SEMO at 16/17 K-State
Date: Saturday, September 2, 2023
Kickoff: 6 p.m.
Location: Manhattan, Kan.
Stadium: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000)
Series: First Meeting
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+ (watch)
Mark Neely (Play-by-Play)
Adam Breneman (Analyst)
Tory Petry (Sidelines)
Wyatt Thompson (Play-by-Play)
Stan Weber (Analyst)
Matt Walters (Sidelines)
SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 111 or 200, SXM App 954
X Updates: @KStateFB
THE TOP 5
1) K-State opens its 128th season of football on Saturday when the Wildcats host SEMO in a 6 p.m. contest inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Cats are looking for their sixth season-opening win in the last seven years. It is the first time the Wildcats and Redhawks will meet on the gridiron, while it is the first against a current member of the Ohio Valley/Big South Conference since defeating Tennessee Tech in 2009.
2) Senior quarterback Will Howard returns with 15 career starts under his belt, but the 2023 season represents the first time in his career he enters a season as QB1. He led the Wildcats to a 4-1 record during his five starts in 2022, which included a pair of wins over top-10 teams in No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 3 TCU, the latter being the Big 12 Championship.
3) Skill players abound for the Wildcats, including returner DJ Giddens and Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward at running back, All-Big 12 tight end Ben Sinnott, and a plethora of wide receivers. The receiving corps is led by sixth-year senior Phillip Brooks, Iowa transfer Keagan Johnson and sophomore RJ Garcia II. Brooks will also serve as the primary returner on both kickoffs and punts.
4) The K-State defense returns five starters, led by a pair of senior linebackers in Daniel Green and Austin Moore. Moore was the team’s leading tackler last year, while Green is back for a sixth season. Notably, Khalid Duke is moving from linebacker back to his natural home at defensive end to help stabilize the line, but multiple newcomers must fill in throughout the defensive backfield.
5) Known for its special teams prowess, K-State brings back a dynamic punt returner in Phillip Brooks, who will also add kickoff return duties to his repertoire. Sixth-year senior Jack Blumer, who split punting duties two years ago, will serve as the primary punter for the first time in his career, while Chris Tennant is back to handle placements and kickoffs after serving as the primary kick the first part of 2022.
129 – Non-offensive TDs by the Wildcats since 1999, the most in the nation and seven more than the next best team (Alabama).
119 – Total returning career starts by K-State offensive linemen, including all 70 starts from a year ago.
90.9 – Red zone percentage by the Wildcats since 2019, which ranks second among returning Big 12 teams.
75.6 – Career winning % by Chris Klieman, which ranks fourth nationally among FBS coaches with at least 10 years experience.
21.4 – Points per game allowed by K-State over the last two seasons, ranking second among returning Big 12 teams.
CATS IN LID LIFTERS
- Entering its 128th year of football, Kansas State holds an all-time record of 87-35-5 (70.5%) in season openers, including a 29-4 (87.9%) mark since 1990.
- Chris Klieman, who enters his 11th year as a head coach, has earned an 8-2 (80.0%) record in season openers.
- All-time, Kansas State is 94-28-5 (76.0%) in home openers, while head coach Chris Klieman is 8-2 (80.0%) in home openers as a head coach.
- Since 1990, K-State holds a 94-19 (83.2%) record in regular-season non-conference games.
- That stretch includes an 80-9 (89.9%) mark at home. During those 30 years (excluding the one-game non-conference schedule in 2020), the Wildcats have had perfect regular season non-conference ledgers 17 times and unblemished marks at home on 24 occasions.
A WINNING TRADITION
- Kansas State has been one of the best Big 12 teams since the inception of the conference in 1996. The Wildcats are third with 134 victories, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.
- The Wildcats are also third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 59.3% (64-44), trailing only Oklahoma (77.6%; 83-25) and Oklahoma State (64.8%; 70-38).
- During that stretch, the Wildcats are 35-19 (64.8%) at home in Big 12 play and 29-25 (53.7%) on the road.
AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
- K-State has a total of 213 victories since 1996, which ranks 23rd nationally and 16th among Power 5 programs.
- Among current Big 12 teams, the Wildcats rank fifth behind Oklahoma (262), Texas (229), TCU (224) and BYU (223).
- Over the last 13 seasons, the Wildcats have won at least seven games 11 times.
- Kansas State has a strong history of being in the postseason, having advanced to a bowl game 23 times since 1993, including 11 times in the last 13 years.
- K-State’s 23 bowl trips since 1993 are tied for fourth among current Big 12 teams.
- In an era when over 80 teams play in a bowl game each year, the Cats are one of just 19 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game 11 times in the last 13 years.
TAKING DOWN TOP 10s
- K-State picked up three victories over AP top-10 teams in 2022, which culminated with a 31-28 overtime win over No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 Championship. It was the first time in school history the Wildcats took down multiple AP top-10 teams in one season.
