The Hangover: A clinic in Klieman football

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(Graphic by Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State dominated both sides of the ball for three quarters in a 38-17 win over Nevada Saturday afternoon in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, moving to 3-0 and earning a spot in the AP Poll at No. 25.

The Wildcats executed the game plan to beat a team like Nevada perfectly. They out-gained them 398 yards to 331 — 269-25 on the ground — while holding onto the ball for 31 of the game’s 60 minutes and gaining 22 first downs to Nevada’s 14.

They also forced Nevada’s NFL-prospect quarterback Carson Strong into an interception and generally rattled him late in the game while not turning the ball over on their own.

The Wildcats also did something they had not yet done this year — attacked a defense over the top. Sophomore quarterback Will Howard hit senior tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe for a 68-yard touchdown on the second play of the game.

The Wildcat defense continued the fast start and mostly held the Wolf Pack in check until the third quarter. A 21-0 fourth quarter in which K-State imposed its will by controlling the ball sealed the deal.

Two eight-play and an 11-play drive in the late third and early fourth quarter for touchdowns ate up massive amounts of clock and pushed the score from tied to a three-score game.

K-State averaged 5.6 yards-per-rush against a defense that had previously held opponents to just 4.3 and only tried 13 passes. Frankly, they did not need to throw the ball to keep the Nevada defense honest.

Key Matchups

In the weekly Know Your Opponent preview, I identified three key match-ups for K-State. Let’s look back and see how well K-State did in those spots.

Where there’s a Will…

The Wildcats did a good job of scheming to the particular skills of Howard and back-up quarterback Jaren Lewis — who played the second quarter. Howard is a strong runner and K-State asked him to use his legs in the read-option. That threat helped open holes for K-State’s running backs.

Howard didn’t turn the ball over, made the right reads and had good throws when they needed them. That’s about all you can ask from the sophomore and should be all K-State needs until Skylar Thompson returns.

Deceptive D

K-State players in this past Tuesday’s press conference talked about trying to fool Strong into making mistakes. The Wolf Pack quarterback was efficient, and the interception was mostly because of his receiver falling down in the middle of his route. He did struggle at times with the defense, and the pass rush got to him late.

Point-adjacent stats

K-State needed to dominate all the other stats besides the score to have a chance to win, and boy did they. That was premium power, ball-control football. It was a clinic in what K-State will try to do to teams under head coach Chris Klieman.

I predicted K-State would lose a shootout 35-28. I was very wrong for a couple of reasons: the defense was better than I expected, and Nevada struggled to stop Deuce Vaughn and company on the ground.

K-State travels to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for its first true road test of the season against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at 6 p.m. on Sept. 25.

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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.