ARLINGTON, Texas – The first time Skylar Thompson talked about his decision to come back to Manhattan, he said he wanted to end his K-State career on a high note.
“My ultimate goal is to play at the next level, but that’s not why I came back,” Thompson said. “I came back because I still feel like my best football here at K-State lies ahead.”
After his first touchdown of the season, a six-yard Thompson scamper in front of the K-State student section at AT&T Stadium, it was hard to argue with the Wildcats senior captain.
But it was easier than ever to picture Thompson making good on that March prediction.
K-State defeated Stanford 24-7 in their season opener, played in Arlington as part of the 2021 Allstate Kickoff Classic.
It was a wire-to-wire victory, and the Wildcats found the explosive plays they needed to complement a K-State defense that completely shut down the Cardinal.
Start with the atmosphere at AT&T Stadium, where a game played almost 500 miles from Manhattan still managed to deliver the Wildcats an undeniable home-field advantage.
A pair of Powercats in each endzone was one thing, but the K-State fans packed into AT&T Stadium delivered the noise when it mattered.
Midway through the second quarter, Stanford had already racked up three false starts.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats overcame an early mistake on offense – a highlight reel interception by Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly in the endzone – to play from in front against Stanford.
On K-State’s second drive of the game, Phillip Brooks raced through busted coverage for a 56-yard catch-and-run.
The All-American returner was also the Wildcats leading receiver on Saturday, hauling in three passes for 81 yards, a new career high. His first catch of the afternoon would set up Thompson’s six-yard touchdown run, and the Wildcats never looked back in Arlington.
Deuce Vaughn was involved early and often for K-State, with 13 carries and two receptions against the Cardinal. His biggest play of the afternoon came in the second quarter, when on third-and-long, Vaughn broke loose on a draw play for a 59-yard touchdown run.
Vaughn finished with 124 yards and a touchdown, his third consecutive 100-yard rushing day going back to last season.
Another Thompson rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter would put the game out of reach, after a TJ Smith interception had the Wildcats in Stanford territory.
It was the defense, with big plays throughout the afternoon, that turned AT&T Stadium into Manhattan South.
With five new starters on defense, the Wildcats kept Stanford off the board until it was 24-0 in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal punted on their first four drives before Louisville transfer Russ Yeast came up with his first interception as a Wildcat to stop another Stanford drive inside the K-State 30-yard line.
Klieman talked postgame about the importance of limiting explosive plays – Stanford’s longest play from scrimmage on Saturday was 30 yards.
Next up for K-State? Packing Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the first time since 2019 when the Wildcats host Southern Illinois in their home opener on September 11.