June 17, 2024

Chris Klieman giving Will Howard benefit of doubt despite struggles

Kansas State Wildcats Football

Kansas State quarterback Will Howard scrambles to find an open receiver during the third quarter against UCF Saturday September 23, 2023 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Wildcats are reeling after losing two of their last three games, and the fans are placing most of the blame on quarterback Will Howard.

After all, he has thrown an interception in each of those contests, including three in last week’s loss at Oklahoma State. Howard’s recent struggles are too reminiscent of his true sophomore season in 2020. That’s when he was picked off 10 times, which led the Big 12.

Despite Howard’s regression, Coach Chris Klieman is remaining behind his signal-caller. There’s no denying the turnovers have been too costly. Klieman understands Howard can’t continue to make those mistakes on the road, considering the Wildcats are winless away from home this season.

“He’s gotta take care of the ball better,” Klieman said. “I like him to be aggressive, but he can’t be to a point where it’s putting the team, and the offense at risk.”

It’s obvious Howard is missing last year’s weapons in Deuce Vaughn and Malik Knowles. Often times he tries to improvise and extend plays, which usually ends up with Howard forcing passes. The Wildcats don’t really have a receiver that can take the top off defenses. So it’s important for Howard to take advantage of what defenses give him. Klieman knows the offense left some points off the scoreboard at Boone Pickens.

“There was a couple of throws last week that absolutely he knows he can’t make,” he said. “He hasn’t made those in the past.”

Howard has battled injuries, and still returned to the lineup. He’s doing everything he can in Klieman’s eyes, and he wants fans to rally behind the embattled quarterback. The Wildcats haven’t even reached the midpoint of the season. Which is why Klieman remains confident that Will is going to rebound in a big way, and silence all of his critics.

“We believe in Will, let’s not forget he helped us win a Big Championship,” the 56-year old coach said. “So we’re not going to give up on him like I think people want us to.”

Kansas State will try to snap a two-game losing skid on the road when it travels to Lubbock. Klieman is going to need Howard operating at his best if the Wildcats want to leave Jones AT&T Stadium with a win. The Wildcats have won seven-straight over the Red Raiders, and hasn’t lost in Lubbock since 2015. That means Texas Tech is going to try hard to snap the streak. Klieman expects his Offensive Coordinator Collin Klein will have a good game plan for Howard.

There’ll likely be some short simple throws, and bubble screens early on for Howard to build his confidence. Klieman trusts that Klein, who’s a former Kansas State gunslinger, will allow Howard to get into a rhythm. It all comes down to execution though. Practice been intense throughout the week, and Klieman feels Klein is going to use Howard more efficiently.

“I love CK, got a ton of faith in Collin Klein, as everybody else should being K-Staters, and we’ll get this figured out.”