'Cats Roar: K-State set to put on a show at football opener on Saturday in Arlington

Doug Will
Pratt Tribune
The Kansas State University Wildcats kicks off the 2021 football season against the Stanford Cardinals this Saturday in Arlington, Texas.

The Kansas State Wildcats, coming off a 4-6 overall record and 4-5 in Big 12 play, look to rebound this season with quite a few returning starters on both sides of the ball. Last year K-State did win its first 4 Conference games which included beating Oklahoma 38-35 and Kansas 55-14, but then injuries, illness, and lack of depth contributed to the 5-game losing streak to end the year.

The 2021 season starts this Saturday as the Wildcats go south to Arlington, Texas where they will host the Stanford Cardinals of the Pac 12 in the Allstate Kickoff Classic at AT&T Stadium. The game will kick off at 11:00 am and will be televised nationally on FS1. The Cardinals went 4-2 last year but finished the year strong as they won their last four games.

Head Coach Chris Klieman begins his 3rd year at KSU with a 12-11 record and 9-9 in Big 12 play, his overall is coaching record is 84-24. The Wildcat offense will be led by super Senior Skylar Thompson, who is a 30-game starter, ranks in the top 10 in 15 career categories. One of his sidekicks in the backfield will be 2020 All-American sophomore running back Deuce Vaugh who was only one of three players nationally to have more than 600 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards. The line returns 100% of the starters from every game last year including senior center Noah Johnson and junior guard Josh Rivas. Johnson, from Wichita, started all 10 games last year and earned second team All-Big 12. Rivas, from Hutchinson, has started games for three seasons. Senior receiver Chabastin Taylor played in all 10 games last year and averaged over 29 yards a catch. Junior Malik Knowles averaged almost 23 yards a reception in the 9 games he played last year. Senior transfer Daniel Imatorbhebhe is going to play his seventh season of college football after he played at Southern Cal and Illinois last year.

The Wildcat defense returns quality starters at all three levels led by senior safety Jahron McPherson who started all 10 games last year and was the leading tackler with 54 and was named National Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Oklahoma. The linebackers should be led by senior Cody Fletcher and junior Daniel Green. Fletcher returns for his second senior season and started the final three games last year. Green had two starts last year and has been part of the regular rotation for the last two seasons. Up front, senior Eli Huggins will man one of the tackle spots and was an 8-game starter last year. Junior Khalid Duke also had eight starts last year and had a career high nine tackles against OU. Junior All-American punt return Phillip Brooks is also back as he averaged 23.7 yards a return which included 2 touchdowns in the first half against KU last season.

The Kansas State Wildcats come into this game with a chip on their shoulder as they were picked to finish 7th in the Big 12 and would also like to put the losing streak to bed. The Stanford Cardinals were picked to finish in fourth place in the Pac 12 North. These two teams have only played once before and that was in California in 2016 where the Cardinals won 26-13. This time it will be different. The Kansas State Wildcats are a confident bunch and as Skylar Thompson said, “The most unselfish team he has ever been around.” It is also the deepest and most talented team in Klieman’s three years at the helm of the program, a program which is again on the rise. The K-State players and staff want to show college football that they are ready to take the next steps and if Thompson in particular stays healthy this team will challenge for the Big 12 title. But to do that they must take step one and that is winning at “Jerry’s World” and win they will do. The Purple fans will have a fun afternoon as the Wildcats put on a show. Kansas State 31, Stanford 20. Go ‘Cats!