K-State football deals with COVID-19 during bye week

Freshman quarterback Will Howard runs past a Texas Tech defender. The Wildcats beat the Red Raiders 31-21 on Fort Riley Day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group).

This week is a bye week for the football team before they head to Ames, Iowa, to take on the Iowa State Cyclones. Today, head coach Chris Klieman confirmed the team has another outbreak of COVID-19.

“We had a big COVID outbreak last week with our younger guys, so the numbers keep going up in that respect,” Klieman said. “We’re down upwards of 20 guys right now.”

Coming off of back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats plan to take the week to prepare and get back on track.

“It’s strange to have an open week in the middle of November,” Klieman said. “We have that so we’re going to try to get some work done as best we can with some of our younger guys.”

In the past, Klieman’s teams used bye weeks to develop younger players and work more on details, doing what he calls K-State on K-State. He said the majority of this week is focused on Iowa State.

“We’ll practice some Iowa State stuff with our older guys, but we’re going to have to go against each other to do that because we don’t have any scouts this week due to COVID,” Klieman said.

Klieman said sophomore tight end Sammy Wheeler will miss the rest of the year because of an injury. It is too soon to tell if senior tight end Briley Moore will be ready in time for Iowa State, leaving the Wildcats thin at the position.

He said he is happy with his football team’s growth, but they need to find a way to win games like the Oklahoma State game where they lost 20-18. Klieman is impressed with freshman quarterback Will Howard.

“I like the fact that he ran the ball exceptionally well. I like the fact that after the turnover that resulted in a touchdown, he came back and led us down for a touchdown scoring drive,” Klieman said. “He continues to improve, but we have to take care of the football. He knows that.”

The Wildcats, who struggle on offense since senior quarterback Skylar Thompson’s injury, found a way to move the ball on the ground with their new quarterback in the option last week.

“A lot of them were read plays and they were keying on Deuce [Vaughn] a lot. They were flying one of their linebackers out of the box, so we were just reading them,” Howard said. “It happened that I was taking the ball a lot and our offensive line made some really good holes.”

Howard ran the ball 14 times for 125 yards and one touchdown. His average of 8.9 yards per rush is the most by a runner for either team in the game.

“I have found that the run game might be a little more in my game now. It wasn’t as much in high school, but I feel like I’ve gotten a little faster and feel more comfortable with it here,” Howard said. “It’s definitely a big part of this offense.”

K-State needs to find more ways to move the ball effectively before their trip to play Iowa State, who sits atop the Big 12 at 5-1 in conference play.

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.