Football players remain in Manhattan for Thanksgiving, prepare to play Baylor on Saturday

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Sophomore wide receiver Malik Knowles excites the crowd before a kick return on the Oct. 3 game against Texas Tech. The Wildcats beat the Red Raiders 31-21 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group).

The Wildcats are reeling after a 45-0 loss to the No. 15 Iowa State Cyclones as they prepare for a 1-5 Baylor team that had a schedule interrupted by COVID-19 several times.

The Bears record may not indicate their skill level. They took West Virginia to overtime, lost to Iowa State by a touchdown and only lost to Texas Tech by a single point.

“Those are three loses right there that — I’m sure if you asked [Baylor head coach] Dave [Aranda] — they had a chance to win and could have won those three games,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “They are a team that probably could have four wins right now.”

Prepping for Baylor means preparing for a “talented, physical, good” football team, Klieman said. The Wildcats are confident in their game plan.

“They have an experienced quarterback and they’ve got some speed at receiver,” senior defensive back Kiondre Thomas said. “We’re up the task for that.”

The Wildcats missed many players against Iowa State because of COVID-19. Among the key contributors missing were senior linebackers Justin Hughes and Elijah Sullivan, sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Pickle and sophomore wide receiver Malik Knowles.

“Malik should be back. I don’t know on Elijah or Justin. I’d have to get with [Head Football Athletic Trainer] Mindy [Hoffman] to see where they’re at, but Malik and Jaylen Pickle should be back,” Klieman said.

In the Iowa State game, junior quarterback Nick Ast replaced true freshman starting quarterback Will Howard. Klieman is prepping both quarterbacks for Baylor, unsure of who will get the starting nod.

“We’re just going to keep working both of them. I thought Nick did some nice things and it was a great learning experience for Will, especially after he got hit really good the one time and then had a couple of frustrating plays,” Klieman said. “It was a good opportunity for him to learn from the sideline and watch and it didn’t want to get him any more shots taken.”

With COVID-19 restrictions keeping players in Manhattan for Thanksgiving, K-State is preparing to celebrate with a team meal after a late-morning practice on Thursday.

“Because of Big 12 rules everyone has to test [for COVID-19] on Friday morning, they can’t go home. Plus, I don’t think it’s a safe environment for them to go home,” Klieman said.

He also mentioned he wants to bring as many players as possible to Baylor so they can spend the weekend as a team.

“We’re trying to take as many kids as we can to Baylor, because I don’t want somebody from out of region to have to sit in his dorm room on Thanksgiving,” Klieman said. “That’s not fair. It’s been a hard enough semester that we are trying to take as many guys as we can. If we can’t dress them all we can’t dress them, I’ll have them on the sideline. I’ll have them be a part of it.”

The game will kick off at 6 p.m. in Waco, Texas, and be televised on ESPN2.

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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.