- The Cats also defeated No. 6 Oklahoma, 41-34, in Norman, while they shut out No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0, at home.
- The Wildcats are now 6-3 in their last nine games against top-10 teams dating back to Nov. 18, 2017, a span that began with a 45-40 victory at No. 10 Oklahoma State. Prior to that, the Cats were just 1-15 in their previous 16 tries.
- Under head coach Chris Klieman, the Wildcats have defeated five teams ranked in the top 10 by the Associated Press. No other current Big 12 team has more than three victories over AP Top 10 teams since 2019 (Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU all with three).
BIG 12 CHAMPS
- Kansas State earned its third Big 12 title with a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Big 12 Championship.
- It was the second for the Cats in a conference championship game as they took down No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-7, in 2003.
- Kansas State earned its first conference title since finishing with an 8-1 record in 2012 as there was no conference championship game conducted that year.
- The Wildcats are in search of winning a Big 12 title in consecutive years for the first time in school history. They are looking to become the second Big 12 program ever to defend its conference title (Oklahoma – 7 times).
- For the first time in six seasons, Kansas State will enter a season ranked in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the AFCA Coaches Poll as they checked in at No. 16 and No. 17, respectively.
- K-State’s No. 16 preseason ranking in the AP Poll is its highest since beginning the 2004 campaign at No. 13.
TOUGH SLATE AHEAD
- In addition to having a target on their backs after winning the Big 12 in 2022 and entering the season in the top 20, the Wildcats will face a difficult schedule in 2023.
- The 12 opponents K-State will face during the regular season combined for a 60.8% winning clip in 2022, which is the 10th-highest percentage in the nation.
- K-State is one of just four teams in the nation to play 11 games in 2023 against teams that made the postseason in 2022. Two of the other three programs that will face 11 postseason teams from last year reside in the Big 12 in Iowa State and Texas, in addition to Ole Miss.
A WINNING HISTORY
- A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 102-33 career record, as his 75.6% career winning percentage ranks fourth among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least 10 seasons. He is also one of just 17 current Power 5 head coaches with at least 100 victories.
- Klieman, who is 30-20 since arriving at K-State, is 7-7 in his career against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with six of the victories coming at K-State.
CATS TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDs
- K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 24 seasons as it has 129 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team (Alabama – 122).
- Kansas State had three non-offensive scores in 2022, beginning with a blocked punt return touchdown by Desmond Purnell against South Dakota in the season opener.
- The next week against Missouri, Phillip Brooks took a punt 76 yards for a score.
- Then, at West Virginia, Cincere Mason returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, the Wildcats’ first pick-6 since 2020.
- Of the 129 non-offensive scores since 1999, 44 have been punt returns, 40 interception returns, 33 kickoff returns, 10 fumble returns and 2 missed/blocked field goal returns.
OH CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
- Kansas State will utilize the services of seven team captains in 2023, tied for the second-most captains in a single season in school history.
- This will be the third time in head coach Chris Klieman’s five seasons that K-State will use seven captains, which include offensive linemen Cooper Beebe and Hayden Gillum, linebacker Daniel Green, quarterback Will Howard, linebacker Austin Moore, wide receiver Seth Porter and safety Kobe Savage. Gillum, Moore and Porter started as walk-ons in the program.
- Interestingly, Porter’s captaincy marks the third time in school history that a father-son duo will serve as captains as his father, Mark, was a team captain in 1988. The other two are Kevin (1996) and Tyler (2013, 2014) Lockett as well as Stan (1984 – current K-State Sports Network analyst) and Stanton (2015) Weber.
- K-State’s initial depth chart includes 60 names, which is the most for a season-opening depth charts since the first depth chart of 2004 (60).
- Over Chris Klieman’s four three seasons at K-State, the initial depth chart in 2022 listed 58 names, 2021 listed 56 names, the first one of 2020 listed 54, and the first depth chart under Klieman in 2019 listed 52.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
- A staple of K-State football over the past decade has been committing very few turnovers, as the Wildcats are tied for second in the nation among Power 5 teams in fewest turnovers since 2012 with 166.
- That figure leads returning Big 12 teams that, as the Wildcats are 16 better than the next closest program (Oklahoma, 182).
- The Wildcats finished the 2022 season tied for eighth nationally and tops in the Big 12 in turnover margin (+0.86 / game). It was the first time K-State finished in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin since 2016 (fourth).
PUTTING IT WHERE ONLY OUR GUY CAN GET IT
• Since Collin Klein took over coaching the quarterbacks in 2017, K-State has only thrown 43 interceptions, equating to 7.16 per season and 0.57 per game.
- K-State’s 43 total interceptions thrown the last six seasons is the lowest in the Big 12 (Oklahoma is second with 47) and tied for 12th in the nation.
