MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State is back in the bowl scene after a one-year hiatus as the Wildcats were rewarded for their seven-win regular season with their 23rd bowl berth all-time and will take on LSU in the TaxAct Texas Bowl. The game is slated for an 8 p.m., kickoff on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, inside NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Wildcats and Tigers will meet for just the second time ever and the first in 41 seasons, as K-State fell at LSU, 21-0, to open the 1980 season.
K-State is in the Texas Bowl for the third time, having played in the inaugural game in 2006 and topping Texas A&M, 33-28, in 2016. It is the eighth time the Wildcats will play a bowl game in the state of Texas, while they are playing an SEC opponent in a bowl for a fifth time. The TaxAct Texas Bowl is the second bowl game under head coach Chris Klieman, making him the first coach in school history to lead his team to two bowl games in his first three season at the helm. He is also the first coach in K-State history to guide the Wildcats to at least seven wins twice in his first three seasons.
The Wildcats are one of just 25 Power 5 teams in the nation to advance to at least 10 bowl games in the last 12 seasons and one of four from the Big 12, joining Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats have won two of their last three bowl games – which includes the 2016 Texas Bowl – and will be looking for three bowl wins in a four-game span for the first time since 1999-2002.
A LOOK AT K-STATE
• Kansas State raced out to a 3-0 start in 2021, highlighted by a season-opening 24-7 win over Stanford at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in addition to an impressive 38-17 victory against Nevada, which finished the year with an 8-4 record and boasts a potential first-round NFL Draft pick at quarterback. Big 12 play began with three losses against teams that were either ranked in the top-25 at the time or were a preseason top-25 team.
• However, K-State was able to right the ship and rattle off four-straight wins, its second-straight season with a four-game winning streak in conference play. The streak began with a gusty 25-24 victory at Texas Tech, a game in which K-State trailed, 24-10, at halftime before pitching a second-half shutout against a Red Raider team that eventually reached the postseason. The Wildcats then came home and throttled TCU, 31-12, as they limited an explosive Horned Frog team that 34.3 points per game entering the contest.
• Kansas State opened the month of November by winning its 13th-straight game against Kansas to retain the Governor’s Cup. The 13-straight wins over KU is tied for the fourth-longest active streak by a team against any one opponent in a series that has been contested each year since at least 2009. K-State then turned around and topped West Virginia – another bowl team this season – 34-17 as the Wildcats snapped a five-game losing streak to the Mountaineers.
• The Wildcats will enter the TaxAct Texas Bowl on a two-game slide after they dropped the final two regular-season games by two or less scores. The Wildcats held a potent Baylor offense – which led the Bears to a Big 12 Championship and a berth into the Sugar Bowl – to just 20 points after averaging 35.4 points per game entering the contest, as K-State fell, 20-10. The Cats then lost at Texas, 22-17, on a short turnaround as they played the day after Thanksgiving.
• The Wildcats were led during the regular season by a pair of sophomores – one on each side of the ball – as running back and all-purpose player Deuce Vaughn was named a First Team All-American by several publications, while defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah was one of the nation’s top pass rushers this season.
• Vaughn enters the TaxAct Texas Bowl ranked eighth in school history in single-season rushing yards with 1,258, while he enters the postseason as one of only two players in the nation with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards this season. Anudike-Uzomah enters the bowl game ranked first in the nation in forced fumbles (6), while he is ninth in the nation and second in the Big 12 in sacks (11.0) and second in the Big 12 in tackles for loss (14.5). A First Team All-Big 12 selection by the league’s coaches, Anudike-Uzomah tied a school record with 4.0 sacks against TCU. He is a half sack shy of tying the school record for sacks, and he enters the TaxAct Texas Bowl tied for the school record in forced fumbles.
A LOOK AT LSU
• LSU finished the regular season with a 6-6 record, including a 3-5 mark in conference play to tie for fifth place in the SEC West. The Tigers won their final two games to get bowl eligible – a 27-14 win against ULM and a 27-24 upset victory over 14th-ranked Texas A&M.
• The Tigers have averaged 27.1 points per game this season while giving up 25.3 per game. Tyrion Davis-Price has rushed for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns, while LSU’s quarterback situation is uncertain following the transfer of starter Max Johnson after the regular season.
