Kansas State football coach Chris Klieman began his weekly news conference on Tuesday by saying that the Wildcats’ narrow loss against Missouri has become “worse and more expensive” with the passing of time.
K-State experienced a myriad of injuries during the game that could have a major impact on the team’s depth chart in future contests, starting with a 7 p.m. kickoff against UCF on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Veteran linebacker Daniel Green is out for the season with an injured pectoral muscle. Running back Treshaun Ward is considered “doubtful” for Saturday’s game with an injury to his midsection. And quarterback Will Howard is thought to be “questionable” as he works to recover from a leg injury.
All three of those ailments were suffered against the Tigers. A week later, K-State may be forced to play without some of its most important contributors.
Most of the injury focus will remain on Howard this week. For now, Klieman says nothing is certain about his game-day status.
“Will Howard, I would say, is questionable,” Klieman said. “He didn’t practice yesterday and I think he’s limited today. We have just got to figure that one out as the week goes on. We probably won’t know on that one until later in the week.”
If Howard is unable to play on Saturday, the plan is for freshman Avery Johnson to start in his place. But the Wildcats would also have Jake Rubley ready to play and potentially see some action in a complementary role.
“We would probably start Avery, and we would have Rubley ready to go,” Klieman said. “We would give both guys a lot of reps like we did yesterday. We split a lot of those reps yesterday. My guess is that Avery will take most of the reps with the ones but Jake will take some as well, and we’ll see how the week goes.”
Howard will need to make progress with his “banged up” leg between now and Saturday if he hopes to remain in the starting lineup. It’s not clear when he suffered an injury against Missouri, but he played most of the second half with a noticeable limp. K-State had to adjust its game plan after he was unable to run at full speed and make plays outside of the pocket.
The junior has never missed a game with K-State due to an injury, and he will likely push hard to keep it that way this weekend. He has thrown for 817 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
“I would have to see him do some things,” Klieman said. “Yesterday there was no way he could have done anything. He’s a very, very tough kid and gutted it out (at Missouri). ... So we’ll have to figure that out as the week goes on.”
K-State will have confidence in Johnson if he is called upon. The Maize product has already played in two games for the Wildcats, completing three of four passes for 55 yards and gaining 64 yards with a touchdown on the ground.
He took several important snaps against Missouri and rushed for 24 yards to take pressure off of Howard.
If Howard is able to play on Saturday, it’s possible he will do so on a limited basis and we will see both quarterbacks once again. Every option is on the table following an injury filled game at Missouri.