Two teams with identical 2-0 records will square off Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, Kan., but they’ll be coming into the game with different mindsets.
Nevada is riding high after defeating California out of the Pac-12 on the road, then dominating Idaho State in its home opener. Kansas State, meanwhile, has defeated Stanford on a neutral field before surviving FCS opponent Southern Illinois.
Wildcats sixth-year senior quarterback Skylar Thompson left the game in the first quarter after suffering a non-contact knee injury. Thompson missed most of the 2020 campaign after suffering a separated shoulder in the third game of the season against Texas Tech.
“It’s tough,” head coach Chris Klieman said during the Big 12 football coaches teleconference Monday. “What he went through last year, when he went down, we all gasped, like, ‘Oh no, not again.'”
Klieman was encouraged that the injury may not be season-ending based on an MRI, the results of which he would not share. But his staff must now prepare sophomore Will Howard to step into the starting role. Howard stepped in as a true freshman during the Texas Tech game last year and struggled. Klieman is confident that he will respond.
“He learned so much last year,” Klieman said. “He wasn’t probably as ready as he wanted to be. But he had a full offseason. I know that he’s excited about the opportunity.”
Kansas State already relied on a solid running game and a stout defense, so those areas will have to come through again. Their running game is led by Deuce Vaughn, who has 244 yards and four touchdowns through two games. The Wildcats held the high-powered SIU offense to 276 yards.
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns in the 22-17 victory over California. Strong threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, completing 34 of 43 passes, against Idaho State.
“We like smart, accurate, passionate quarterbacks, and Carson has those qualities,” Nevada coach Jay Norvell said. “We’ve got quality receivers and really good backs. And we’ve got a veteran offensive line.”
Norvell knows that K-State will present a challenge, even without Thompson.
“It’s always tough,” he said. “You hate to see injuries. It’s hard for any team to lose its starter. But I don’t think it’s going to change what they do offensively. They’ll continue to stress the things they like to do, and we’re going to have to prepare for them.”
–Field Level Media