• On defense, the Tigers are giving up 137.3 yards per game on the ground and 234.9 through the air. Damone Clark, a Second Team All-America pick, leads the way with a SEC-best 135 tackles on the year, including 15.5 for losses, while BJ Ojulari leads the way with 6.0 sacks. Freshmen defensive end Maason Smith and wide receiver Malik Nabers were also named to the Freshman All-SEC team. Offensive guard Ed Ingram and placekicker Cade York were also named second team All-SEC selections.
WILDCATS IN THE TEXAS BOWL
• Finishing the regular season with a 7-5 record – winning at least seven regular-season games for the 21st time in the last 31 years – Kansas State received its 23rd bowl berth all-time and second under head coach Chris Klieman as the Wildcats will face LSU in the TaxAct Texas Bowl inside NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.
• Of K-State’s 23 total bowl appearances, 22 have come in the last 29 seasons.
• The Wildcats hold a 9-13 record in bowl games. Having won its bowl game in 2016 and 2017 – the former being the Texas Bowl against Texas A&M – K-State is looking for three bowl wins in a four-game stretch for the first time since 1999-2002.
K-STATE IN TEXAS
• K-State will be playing a bowl game in the state of Texas for an eighth time, including the third time in the Texas Bowl.
• The Wildcats played in the inaugural Texas Bowl against Rutgers in 2006, while it topped Texas A&M, 33-28, in 2016.
• The other bowl games K-State played in the state of Texas were the 1997 (post-1996 season) Cotton Bowl, 1998 Alamo Bowl, 2001 (post-2000 season) Cotton Bowl, 2012 (post-2011 season) Cotton Bowl and 2015 (post-2014 season) Alamo Bowl.
• The eight bowl games in Texas will be the most in any one state for the Wildcats, breaking a tie with Arizona (4-Copper/Insight/Buffalo Wild Wings/Cactus, 3-Fiesta).
• K-State holds an all-time record of 25-37 (40.3%) in the state of Texas, and the TaxAct Texas Bowl will be its fourth contest in the Lone Star State this season. The Wildcats opened the season with a 24-7 win over Stanford in the Allstate Kickoff Classic held inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, while they won, 25-24, at Texas Tech and closed out the season with a 22-17 setback at Texas.
CATS AND TIGERS
• The TaxAct Texas Bowl will be just the second all-time meeting between Kansas State and LSU.
• The Wildcats traveled to face the Tigers to open the 1980 season in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, falling to LSU, 21-0.
K-STATE AND THE SEC
• K-State will be playing its 137th game all-time against a current member of the SEC, but 107 of those meetings were against either Missouri or Texas A&M as Big Eight/12 foes.
• The TaxAct Texas Bowl marks the fifth time K-State will face an SEC team in a bowl game as the Wildcats defeated Tennessee in the 2001 Cotton Bowl (35-21) and Texas A&M in the 2016 Texas Bowl (33-28), while they fell to Arkansas in the 2012 Cotton Bowl (29-16) and 2015 Liberty Bowl (45-23).
• K-State will play an SEC team for the third time in the last four seasons as it had a home-and-home with Mississippi State (2018 in Manhattan, 2019 in Starkville). Additionally, the Wildcats will host Missouri on September 10 next season and will travel to Columbia in 2023.
• In an era of college football where nearly 80 teams play in bowl games each year, K-State is one of just 25 Power 5 schools to advance to a bowl in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
• The Wildcats are one of four Big 12 teams to accomplish the feat, joining Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
TWICE IN A PRO STADIUM
• Kansas State will bookend its season by playing a game inside an NFL stadium as the Wildcats defeated Stanford, 24-7, in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to open the 2021 campaign.
• It is the 16th time in school history the Cats will play in the current home of an NFL franchise, holding a 9-6 record in those games.
• The 2021 season will mark just the second time ever that the Wildcats will play at least two games in one season inside the home of a current NFL team. In 2003, the Wildcats opened the year with a 42-28 win over California – a team that featured Aaron Rodgers – inside Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City), and they returned to Arrowhead to defeat No. 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. K-State ended that season by playing Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl inside Sun Devil Stadium (Arizona Cardinals).
ONE OF THE BIG 12’S BEST
• K-State ranks third in the Big 12 with 126 wins since the league’s inception in 1996, trailing only Oklahoma (166) and Texas (143).
• The Wildcats also rank third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 57.6% (57-42), trailing only Oklahoma (81.6%; 80-18) and Oklahoma State (66.7%; 66-33).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 32-18 (64.0%) at home in Big 12 play and 25-24 (51.0%) on the road.
