Wildcats defeat Coyotes in season-opener shutout

In the end zone, redshirt freshman DJ Giddens runs the ball in for a touchdown in the game against South Dakota University. Kansas State won 34-0 on September 3, 2022. (Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Starting off the 2022 season, the Wildcats jumped out of the gates from the first play against the South Dakota Coyotes in their 34-0 victory in front of over 50,000 fans in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Continuing a new methodology stemming from last year’s bowl game from head coach Chris Klieman, the Wildcats won the toss and decided to take the ball for new quarterback Adrian Martinez and new offensive coordinator — and new Ring of Honor member — Collin Klein. The often-discussed new-look offense started off with a big play.

With the discussions about the offense led by the QB-RB duo of Martinez and Deuce Vaughn, it was the veteran senior Malik Knowles who instantly sprung the 2022 offense. It only took the first play for Knowles to take a jet sweep handoff to the house for a 75-yard touchdown.

From that point on, the Wildcats had control over the Coyotes the rest of the game. The Coyotes were held on third-and-one and forced to punt, the first of six first half Coyote drives to end without a first down.

After the second South Dakota three-and-out later in the first quarter, the special teams joined the offense and defense in leaving an early mark in the game. Off the edge, wide receiver Seth Porter stuffed the Coyote punt with linebacker Desmond Purnell scooping the ball and taking it into the end zone. In under seven minutes of game-time, the Wildcats took a 14-0 lead with two unconventional touchdowns.

The defense’s first half continued to keep control on the Coyotes next two drives. Their third drive was faltered by a sack from defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah and a big hit from cornerback Julius Brentz. After Brentz ended the third drive, the fourth drive was capped off by an interception by safety Cincere Mason, which led to the next impact play from the offense.

“I thought we really had them [South Dakota] off-balance in the first half,” Klieman said. “To bend and not break, and find ways to get a sack on a big play on defense or a fourth-and-one stop. Hats off to those defensive players and coaches.”

With the first two highlight plays of the season not centered on Vaughn, he made sure to give the fans a play before the end of the first quarter. On a handoff from the Coyotes 39, Vaughn followed his blockers, led by center Hayden Gillum and took a stretch run to the end zone, creating a 20-0 lead for Kansas State.

The Wildcats offense had one more scoring drive in them, with it being their longest scoring drive of the half. On the eighth play, 78 yard drive, Martinez ran in his first career Wildcat touchdown on an option run blocked by running back DJ Giddens, tight end Ben Sinnott, and Martinez’s former Nebraska teammate wide receiver Kade Warner, sealing off the edge for the touchdown.

The first half ended as the clock ran out on the Coyotes, finishing with a 27-0 lead for K-State and a 269-99 yard advantage.

The second half started off similarly to the first: a defensive stop and another rushing touchdown, this time from running back Giddens. Giddens didn’t face any defenders as the left side of the line, led by left guard Cooper Beebe, created the walkway for Giddens.

As the clock ticked in the second half, the Wildcats continued to keep control of the game, including a drive that led to a field goal attempt led by backup QB Jake Rubley. By the fourth quarter, most of the starters were taken out of the game after their commanding performances over the Coyotes.

The defense was the main enforcer of the game, not allowing any score from South Dakota the entire game. The performance can be credited to many players, including Anudike-Uzomah creating pressure and newly transferred safety Kobe Savage making plays in the run and pass game.

While Anudike-Uzomah created multiple plays at the line, his fellow defensive lineman Nate Matlack created issues for the Coyotes on the opposite side of the line. Within three plays, Matlack sped off the edge for a tackle for loss on a run and then caused pressure again off the edge on third down, forcing South Dakota QB Carson Camp to slide inside and meet Brendan Mott for a drive-ending sack, his first sack of his career.

The offense was led throughout the game by big plays and consistency in the run game. Martinez’s debut did not feature much from his arm, taking very few risks with 53 yards passing on 11 completions, but he contributed with his feet.

On third down, Klein placed faith in the legs of Martinez to convert. In the first half, three QB runs were called for Martinez on third down, converting two of them and adding another conversion from a QB run on a first down in the half. He finished the game with 39 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Alongside Martinez, Vaughn also ran through the defense, finishing with 126 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. The Wildcats ended with four rushing touchdowns, completed by four different runners and 297 rushing yards.

“We’re a work in progress. We have a lot of talent. We need to see if we can develop depth. Good chance for us to watch that film and see,” Klieman said. “The kids would tell you that we have a lot of talent. We just got to continue to improve everyday because it’ll just get tougher from here on out but we’re excited about the team we have.”

K-State ended the game with statistical advantages in nearly every single category. The dominant victory leads the Wildcats into their week two matchup against former Big 12 rival, Missouri Tigers, on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 11 a.m. in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.