Kansas State desperately needed to show some offensive might before going into Big 12 play and wasted no time getting into the end zone in last week’s victory against UTSA.
The Wildcats barely needed four minutes to score on their first possession, using three third-down conversions and a 37-yard strike from quarterback Skylar Thompson to wide receiver Zach Reuter to key the quick scoring drive.
“As an offense, we really do pride ourselves on being efficient and being able to do that with an opening-drive touchdown,” said running back Alex Barnes, who rushed for 50 yards on 13 carries and added a 30-yard reception. “It was nice to finally be able to do that.”
Through two games the Wildcats (2-1) only recorded two offensive touchdowns. They were humbled in a 31-10 loss to Mississippi State, prompting questions regarding the Wildcats’ aptitude and toughness on both sides of the ball.
A win over an outmatched rival from Conference USA will not convince all skeptics that Kansas State can compete favorably in the Big 12, beginning with a trip to No. 12 West Virginia (2-0) on Saturday.
Nonetheless, the Wildcats established a true starter at quarterback in Thompson, who split repetitions with Alex Delton in the first two games.
Thompson was content early in the win against UTSA to mostly pass from the pocket, going 4-for-4 on the opening drive before finishing 13 of 18 for 213 yards. As usual, the quarterback was also used on the ground in Kansas State’s system as Thompson led all rushers with 66 yards on 14 attempts.
Minimizing the need for the quarterback to carry the football would signify that Kansas State is ready to compete in the Big 12. Isaiah Zuber has emerged as a go-to receiver capable of making big plays after generating 144 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions against UTSA.
“I knew Zube was capable of playing like this since the day I met him,” Thompson said. “He just needed to get some confidence and believe in himself and be consistent. So far this year that’s what he’s been doing.”
Still, the Wildcats do not run a diverse offensive attack, although gaining some efficiency and effectiveness was encouraging after they averaged 310 yards in the first two games but managed 449 against UTSA. Delton even added a second-half touchdown strike.
The only disconcerting aspect of the win were turnovers surrendered by Thompson and Delton, which helped UTSA generate 10 points in the final six minutes against the Wildcats’ second-string defense.
–WR Dalton Schoen scored on a 42-yard reception against UTSA. His five career touchdowns have averaged 45.8 yards in length and four of the five exceeded 20 yards. Although he does not possess great speed, Schoen possesses deceptive moves that make him escape defenders for big gains with a tendency to lull those defenders into biting on the run. His career average per reception is 20.7 yards.
–PK Blake Lynch connected from 33 and 42 yards and continues to impress as a 5-foot-4 walk-on who won the kicking job during fall camp. Lynch’s seven field goals are the most during a three-game stretch to begin a Kansas State season since 2015. Lynch is 7 of 8 on field goals. His longest was from 44 yards and he missed his only attempt from 50-plus yards.
–S Denzel Goolsby missed the UTSA win with an undisclosed injury, which coach Bill Snyder anticipated would keep the junior sidelined indefinitely. He was replaced by Eli Walker, who was in on five tackles, including one for loss, and was impressive covering ground and also showing off some physicality.
–LB Elijah Sullivan, who battled injuries throughout preseason camp, remained out against UTSA but is expected to be available for the game at West Virginia.