Kansas State lost its starting quarterback Skylar Thompson in the second quarter of the 31-21 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. The senior took a hit from a Texas Tech defender after throwing a deep pass. He went straight to the locker room and returned to the sideline wearing street clothes and a sling.
True freshman Will Howard stepped in for K-State, leading the Wildcats back from a 21-17 deficit in the second half to win.
At the Big 12 Conference teleconference on Monday, head coach Chris Klieman said Thompson avoided a fracture. On Tuesday, Klieman seemed optimistic his starter could be back for Saturday’s trip to TCU.
“[Thompson] just took all the mental reps yesterday and we practiced Will [Howard] and Nick [Ast],” Klieman said. “Today our hope is that Skylar can take some of the reps. We’ll find out how much he can take.”
Klieman said if Thompson is available, they would increase his reps on Wednesday and split reps with Howard and senior quarterback Nick Ast in preparation for TCU.
The head coach said how Thompson feels on Tuesday and Wednesday is a major determinant of whether he can play this weekend.
“We think he can,” Klieman added.
If Thompson cannot play this weekend, Klieman said he thinks the team is still in good hands for the offense. Former 4-star Howard is waiting in the wings and the coaching staff already showed trust in him with their handling of the Texas Tech game.
“We can easily run the football and say, ‘Defense go stop them,’ but we say ‘No, we’re gonna put it in your hands, Will.’ He made a nice check at the line of scrimmage, Deuce [Vaughn] got open and he delivered a strike,” Klieman said. “That tells you all you need to know about the confidence that we as a coaching staff and the players have in Will Howard.”
Klieman said the offensive playbook is completely open for the true freshman, despite the lack of spring and fall practices.
“We wouldn’t change the offense based on [the quarterback]. Nick Ast could see some time. We won’t change it if Nick’s playing or if Will’s playing or if Skylar’s playing,” Klieman said.
Klieman said even though he did not get to practice, being an early enrollee let Howard start preparations for the season on his own and meet with coaches and other players to get a head start.
“When he did go home during our [COVID-19] break, he had his iPad, he had all the notes, he had everything he needed so he could work on it himself. He could go onto the Zoom meeting that he had with [quarterbacks coach Collin Klein],” Klieman said.
It is uncertain if Thompson or Howard will play Saturday.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be Will,” Klieman said. “It’s still a chance it’s going to be Skylar. We’re going to give them both the opportunity and just give them both enough plays.”
K-State players believe in Howard, senior tight end Briley Moore said.
“Point blank, Will is a baller,” Moore said. “He showed us that in fall camp, he’s shown us that in the reps that he’s gotten in the past three weeks. I think on his first play in the first game he completed a pass and then to go into that game with some pressure and the game on the line and to hold his composure. … We’re not gonna blink if [Howard starts].”
K-State plays TCU at 3 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.