make sure his team stays dialed in and not feed into the outside noise. The ranking is a clear sign that Klieman’s foundation is growing. There’s more football left to be played, but Kansas State is in a great position to make some noise in conference play.
Still, the team can’t afford to take anything for granted and needs to remain humble, because from this point on, they’ll be getting every opponent’s best.