Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson faked the hand off, rolled out to his left, set his hips and delivered an accurate ball to senior wide receiver Dalton Schoen in the face of a big Mississippi State linebacker late in Saturday’s 31-24 win.
It was a difficult and important throw, but not even the best of the game from the Wildcat’s starting signal caller who is putting together one of the best starts from a quarterback in the country.
Through three weeks, Thompson is Pro Football Focus‘s highest-rated quarterback in the country with a grading of 92.8, beating out LSU’s Joe Burrow by .1 point.
Here are the top-graded quarterbacks in the nation with Thompson at the top.#KStateFB pic.twitter.com/kGqmRjTqQd
— Pete Francis (@Pete_Francis) September 19, 2019
ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating ranks Thompson fifth out of 130 eligible quarterbacks in the country. He ranks behind only Oklahoma’s senior Jalen Hurts in the Big 12.
ESPN TOTAL QBR SEASON
1 Jalen Hurts/OKLA 96.8
2 Tua Tagovailoa/BAMA 95.5
3 Justin Fields/OHST 92.9
4 Joe Burrow/LSU 92.0
5 Skylar Thompson/KANST 91.1
6 Malcolm Perry/NAVY 88.3
7 Sawyer Smith/UK 87.8
8 Jon Wassink/WMU 87.3
9 Jake Fromm/UGA 87.0
10 Sam Ehlinger/TEXAS 86.7#CFB150
— CFB Focus 🏈 (@cffmwachsman) September 15, 2019
In last Saturday’s game, Thompson had the best on-target percentage in the country with 90.6 percent of his passes being on target to receivers.
Best on-target % for FBS passers this season:
1. Skylar Thompson, KSU (90.6%)
2. Jake Fromm, UGA (89.3%)
3. Joe Burrow, LSU (88.9%)
4. Jalen Hurts, OU (88.5%)
5. Tua Tagovailoa, ALA (87.9%)
(via @SportsInfo_SIS, min. 50 att)
— Max Olson (@max_olson) September 16, 2019
At Big 12 Media Days this offseason, head coach Chris Klieman told Fox Sports KC that he was going to “give [Thompson] the keys” to the offense.
K-State football ranks 25th in coahces poll
Then, on a fourth down against Bowling Green on Sept. 7, Klieman unleashed Thompson for a 34-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Malik Knowles.
“We had talked on third down that if we didn’t get it we were going to go for it on fourth, and that was kind of us showing some confidence in Skylar [Thompson],” Klieman said after the 52-0 rout of Bowling Green. “We were going to throw quick game, and he saw a press corner[back] and said ‘we’re going to take a shot with Malik.’”
Earlier in the same game, Thompson identified a blitz and checked into a run that went for a long touchdown.
“I was pointing at [offensive line] Coach [Conor] Riley because it was a blitz situation and we worked all week on certain plays to run versus pressure,” Thompson said after the game. “It fires me up, I love that stuff more than throwing a touchdown because it’s me changing the play and it working.”
His efficiency on third and fourth downs is second in the country after only Hurts.
No quarterback has been better throwing the ball on money downs thru 3 weeks than Jalen Hurts. pic.twitter.com/PqYKpX1htZ
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 17, 2019
Thompson said he is not focused on stats, as long as he helps his teammates be successful.
“It’s just playing free and not playing for myself, but playing for my teammates, playing for a lot of other reasons than myself, that in general has freed me completely to where it’s allowed me to play some good football,” Thompson said at this week’s press conference.
Thompson added that he has to continue taking easier throws down the field and let the big plays open up on their own instead of forcing it.
That ability to be a game-managing quarterback helped the Wildcats to a strong start running the ball.
“He just does a good job managing the game, audible-ing when he sees a blitz coming and he’s just a well-rounded player,” senior running back James Gilbert said about his quarterback. “He puts us in the right play and puts us in the right position as an offense and we’re able to score touchdowns.”
Thompson said his solid start boosted his confidence.
“I would compare it a lot to my senior year of high school as far as the comfort and just playing free,” Thompson said. “I’ve always loved playing football, but I’ve never had fun like this.”