WINNING THE FINAL FRAME
• Kansas State has been strong in the fourth quarter of games this season, as the Wildcats are outscoring their opponents, 98-43, in the final frame.
• The 55-point margin in the fourth quarter is the second-highest mark in the Big 12 this year.
• The Wildcats have won nine of their 12 fourth quarters this season. The only three they did not were at Oklahoma State (0-0), against Baylor (3-0) and at Texas (3-0).
A WINNING HISTORY
• A proven winner with a championship history, Chris Klieman holds a 91-29 career record, as his 75.8% career winning percentage ranks fifth among current FBS coaches that have led programs for at least eight years.
• Klieman came to Manhattan after capping his five-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State by winning his fourth national championship in 2018. He guided the 2018 Bison to a perfect 15-0 record.
• Kansas State has been one of the least penalized teams in the nation over the final few weeks of the regular season, as the Wildcats totaled only four penalties (1.3 per game) for 41 yards (13.7 yards per game) over their final three games.
• Entering the final three games – which began with a contest against West Virginia – K-State ranked 77th nationally and ninth in the Big 12 in fewest penalties per game. However, the Wildcats enter the bowl season ranked 34th nationally (43-spot jump) and fourth in the Big 12 (five-spot) with their three nearly perfect games.
K-STATE TOPS IN NON-OFFENSIVE TDS
• K-State is the nation’s best in non-offensive touchdowns over the last 23 seasons as it has 125 since 1999, seven more than the next closest team entering the bowl season.
• Kansas State has three non-offensive scores this year as Malik Knowles returned a kickoff for a touchdown at Oklahoma State and against Oklahoma, and Marvin Martin returned a block punt for a score against West Virginia.
• K-State has had at least five non-offensive scores in seven of the last 10 years. Last year, the Cats missed that mark by just one during their shortened 10-game schedule.
THESE CATS ARE SMART
• K-State enters the TaxAct Texas Bowl with 29 players on its roster that have obtained their undergraduate degrees.
• The list includes: Ben Adler (OL), Mason Barta (FB), Derek Bowman (LB), Cameron Cotton (TE), Ross Elder (DB), Cody Fletcher (LB), Hayden Gillum (OL), Reed Godinet (DE), Daniel Green (LB), Ryan Henington (LB), Eric Hommel (WR), Timmy Horne (DT), Eli Huggins (DT), Daniel Imatorbhebhe (TE), Noah Johnson (OL), Logan Long (OL), Nick Lenners (TE), Cincere Mason (DB), Bronson Massie (DE), Jahron McPherson (DB), Eric Munoz (LB), Josh Rivas (OL), Reggie Stubblefield (DB), Chabastin Taylor (WR), Skylar Thompson (QB), Kade Warner (WR), Landry Weber (WR), Sammy Wheeler (TE) and Russ Yeast (OL).
• The Wildcats have also been by far the best in the conference in terms of Academic All-Big 12 accolades as they have a league-leading 234 since 2014, which is 29 more than the next closest program (Oklahoma State, 205).
• This season, K-State set a new school record with 34 academic all-conference honorees, which included 27 first-team members.
DOWN THE FIELD
• Traditionally a run-oriented offense, K-State has been pushing the ball down the field more this year, as the Cats enter the bowl season tied for 13th nationally with 11 plays of 50 or more yards.
• K-State started the season with at least one 50-yard play from scrimmage in its first five games to become the first Wildcat team with a five-game streak since at least 1988.
• Of the 11 total 50-yard plays by K-State this year, seven have been passes, including scores by Daniel Imatorbhebhe against Nevada (68 yards) and TCU (73 yards), Malik Knowles vs. KU (68 yards) and Deuce Vaughn at Oklahoma State (55 yards).
• Vaughn has three of the rushes of 50 or more yards, going for a 59-yard TD in the season opener against Stanford, an 80-yard score at Kansas and a 65-yard score against Baylor. Quarterback Will Howard also rushed 71 yards for a touchdown at Texas.
• Vaughn’s touchdown against the Jayhawks was the first time the Wildcats scored on their first offensive play of the second half since the 2009 Texas A&M game.
• Vaughn enters the bowl season with 55 touches that have gone for 10 or more yards to rank to fifth in the nation and second among Power 5 players.
• With 261 total plays this year (214 rushes/47 catches), Vaughn is gaining at least 10 yards 21.1% of the time he touches the ball.
• Entering the TaxAct Texas Bowl, the Kansas State offense is poised to rank in the top 10 of several team categories.
