Kansas State entered Saturday afternoon’s contest against No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys following a devastating defeat to the TCU Horned Frogs. Fans wondered how K-State would respond after blowing an 18-point lead and surrendering 28 unanswered points to the Horned Frogs, and wondered whether Adrian Martinez or Will Howard would start as quarterback.
The decision was a game-time one for head coach Chris Klieman as both Martinez and Howard warmed up in full pads prior to the game. Ultimately, the Downingtown, Pennsylvania-native Howard took the start, and led K-State to a 48-0 victory over OSU.
“Adrian was ready to play, but he didn’t feel as confident in his abilities as he would have if he was healthy,” Klieman said. “So we decided to go to Will instead.”
The junior quarterback played a career game on Saturday, throwing four touchdowns in the first half and a career-high 296 passing yards. Howard is the 10th quarterback in K-State history to throw for four touchdown passes in a half.
When it was all said and done, Howard was carried off the field by his teammates.
“I finished up my interview with TV and the next thing I know I was lifted up off my feet,” Howard said. “That was a really cool moment. It’s something I’m going to remember for a long time.”
Howard got the offense cooking early for the Wildcats, connecting with Kade Warner for a 38-yard touchdown on the opening possession on a fourth and 10. Warner ended the game with five catches for 97 receiving yards, both season-highs.
“I initially thought the defense was going to show a Cover 2,” Warner said. “But as I was making my route, the safety rotated towards me and I realized it was man coverage. So I stuck him, got outside and Will made a great throw and we got off to a fast start.”
On the second K-State possession, following a defensive hold on fourth down, Deuce Vaughn busted off a long run for a touchdown, giving K-State a 14-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Howard threw three more touchdowns, finding Phillip Brooks, Warner and Vaughn near the end of the half. With a 35-0 lead at the end of the first half, K-State looked well on its way to an upset victory.
“Will is such a smart player,” said Vaughn. “One of the coolest things about Will is that he’s going to put you in a position to make you be successful.”
In the second half, the K-State defense finished the game preserving the shutout victory. Austin Moore played a big role in the victory, recording five tackles and a forced fumble. He also led a defense that held the Cowboys rushing attack to just two yards per carry.
“It felt good to hold them to that low of an amount [of yards],” said Moore. “Especially after we gave up way too many yards last week against TCU.”
K-State held OSU to 27 rushing yards and zero points. It marks the second time K-State shut out an opponent this year and the second time they defeated a top 10 opponent this season.
“Just an unbelievable performance by our guys,” said Klieman. “We had to respond after the TCU game and we played the best game since I arrived here [in 2019].”
K-State sits at 6-2 on the season and 4-1 in Big 12 play. AP’s rankings placed K-State at No. 13 in the nation, the highest the team has been ranked since 2014. K-State’s next battle features the Texas Longhorns at Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5.