Football team relied on new, inexperienced players in first game

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Senior tight end Briley Moore addresses the press at the mid-week press conference on September 15. He is coming off a 6-reception, 54-yard performance in the Wildcats' 35-31 loss to Arkansas State.

Kansas State relied on freshmen and transfers in skill positions during the first game of the season.

Freshman running back Deuce Vaughn was called upon in the rushing game when the Wildcats’ more veteran backs were struggling to power the ball up the middle.

“We weren’t having great success rushing the football, especially inside,” head coach Chris Klieman said at the Tuesday press conference. “We thought that Deuce—and I think everyone saw that—is a really effective running back on the perimeter, and we thought he gave us a better chance on the perimeter.”

Vaughn gained 47 yards on 12 rushes and his first career touchdown. His longest run of the game was 19 yards. He added 24 yards on a single reception.

“As soon as you saw him run one time, I think everybody [picked up on the energy],” Klieman said. “Like, ‘Holy cow!’ He’s an electric player.’ Not only is he an electric player, but he’s a better person, which is what I’m so excited about for his future.”

Despite being just 5-foot-5 and 168 pounds, K-State had high hopes for Vaughn when he pledged to play football in Manhattan.

“[We saw] the explosiveness for sure, the quick-twitch, the ability for a young man that’s not of great size to break arm tackles,” Klieman said. “Everybody worries about [the durability] of a smaller back… when you aren’t getting a square shot on guys because they’re so quick, you’re not taking some of those big hits.”

Vaughn’s teammates and coaches said he is “mature,” thanks to his upbringing by his father Chris Vaughn, a former college football assistant coach and current Dallas Cowboys scout.

“He came in the summer with his mother and I knew right then that he was a fit for what we wanted to do and what we wanted to build upon as far as character and integrity,” Klieman said. “We were jumping up and down when we were able to get his commitment because we know that he’s a generational guy … as much what he can do off the field for our football team as what he can do on the field.”

Fifth-year senior tight end Briley Moore also earned some playing time Saturday. The Northern Iowa transfer had six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in his K-State debut.

“I felt comfortable out there, I felt that the coaching staff did a great job of preparing us to know what our schemes were,” Moore said. “That was a good thing for game one in a new offense.”

Moore transferred to K-State for his final year in part to play with his childhood friend senior quarterback Skylar Thompson.

“I knew Briley was going to play well,” Klieman said. “He had a really good camp and he’s probably one of the hungriest guys we have on the football team. He has a chip on his shoulder because nobody thought he was good enough to play in the Big 12 or at any Power 5.”

K-State fans also got to see a glimpse of highly-touted freshman quarterback Will Howard, who got into the game when Thompson sustained an injury and was briefly removed from the game. Howard only got a couple of snaps, but he unleashed a 24-yard throw to sophomore fullback Jax Dineen in his one passing attempt.

The Wildcats play next at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 in Norman, Oklahoma against the Big 12 Conference favorite Oklahoma Sooners.

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Nathan Enserro
Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.