- Last season, Adrian Martinez set a new single-season school record with an interception percentage of 0.54%, bettering the mark of 1.36% by Michael Bishop in 1998.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• Kansas State has been one of the best teams in the Big 12 in terms of scoring in the red zone since 2019, as the Wildcats rank second in the league at 90.9%.
- One of only two league teams to eclipse the 90% mark over the last four seasons, K-State is 169-for-186 with 118 touchdowns in the red zone during that span.
- Last season, the Wildcats scored at an 89.3% clip as they went 50-of-56 with 32 touchdowns.
• K-State totaled at least 375 yards in all nine conference games last season in addition to the Big 12 Championship. It marked the first time ever in Big 12 play (since 1996) that the Wildcats totaled at least 375 yard in every league game.
- Overall, the Wildcats averaged 418.8 yards of offense, which ranked fifth in school history and was the most since the 2014 squad (421.6).
- The 2022 Wildcat offense also finished second in school history with 5,863 total yards and ninth in yards per play (6.12).
• During K-State’s march to the Big 12 title game, the Wildcat offense was one of the most productive Power 5 units in the nation as they averaged 40.2 points per game over the final five regular-season contests.
- The Wildcats’ 40.2-point average over the final five weeks of the regular season ranked fifth nationally among Power 5 teams and tops in the Big 12.
- Included in that stretch was a 48-point effort at West Virginia and a 47-point output against Kansas in the final two regular-season games. It was the first time the Wildcats totaled at least 45 points in consecutive Big 12 games since scoring 55 points in back-to-back weeks against West Virginia and Texas Tech in 2012.
PRODUCING A CLEAN POCKET
• K-State has excelled in pass blocking since offensive line coach Conor Riley arrived in 2019, as the Cats have allowed fewer than 2.0 sacks per game each of the last four seasons. It is the Wildcats’ first four-year stretch under 2.0 sacks allowed per game since 1997 to 2000.
- K-State is the only Big 12 program – including the four new programs in 2023 – to currently hold a streak of at least four years allowing less than 2.0 sacks per game each season, and the Wildcats are only one of 10 FBS programs to lay that claim.
KEEPING IT 100
• Those that produced the clean pocket for the Wildcats last year all return as K-State brings back 100% of its 70 starts along the offensive line from a year ago.
- The Wildcats bring back 116 career starts among their starting unit last season, which ranks first in the nation. K-State also ranks 12th nationally in total returning games played among all offensive linemen with 204.
IT’S WILL’S TURN
• Even though he has played in 22 career games with 15 starts, this is the first time that Will Howard has entered the season as the bona fide No. 1 quarterback.
- Last season, Howard threw 15 touchdowns in his seven games played (five starts) en route to a 149.6 passer rating to rank eighth in school history.
- That included a 159.4 over the final five weeks of the season and the Big 12 Championship game, which ranked eighth nationally and third among Power 5 quarterbacks behind USC’s Caleb Williams (173.9) and Oregon’s Bo Nix (168.3).
• Although Kansas State lost the services of two-time Consensus All-American Deuce Vaughn, the Wildcats have plenty of experience to help in the running game with sophomore DJ Giddens – who ranked third on the team last year in rushing yards – and transfer Treshaun Ward.
- During his redshirt freshman season, Giddens rushed for 518 yards and six touchdowns as he earned votes from the league’s coaches for the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award. His rushing total ranked third in school history among freshmen.
- Ward, a fifth-year senior transfer from Florida State, earned All-ACC Honorable Mention accolades a year ago after rushing for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, both career highs. He is also a threat in the passing game, catching 28 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown during his time at FSU.
SINNOTT BROKE OUT
• Tight end Ben Sinnott burst onto the scene last season as he hauled in 31 passes for 447 yards and four scores.
- A junior in 2023, Sinnott led all Big 12 tight ends and ranked fourth nationally at the position with a 14.4-yard average per reception last season.
- That total was given a boost by his seven-catch, 89-yard, two-touchdown effort at Baylor. It was the most touchdown receptions by a K-State tight end since 1996 (Jarrett Grosdidier vs. Indiana State), while it was the most catches in a game by a tight end since 2006 (Rashaad Norwood at Baylor).
A BIG TURNAROUND
• The K-State defense switched from a four-man front to a 3-3-5 alignment in 2021, and the change has paid off.
- In the 27 games since the defensive switch, the Cats are allowing just 21.4 points per game, which ranks second in the Big 12 and 23rd in the nation.
- The Wildcats have surrendered just 21.0 points per game in 2021 and 21.9 points per game last year. It marked the first time K-State allowed less than 22.0 points per game in consecutive seasons since going 13-straight years from 1991 to 2003.
• K-State held all of its Big 12 opponents last season under their season averages coming into the game.