• K-State currently ranks fifth in yards per play (6.22), which would be the Wildcats’ highest mark since the 2013 team ranked second in school history (6.32).
• The Wildcats are also third in completion percentage (64.47), seventh in rushing yards per carry (4.78), eighth in passing efficiency (142.0) and ninth in passing yards per attempt (8.26).
• Additionally, K-State has completed 182 passes this year as the Wildcats are 15 shy of entering the top 10.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
• Finishing up the third season under head coach Chris Klieman, Kansas State has converted on 114-of-124 (91.9%) of its red zone opportunities, which includes 81 touchdowns.
• Included in that is a streak of 67-straight red zone conversions, as the Wildcats were true on their final 39 tries of 2019 and their first 24 opportunities of 2020.
• K-State’s 91.9% conversion rate since 2019 ranks second in the Big 12.
• The Wildcats are the only team in the nation to rank in the top five in red zone offense each of the previous two years, leading the nation in 2019 (96.2%) and ranking fourth last year (93.9%).
GO FOR IT
• K-State enters the TaxAct Texas Bowl having converted on 13-for-18 fourth-down attempts this season as its conversion percentage of 72.2% entering bowl season ranks sixth in the nation and tops in the Big 12.
• The 13 conversions are the most since the 2010 team had 13, which occurred on 20 attempts in a full 13-game season.
• K-State’s current 72.2% mark is its best since the 2011 team finished 10th in the nation at 72.7% (8-of-11).
AN EXPERIENCED, WINNING SIGNAL CALLER
• Skylar Thompson is in line to start his 40th and final career game in the Texas Bowl. No other quarterback in school history has started more games that Thompson since at least 1990.
• Of his 39 career starts, the Wildcats have 23 victories, as he has the most wins among starting K-State signal callers since 1990.
• Thompson topped the previous high mark of 22 wins held by Ell Roberson, Collin Klein and Michael Bishop.
CUTTING IT LOOSE
• After returning from an early-season injury, Skylar Thompson went on a tear as, over a five-game stretch against Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas, the senior passed for 1,318 yards and eight touchdowns on 100-of-139 (71.9%) aim.
• Thompson threw for 306 yards at Texas Tech on 24-for-30 accuracy, as his 80% completion mark was a career-best.
• Thompson’s effort at Texas Tech included a 14-for-15 clip in the second half as his 93.3% completion percentage was highest in one half (min. 15 attempts) by a Wildcat since Josh Freeman went 15-for-16 (93.8%) in the first half at Colorado in 2006.
• At KU, Thompson connected on 12 of his first 13 passes for 184 yards and a score. He finished the game by completing 79.2% of his passes (19-of-24), the second-highest percentage of his career.
EYEING SCHOOL RECORD
• Thanks to his great play in that five-game stretch, Skylar Thompson currently holds the school record for single-season completion percentage (68.78%) by a wide margin over Jake Waters (65.99% in 2014).
• For a career, Thompson will undoubtedly hold the school record for lowest interception percentage (1.87%).
ICE IN HIS VEINS
• Skylar Thompson has led the Cats on six career touchdown drives in the fourth quarter or later to either tie or take the lead.
• Those drives (summarized below) are tied for the most by a Wildcat since 1990 along with current QB coach Collin Klein.
VAUGHN HITS 1,000
• A Consensus All-American and finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, Deuce Vaughn enters the Texas Bowl with 1,258 rushing yards this year.
• It is just the third time in school history a freshman or sophomore reached 1,000 rushing yards in a year, including a 1,465-yard mark by sophomore Darren Sproles in 2002.
• By hitting his average in the Texas Bowl, Vaughn will move into the top five in school history in single-season rushing yards.
• Deuce Vaughn enters the bowl season as one of only two players in the nation with 1,000 or more rushing yards and 400 or more receiving yards.
• Vaughn ranks fifth in the nation in yards from scrimmage (144.1 yard per game) entering bowl play, while he is sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game.
• With 29 receiving yards in the TaxAct Texas Bowl, Vaughn can become the fourth player in Big 12 history and just the third nationally in the last five years with 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a single season.
ON THE RECEIVING END
• An accomplished receiver both out of the backfield and from the slot, Deuce Vaughn ranks second in school history among running backs/fullbacks with 905 career receiving yards, while he is third in receptions (72).
• Entering bowl season, Vaughn ranks second in the nation in receiving yards by a running back since the beginning of 2020. Additionally, he leads all Big 12 backs in receptions (47) and yards (471) this year, while he is second in touchdown catches (3).
