Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson 'out indefinitely'; knee injury not believed to be season-ending

Arne Green
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, left, holds the hand of injured starting quarterback Skylar Thompson (7) as medical personnel tend to him on Saturday.

MANHATTAN — Kansas State coach Chris Klieman was no different than any Wildcat football fan Saturday, when he saw quarterback Skylar Thompson fall to the turf at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

"I know that when he went down, I think all of us gasped like, 'Oh no, not again,' " Klieman said Monday on the Big 12 coaches weekly teleconference.

The good news was that Thompson's injury appears to be less serious than the one that knocked him out for an entire season last year.

"Skylar's going to be out indefinitely," Klieman said of the non-contact knee injury, which occurred with 7:21 left in the first quarter of the Wildcats' game against Southern Illinois. "We don't believe it to be a season-ending injury, which is what I know I feared on Saturday, is that he would be lost for the season.

"We don't feel it to be that way, but it's going to be some time. I can't tell you how long, but he's out indefinitely as we continue to get more information. I know we had an MRI (Sunday) and confirmed some things that we will keep in house, but he'll be out indefinitely."

Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson (7) is helped off the field early against Southern Illinois on Saturday.

That means that Will Howard, who finished off the Wildcats' 31-23 come-from-behind victory over Southern Illinois on Saturday, will again be thrown into a starting role. It was Howard who stepped in last year as a true freshman when Thompson's shoulder injury against Texas Tech in the third game kept him out for the rest of the season.

"Will is the guy right now that will continue on and take the lion's share of the reps, and then we'll get (sophomore) Jaren Lewis ready for sure," Klieman said.

K-State led 7-0 and was inside the SIU 5-yard line when Thompson went out. He handed the ball to Deuce Vaughn, who ran left then reversed field to the right. Thompson ran right as well, apparently looking to block for Vaughn, but pulled up lame.

Howard came on to complete the drive, scoring on a 1-yard run, and led the Wildcats on another scoring drive in the second quarter that made it 21-3. The offense sputtered the rest of the way, turning the ball over three times late in the half, but did produce a field goal to take the lead on its first possession of the second half and marched 59 yards for a key touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Howard completed 8 of 17 passes for 76 yards with one interception and lost a fumble on a sack. The interception was returned 41 yards to a touchdown to put SIU up 23-21 at the half.

But he had a crucial third-down completion of 21 yards to Phillip Brooks that kept alive the fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were ups and downs for sure," Howard said afterward. "Obviously heartbroken for Skylar. Me and him have developed a really close relationship over the past year or so.

"Hope and wish the best for him and was heartbroken for him. But I have to come in, in my role as a backup. So I have to come in and be ready at all times."

As for his own performance, Howard went to the bottom line first.

"We won the game and (I'm) always happy that we won, but there are a lot of things that I need to clean up, and I know that more than anybody," he said. "It's definitely good to learn from a win, but moving in the right direction."

Last year, Howard came on for Thompson and completed a victory over Texas Tech, and then led K-State past TCU and Kansas as the starter. But they ended the season on a five-game losing streak.

Klieman said that last the 2020 experience, as well as a full offseason to prepare, should serve Howard well the second time around.

"He learned so much last year because he wasn't probably as ready as he wanted to be, and then he had a full season in the weight room and with coach (Collin) Klein (quarterbacks coach)," Klieman said. "And Skylar didn't take any reps in spring ball, so he was with the ones the entire spring and that helped him."

Howard said approaching a game as the starter also will make a difference.

"Obviously you say if you're a backup you want to prepare like you're the starter, but at the end of the day it's a different mindset when you're starting," he said. "I experienced that last year, going from the Texas Tech game where you're not expecting it to the TCU game where you're starting.

"It's definitely a different feel, a different preparation going into the week. I don't know what the circumstances are with Skylar, obviously, and I hope for the best, but I'm ready for whatever. If that's going to be my role next week, I just want to be able to execute my role to the best of my ability."

As for Thompson, Klieman said he was in slightly better spirits during a Sunday conversation.

"It's tough, without question," Klieman said. "What he went through last year and to be able to come back and get a chance to play this sixth year, and had a great fall camp.

"It's part of the game. He knows it, and it's frustrating because it's like it's not fair. Why does it happen to somebody two years in a row? You only get so many opportunities to play this great game, and he's going to have some opportunities taken away again."