Football season-in-review: Toppling top teams and conference champions

Head coach Chris Klieman hoists the Big 12 Champion trophy after defeating TCU in overtime 31-28 on Dec. 3. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State triumphantly finished the 2022-23 football season with a Big 12 championship win and Sugar Bowl appearance.

Though the loss to Alabama was tough, it was a reminder of how impressive the season has been. 

The thought K-State would play amongst the best in college football was not considered a possibility early on. Preseason polling projected the Wildcats to place fifth in the Big 12, despite having a league-high of six players named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. 

In the offseason, K-State sought out veteran quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez played for Nebraska for four seasons before his transfer. As a Cornhusker, Martinez recorded decent numbers, with 3,388 yards from scrimmage and 27 total touchdowns in his final season.

Martinez made his debut and brought an edge to the K-State rushing attack. Notably, his performance against Oklahoma at Norman showed how special both Martinez and the team could be when the lights are brightest.

The largest challenge for Martinez during his career at Nebraska was turnovers. He limited this as a Wildcat, though his injuries persisted throughout the season. This allowed backup quarterback Will Howard to step in and take control of the offense. 

From his start against TCU, Howard brought balance to the K-State offense with his passing attack, recording two passing and one rushing touchdown and one interception in his first showing.

Howard put up career numbers in only seven games, posting a career-high 1,633 passing yards and 15 touchdowns to only four interceptions for an impressive passer rating of 149.6. 

Much of Howard and Martinez’s success came from offensive coordinator Collin Klien. In his first year, K-State averaged 32.3 points per game and finished with the second most rushing yards per game in the Big 12.

K-State was last in the Big 12 in passing yards per game at 210.5, but rose to 272 yards per game through the air after Howard came in.

Defensively, K-State was near the top of the league with the fourth best total defense in the Big 12, with star defensive players like Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Jaylen Pickle and Kobe Savage leading the defensive unit.

Looking ahead, K-State will have a young roster going into next season with new players gaining larger roles as star players Deuce Vaughn and Felix Anudike-Uzomah will be leaving for the 2023 NFL draft. The recruiting class for K-State is looking optimistic for the 2023-24 season.

Four-star athletes Avery Johnson, Asa Newsom and Jordan Allen make up the current roster of K-State commits and look to contribute early in their careers. 

The transfer portal brought in a few players including running back Treshaun Ward from Florida State and wide receiver Keagan Johnson from Iowa.

Though many experienced players will depart, new recruits and transfers bring potential to continue K-State’s success. With the departure of both Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 in 2024, the window is open for programs like TCU and K-State.

Editor’s note: We slightly changed the original online version’s wording and language for easier readability.