True freshman quarterback Will Howard shows promise in first half against Oklahoma State, struggles in second

Kansas State freshman quarterback Will Howard runs the ball against Oklahoma State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas, on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Kevin McCarty)

Freshman quarterback Will Howard ran for over 100 yards in the first half of the Wildcats’ 20-18 loss to Oklahoma State.

He lead the Kansas State offense on an 89-yard drive in the final minutes of the first half, capping it off with a touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Phillip Brooks, to put them up 12-0. The 19-year-old quarterback looked poised, confident and full of potential in the first half.

The second half told a much different tale. Howard and the offense put up only 6 points, outscored 20-6 by OSU during that time. Howard’s true freshman colors showed in the form of two fumbles and a crucial interception that sealed the Cowboys’ victory.

Howard finished the game 10/21 with 143 yards passing, and had 125 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Howard made some big plays down the stretch when K-State trailed 20-12 in the fourth quarter. He found Brooks for a 25 yard gain on the drive, then kept it himself for a two yard touchdown run to put K-State within 2. The two point conversion to tie it was no good and resulted in Howard’s second fumble of the game.

K-State got the ball back down 2 points with with 1:47 left in the fourth and the ball on their own 25 yard line. Howard’s pass on the first play of the drive was picked off by Oklahoma State’s redshirt junior safety Tre Sterling, putting any hopes of a Wildcat upset to bed.

Head coach Chris Klieman was still positive about his quarterback after the game.

“That kid’s competing his tail off … he’s a competitor and he’s continuing to improve,” Klieman said. “[Will’s] a kid that’s got great resolve and doesn’t let anything bother him for too long.”

Howard showed plenty of positive signs Saturday, including flexing his ability to run the ball more in this game, against an Oklahoma State defense that clearly was focused on stopping freshman running back Deuce Vaughn.

Junior defensive end and team captain Wyatt Hubert also backed up the freshman quarterback.

“I give a lot of credit to Will,” Hubert said. “He’s such a hard worker, he does everything right on and off the field.”

The loss was certainly not just on Howard. The rest of the K-State offense struggled in the second half as well. K-State never did get their running backs going much, with senior Harry Trotter and Vaughn combining for only 83 yards.

The Wildcat quarterback is young and learning, and he’s receiving nothing but support from the guys around him, including the man handing him the ball to start every play — senior center Noah Johnson.

“That dude played his butt off today,” Johnson said. “He battled. He put us on his back, really, as a true freshman he was making plays all over the field. I’ll go to battle with him any day of the week.”