The Kansas State football team starts the 2021 season against an opponent from a Power Five conference for the first time since 2016 when the Wildcats lost to — you guessed it — Stanford. That was also the last time K-State started its season anywhere other than Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Saturday morning, the Wildcats aim to even the second half of their series with Stanford, this time at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home stadium of the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Chris Klieman and his players said they are excited for the opportunity to take on a Power Five opponent this early in the year.
“What a great experience for our players,” Klieman said during the press conference. “I thought that was going to be a great experience for our players, for our fan base.”
Klieman said the team will still have seven home games and that the Arlington-Dallas area — an important recruiting ground — has a large K-State alumni base.
“Opportunities for kids to play in different environments is pretty special, it’s pretty unique,” Klieman said. “In areas where we have big recruiting bases or areas where we have big alumni bases, it seems to make more sense.”
Sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn — whose father is a scout for the Cowboys — said he has 60 people planning to watch him play on Saturday.
“Playing in AT&T Stadium, in general, is going to be big-time,” Vaughn said. “It’s a stadium that I’ve always wanted to play in since I was a little kid. It’s mesmerizing if you’ve never seen it.”
Stanford presents many questions, especially with an offense replacing a starting quarterback, three offensive linemen and their biggest receiving threat.
“One challenge is they have a new center, and we don’t know much about him,” senior nose tackle Eli Huggins said. “He doesn’t have many snaps the last few seasons, so that’s a bit of a challenge. Just not being able to scout a guy and know what to expect.”
PREVIEW: Wildcats kick off 2021 football season against difficult Stanford opponent
Huggins said the team does not expect those new faces to change the scheme of things, a sentiment echoed by his head coach.
“You watch them on film and I think they’re going to do what they do and that is run the football at you,” Klieman said. “I think that’s still an identity that they have.”
K-State is preparing for Stanford’s physical running style by changing things up to slow them down. The team also worked on what Klieman calls “good-on-good” in-game preparation, pitting the first-stringers against other first-stringers rather than the scout team.
“You’ve prepped for it the entire spring and the entire fall by going at it against each other,” Klieman said. “Iron sharpens iron and you have to be able to go good-on-good, which we’ve done extensively… Today we’re going to go ones versus ones for a portion of the practice.”
The match-up against the Cardinal is the first action super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson will see since being knocked out in the third game of this past season.
“It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a week or a game or a date on the calendar that’s been circled on mine for a long time,” Thompson said. “I’m just eager to go out and go play.”
Thompson and the rest of the Wildcats will get that opportunity at 11 a.m. Saturday in Arlington.