• Vaughn is trying to become the first player in school history with 1,000 career yards as both a rusher and a receiver. The closest a Wildcat came to accomplishing that feat was Mack Herron (1968-69), who had 1,244 receiving yards and 815 rushing yards.
WELL-TRAVELED TIGHT END
• Transfer tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe will be playing his final college game in the TaxAct Texas Bowl, ending his college football journey that began in 2015.
• Imatorbhebhe has produced a pair of long touchdowns this year, going 68 yards against Nevada and 73 yards against TCU, the latter being the second-longest reception by a tight end in school history.
• Entering bowl season, he is one of only two tight ends in the nation this year with two receptions of 65 yards or longer, while he is the first by a Wildcat since at least 1977.
• K-State is Imatorbhebhe’s fourth FBS school as he signed and went through spring practices with Florida in 2015, transferred to USC for the 2015 through 2019 seasons and spent the 2020 campaign at Illinois.
• Kansas State has put together one of its better defensive efforts this season in some time as the Wildcats are allowing 21.1 points per game this year to enter the bowl season ranked 29th nationally and fourth in the Big 12.
• K-State’s mark this season is its lowest since the 2003 squad allowed 16.3 points per game to rank eighth in the nation.
• The Wildcats have held their opponents under their season scoring average entering the game in every contest this year except one (excluding the season opener). The effort this season includes an impressive -22.3 mark against TCU and other double-digit performances against Southern Illinois (-24.0), Nevada (-18.5), Texas Tech (-11.7), Baylor (-15.4) and Texas (-14.5).
• K-State’s scoring average is 11.1 points per game better than 2020, while its 355.7 yards allowed per game is 96.9 yards per game better than 2020.
• The Wildcats enter bowl season ranking third in the Big 12 in total defense by allowing 347.5 yards per game, looking for their best conference finish since leading the Big 12 in 2016 (387.7).
• The 347.5 yards allowed per game is the Wildcats’ best mark since surrendered just 339.0 yards per game in 2009.
• K-State enters bowl season ranked 28th nationally and fifth in the Big 12 by allowing just 126.1 rushing yards per game, its best mark since the 2017 squad was 13th in the nation and third in the Big 12 at 117.7 yards per game.
• It is a stark difference from last season as the Wildcats allowed 177.2 rushing yards per game to rank 78th in the nation and seventh in the league.
FEW FIRST DOWNS
• The Wildcats enter bowl season ranking 26th in the nation by allowing 18.2 first downs per game.
• It is the second time in the last eight season K-State has allowed fewer than 20.0 first downs per game as the 2019 squad – the first under head coach Chris Klieman – allowed 17.2.
• One area of emphasis for the Wildcat defense in 2021 was to limit opponents’ explosive plays. Through the first 12 games, K-State has allowed 45 plays of 20 or more yards to lead the Big 12 entering the 2021 bowl season.
• It is the Wildcats’ fewest 20-plus yard plays allowed through 12 games since the 2014 team surrendered 35. In 10 games last year, K-State conceded 60 plays of 20 or more yards.
BEHIND THE LINE
• K-State has tallied at least six tackles for loss in 10 games this season, which includes each of the last six contests.
• The Wildcats have totaled 87 TFLs – which includes 25 players with at least a half TFL – as they rank 10th in school history. By hitting their average in the TaxAct Texas Bowl, K-State will finish seventh in school history with 94 TFLs. It would be the most since the 2003 team had 104 to rank fourth in school history.
• The Wildcats tallied a season-high 10 TFLs against Baylor and TCU, while they had nine against West Virginia and Texas.
MEET ME AT THE QB
• K-State enters bowl season ranked fourth in the Big 12 at 2.50 sacks per game (30 total).
• Kansas State has at least one sack in 33 of the 35 games since Chris Klieman took over as head coach in 2019 with the lone non-sack games being the 2019 opener against Nicholls and this year against Iowa State.
• Last season, K-State totaled 28 sacks in 10 games, which were the most for the Wildcats during an entire season since a 13-game 2016 campaign (30).
• If K-State’s keeps its season average in the TaxAct Texas Bowl, the Cats will finish the year with their highest mark since the 2015 team had 38 sacks.
DEPTH IN THE SECONDARY
• Of the six defensive transfers K-State brought in prior to the 2021 season, four are in the secondary.
• Including the 2021 season, that group has combined for 108 career Division I starts by Julius Brents, Cincere Mason, Reggie Stubblefield and Russ Yeast.
