ANALYSIS: Some good things, lots of bad in K-State’s loss to Arkansas St.

Both K-State and KU fans cheer on their football teams during the K-State vs. KU game in David Booth Memorial Stadium on Nov. 2, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks in last year’s sunflower showdown with a final score of 38-10. (Emily Lenk | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State missed two field goals. K-State gave up 85 yards on penalties. K-State gave up 21 unanswered points. K-State came up short with a chance to win. K-State failed to stop two straight trick plays.

K-State also lost at home to Arkansas State, 35-31, in agonizing fashion Saturday afternoon.

“We didn’t play particularly well,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “I know what the guys have gone through over the past month to five weeks trying to prepare to play, and we can’t make excuses. I said to the guys in the locker room that this is the kind of adversity we are going to face all year — not knowing who’s going to be out. But that’s reality. That’s the hand we’re dealt, so we have to be prepared to tee it up and play.”

It was the Wildcats’ first game of the COVID-19 shortened season, and they looked like it. Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson looked out of sync at times.

“I missed some throws, I missed some reads, I made some mistakes,” Thompson said. “There’s not one bit of effort or anything that I left out on that field today.”

The new offensive line struggled to protect him or open up holes for senior running back Harry Trotter.

“We didn’t win the line of scrimmage,” Klieman said. “It hurt us when we lost our (senior center) Noah Johnson in the first series for essentially the game, cause he’s our leader and our guy at center… We just did not block well enough. We didn’t communicate well enough, and for us to be successful we have to be better up front, and those guys know that.”

The defensive secondary was porous at times and the front seven struggled to stop the Red Wolves’ running backs when it mattered. They gave up 489 yards of total offense and let senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams rack up 98 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

“We gotta do better as a defense to execute our one-on-one battles,” senior linebacker Justin Hughes said. “Being in our gap, being in a place to make a play on the ball, we just gotta go out there and win our one-on-ones.”

Granted: Adams will probably play in the NFL next year and at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, he presented a one-on-one match-up nightmare for the shorthanded K-State secondary.

Here’s what K-State did well: true freshman Deuce Vaughn looked good in his first start, Thompson threw a few pretty balls when he had the time to set-up in the pocket and they forced two turnovers and blocked a punt.

“Last night I went to bed dreaming about scoring my first touchdown in Bill Snyder Family Stadium,” Vaughn said. “Whenever I got the opportunity and I hit it up in there, I got in the end zone and I didn’t know what to think. I was entirely monkey-brained, I was just so excited.”

Vaughn ran the ball 12 times for a team-high of 47 yards and a touchdown. He added a 24-yard reception in the pass game.

When Thompson had to go out for a couple plays due to a minor injury, true freshman Will Howard got into the game for the first time in his career. He hit sophomore fullback Jax Dineen for a 24-yard reception in his only pass attempt.

“If it was going to get to a third down, we were going to put Skylar back in, we wanted [Howard] for two snaps” Klieman said. “They blitzed us on the one play and they get a tackle for loss on Will — which was good for him as a true freshman — then he threw a rope to Jax Dineen on the next play — I was excited for him.”

The Wildcats get a week off to get healthy and figure out what went wrong before they go play the defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, Okla. September 26.

Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, an alumnus from Olathe, Kansas. I graduated in spring 2022 with a Masters in Mass Communication, and I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. I covered K-State sports for the Collegian for four years.