- The most dramatic difference came against Oklahoma State, as the Wildcats shut out an offense that was averaging 44.7 points per game at the time. The Wildcats also held Baylor to just a field goal as the Bears averaged 38.3 points per game enter their contest against the Wildcats.
- Since head coach Chris Klieman’s first year of 2019, the Wildcats have held 30 of their 37 Big 12 opponents under their season average at the time it faces the Wildcats.
• The 2022 Wildcat defense held four opponents out of the end zone, including three times in Big 12 play in South Dakota, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
- The last time K-State did not surrender a touchdown in four games overall was 2002 (Western Kentucky, ULM, Kansas, Missouri), while the last time they did so in three Big 12 games was 2001 (Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri).
PICK ME! PICK ME!
• K-State recorded 16 interceptions in 2022 to tie for 10th in the nation and rank second in the Big 12.
- The No. 10 national ranking was the best showing by the Cats since the 2003 squad also ranked 10th. The 16 picks were the most by a K-State defense since the 2016 unit also had 16.
- Five of the 16 interceptions came from linebackers, including three from returners in Daniel Green (2) and Austin Moore (1). It was the most picks in a season from that position group since 1998 when Jeff Kelly (3) and Mark Simoneau (2) combined for five.
LATE DOWN STOPS
• A year after ranking 78th nationally and sixth in the Big 12 by allowing a 35.4% conversion rate on third down, K-State finished the 2022 season ranking 27th in the country and third in the conference with a 34.0% rate.
- The Cats allowed their opponents to convert on third down under 50% of the time in 11 of 14 games, including the Big 12 Championship game when TCU was just 2-of-15 on third downs.
- On fourth downs, K-State ranked 18th nationally by allowing a 39.4% clip, which was its lowest rate allowed since 2018 (37.5%).
BACK FOR MOORE
• Kansas State brings back its leading tackler from a year ago in linebacker Austin Moore, who totaled 87 tackles and 10.0 tackles for loss a year ago.
- Now a senior, the former walk-on was elected a team captain by his teammates for the 2023 season. In addition to his interception, Moore also broke up four passes, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble in the Big 12 Championship victory over No. 3 TCU.
GREEN READY TO GO AGAIN
- Daniel Green returns for his second senior season as the sixth-year linebacker is back after battling injuries during the 2022 campaign when he came away with 58 tackles.
- A native of Portland, Oregon, Green is also looking to cement his name in the K-State record book as he is 31 tackles shy of becoming the 27th player in school history with 250 career tackles. Additionally, he needs 17 solo tackles to enter the top 10 in K-State history.
SAVAGE RETURNS FROM INJURY
• Safety Kobe Savage had a breakout season last year after transferring in from Tyler JC as he earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors.
- After totaling 58 tackles and three interceptions, Savage was injured at Baylor and missed the final four games of the season.
- Voted a team captain for the 2023 campaign, Savage ranked sixth in the Big 12 and tied for 43rd nationally with his six interceptions.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• One of the main reasons the Wildcats have been a successful program the last three decades is a knack for momentum-swinging plays in the return game.
- Since 2005 (18 seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 60 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (39) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State – 34).
- Of the 60 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 20.
- With two punt-return touchdowns in 2022, K-State has now tallied a punt-return score in every season since 2014, as the nine-year stretch is the longest active streak among all FBS teams.
• Special teams have been an area of emphasis under head coach Chris Klieman, and the stats back it up.
- K-State is one of only two teams in the nation (Houston) with at least five kickoff-return touchdowns and five punt-return touchdowns over the last four seasons.
- On the flipside, K-State is one of just 15 FBS opponents to not allow a kickoff- or punt-return touchdown over the last four years, while the Wildcats are only one of two Big 12 teams (TCU) to lay that claim.
DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS
• Kansas State has not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since the 2013 season, going the last 382 returns without allowing opponents to find paydirt on a kickoff return.
- The streak is the longest among the returning Big 12 teams, 31 more than the next closest team (TCU – 349).
- Since K-State allowed its last kickoff-return touchdown, the Wildcats have scored 14 of their own.
BROOKS IS BACK
• Taking advantage of a sixth year of eligibility, Phillip Brooks – one of the best punt returners in Big 12 history – is back.
- He enters the 2023 season tied for sixth in Big 12 history with four career punt-return touchdowns, while he ranks in the top 10 in school history in punt-return touchdowns (second), average (fifth; 14.6), yards (fifth; 641) and attempts (eighth; 44).
BLUMER TO PUNT
• Sixth-year senior Jack Blumer will serve as the team’s punter again after splitting duties in 2020 and exclusively working as the holder the last two seasons.
- In 2020, Blumer excelled with his hang time as he forced 14 fair catches in 24 attempts (58.3%).