Five takeaways from season opener vs. SEMO

Cornerback Jacob Parrish lines up on a pass play against SEMO leading wide receiver Ryan Flournoy. Parrish had three tackles and a pass breakup in the shutout 45-0 win on Saturday Sept. 2. (Collegian Media Group | Julia Smith)

The night for the Kansas State Wildcats went about as well as it could. Continuous success from all three units on the field highlighted the night. The starters shined and allowed for backups — such as highly-discussed freshman quarterback Avery Johnson — to show off their potential to contribute. Little to nothing left K-State disappointed.

Takeaway #1: Howard will sling the rock

Will Howard’s season opener went possibly better than expected. Not only did he throw for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 for 26, he also scored in two other ways. His one interception was easily negated by collecting both a rushing and receiving touchdown. 

The all-around dominance from Howard began instantly. On the night, Howard hit tight end Ben Sinnott and all three starting wide receivers — Phillip Brooks, RJ Garcia and Jadon Jackson — for passes of over 20 yards. Stretching the field can provide a great benefit to the running back duo of DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward. If Howard continues this aggressive down-the-field play, the Wildcats offensive can match up with the best in the country.

Takeaway #2: Ben Sinnott is the number one receiving option

Sinnott may not have led the Wildcats in receiving, but he showed why his connection with Howard excelled so much in 2022. The duo connected for 100 yards on five catches, all in the first half. 

Targeting Sinnott seven times in the half, Howard found his middle-of-the-field target deep multiple times. Sinnott collected a 40-yard reception as well as a 33-yard catch in the half. Sinnott has a chance to become the anchor of the electric K-State receiving weapons for Howard.

Takeaway #3: The front seven stood out in a big way

SEMO came into the showdown with its all-time leading rusher in Geno Hess. Hess’s night did not go similar to most of his games as the first-team All-FCS running back took 10 carries for -4 yards against the Wildcats defense. The front seven shined against the talented runner but didn’t stop there.

The passing defense also showed major strengths against SEMO. Redhawk quarterback Paxton DeLaurent faced constant pressure and was brought down four times on the night. Pressure from both the inside and outside highlighted K-State’s ability to rush from everywhere. With the loss of defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah to the NFL, finding a consistent pass rush will be major for 2023 success.

Takeaway #4: Cooper Beebe continues to be a multi-dimensional lineman

Left guard Cooper Beebe stands at the helm of “The Beef” and contributes everywhere. With tackle Christian Duffie out, the offensive line saw movement throughout. As right guards Hadley Panzer and Taylor Poitier moved in and out, Beebe first moved to right tackle after a sack was allowed from the right side. Later, Beebe moved to left tackle.

As a potential first rounder, Beebe represents and does major work for the offensive line. His presence provides both consistency and a relief blanket in case of poor play or injury. The Wildcats strength continues to rely on the guard some consider to be the best in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Takeaway #5: Jacob Parrish shows major promise

The loss of cornerbacks Julius Brents and Ekow Boye-Doe left a major hole for the Wildcats. Late into the season, a younger corner started receiving more playing time. That same corner received major praise from coaches in the offseason about his potential. That cornerback is Jacob Parrish.

Parrish starred in the 2023 season opener. Alongside three tackles and a broken up pass, he highlighted his ability to see plays before they happen and cause disturbances. In a young secondary with the only regular starter returning in safety Kobe Savage, the need for smart play is needed. Parrish showed off his football IQ as well as his athleticism to potentially be a high-level performer for K-State.