• Pairing the 108 starts from the transfers with the rest of the secondary, the Wildcats are currently at 198 combined career starts by defensive backs.
• Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, the Big 12 co-Defensive Lineman of the Year and First Team All-Big 12 performer, enters bowl season leading the nation in forced fumbles (6) and ranking ninth in sacks (11.0).
• A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Anudike-Uzomah’s sack total is tied for fifth in school history and just a half sack shy of tying the school record.
• Ranking third on the team in tackles with 50, Anudike-Uzomah has 14.5 TFLs this year as 29.0% of his tackles have resulted in lost yardage.
• Anudike-Uzomah has recorded at least 3.0 sacks in two games, one of five players in the nation this year to accomplish that feat – joining Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Coastal Carolina’s Josaiah Stewart, Army’s Andre Carter II and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson – while he is the first player to do so in school history.
FELIX’S HISTORIC GAME
• Felix Anudike-Uzomah tallied 4.0 sacks, forced two fumbles and totaled eight tackles against TCU, earning him three national defensive player of the week accolades in addition to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
• His four sacks tied the school record originally set by Chris Johnson at Missouri in 2000. However, Anudike-Uzomah was close to tying the NCAA record of 6.0.
• His two forced fumbles came on potential sacks that caused the ball to be recovered beyond the original line of scrimmage, thus making them rushes by NCAA rule. If the ball had been recovered on the TCU side of the line – regardless of who recovered – those two would have been counted as sacks to tie the FBS record and break the Big 12 mark.
GREEN MEANS GO
• Linebacker Daniel Green, an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection, has been impressive this year as a full-time starter for the first time in his career, leading the team with 83 tackles and entering bowl season ranked 14th nationally in solo tackles per game (5.4).
• Green, who also ranks second on the team with 14.0 tackles for loss, has been able to put together those numbers despite missing two full halves this year due to targeting calls.
• A product of Portland, Oregon, Green has totaled at least nine tackles in five games this season, including an 11-tackle performance at Baylor.
• It is first time a Wildcat had at least nine tackles in five games since Elijah Lee in 2016, who tallied his fifth game in the Texas Bowl that season against Texas A&M.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
SCORING IN THE THIRD PHASE
• One of the main reasons K-State has been successful the last three decades is momentum-swinging plays in the return game.
• Since 2005 (17 seasons), the Wildcats have a combined 58 kickoff- and punt-return touchdowns, 21 more than second-place Alabama (37) and 26 more than the next closest Big 12 team (Oklahoma State: 32).
• Of the 58 total returns, a nation-leading 31 are on kickoff returns. The next closest team is San Diego State with 19.
DEFENSE ON KICK RETURNS
• On the flipside, K-State has excelled in kickoff-return defense, as the Wildcats have gone 110-consecutive games and 355 kickoff returns defended without allowing a score. The last team to take one to paydirt on K-State was Louisiana in 2013.
• Entering bowl season, K-State’s 110-game streak ranks seventh in the nation behind Florida State (234), Memphis (169), Akron (132), Virginia Tech (115), UTEP (113) and New Mexico (111).
• The Wildcats have tallied 14 kickoff-return scores since surrendering their last one.
KNOWLES WITH A KNACK
• Malik Knowles is the latest Wildcat with a knack for kickoff returns as he was a First Team All-Big 12 selection as a returner.
• It was the 15th time in the 26-year history of the Big 12 that K-State had a First Team All-Big 12 returner.
• Knowles is tied for fourth in school history in both career and single-season kickoff return touchdowns, thanks to scores this year against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. As a result, he is tied for fourth nationally among active players with three career kickoff-return scores.
• Additionally, he holds a 32.9-yard average this year and a 28.7-yard average for his career. His mark this season ranks fifth in the nation and fifth in school history, while his career figure ranks seventh nationally among active players and fourth in school history.
ZENTNER HAS BEEN IMPRESSIVE
• Punter Ty Zentner has averaged 44.3 yards per punt this year as he earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 accolades.
• In Big 12 games only, Zentner averaged 45.5 yards per punt, which includes 12 punts of 50 or more yards. Last season, Zentner only had five total punts of 50 or more yards.
• At Texas Tech, Zentner had a single game career-best average of 55.7 yards per punt. That game included a 63-yarder – the second longest of his career – which immediately preceded a K-State safety that swung the game in the Wildcats’ favor.
COURTESY KANSAS STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS