Kansas State may be ranked No. 15 in the country. It may be the defending Big 12 Conference champion. But the Wildcats say they will not look past Troy when the Trojans come to Manhattan, Kan. on Saturday.
The Wildcats (1-0) and Trojans (1-0) square off for just the second time in history after K-State beat Troy 41-5 in 2003. Recent history has Kansas State on alert for a letdown.
Twice in the past three years, K-State has lost to a non-Power Five opponent in Manhattan. In 2020, the Wildcats lost to Arkansas State 35-31 in the season opener. In 2022, after two convincing wins over South Dakota and Missouri to open the season, the Wildcats hosted Tulane and lost to the Green Wave 17-10.
“It’s the same thing we talk about every week: You’ve got to prepare Monday through Friday to give yourself a chance to be successful on Saturday,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said about preparing his team to not let it happen again. “Any team can beat you — I don’t care what level they’re at — if you don’t have your A-game. That’s not just physically, that’s mentally, that’s emotionally.
“Troy is a really good team, a veteran team that has won an awful lot of ballgames and will be a great challenge for us.”
Both teams are coming off impressive offensive showings against FCS foes in their first games, though K-State also shined on defense. The Wildcats defeated Southeast Missouri State 45-0, while Troy outlasted Stephen F. Austin 48-30.
Wildcats senior quarterback Will Howard was 18-of-26 for a career-high 297 yards and two touchdowns. He also became the sixth player in Big 12 history to throw, rush and catch a touchdown pass in the same game, and he did it all in the first half. Howard moved into 10th place in school history for career passing touchdowns with 26.
K-State used a balanced attack, with three players reaching the 100-yard plateau. Receiver RJ Garcia II (119 yards) and tight end Ben Sinnott (100) were the leading receivers, while DJ Giddens had 128 yards on the ground.
The defense was exceptional too, holding SEMO to 6 rushing yards on 26 carries.
But Troy will present much tougher competition. The Trojans have the second-longest active winning streak (12 games) in all of FBS, behind only Georgia (18).
Running back Kimani Vidal totaled 302 yards (248 rushing, 54 receiving) on 27 touches against Stephen F. Austin in the Trojans’ Week 1 win. He is coming off an impressive 2022 season where he rushed 231 times for 1,132 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Whether he will be able to do that against Kansas State will go a long way toward determining whether Troy will have a chance against the Wildcats.
“It’s a tremendous road environment,” Troy head coach John Sumrall said. “They bring the crowd noise. The student section is right behind you. Our guys have to be ready to play in a hostile environment.
“I told our guys, ‘If you can’t get excited for this, then I can’t help you get excited.’”
–Field Level Media