The Kansas State football team put an end to the nation’s second-longest winning streak by defeating Troy 42-13 on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Troy entered the day having won 12 straight games, an impressive run of victories that began nearly a full year ago, but the Trojans were no match for the No. 15 Wildcats.
K-State flexed its muscles in just about every phase of the game on its way to a decisive win in front of 51,940 fans.
Will Howard led the Wildcats by throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 33 yards and two scores. On the other side of the ball, K-State limited Troy to 286 yards and only a few scoring opportunities.
“Great win for our guys over a really good team,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said. “I told the guys in the locker room two things. In our first two games we are 2-0 against teams that I really believe are going to win eight, nine, 10 games. I think we really did a nice job against two quality opponents. The second thing was we needed that game. We had a lot of adversity, especially in the first half, and we kind of rose above it.”
K-State (2-0) will try to finish off a perfect run through the nonconference portion of its schedule next week at Missouri.
Until then, here are five takeaways from Saturday’s action against Troy (1-1):
Aggressive strategy paid off for Wildcats
Two years ago, it would have been nearly unthinkable for Chris Klieman to let the K-State offense legitimately try to drive 66 yards and score with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter while his team possessed a lead.
But times are changing in Manhattan.
Now that Collin Klein is in his second year as offensive coordinator, he is willing to let the Wildcats stay aggressive even when running out the clock is considered the safe thing to do.
It’s a good change, and it paid off big time for K-State on Saturday.
Fans were beginning to feel nervous as they watched Troy fight back from a 14-0 deficit to make the score 14-10 right before halftime arrived. The Trojans were set to receive the opening kickoff of the third quarter, and momentum was tilting heavily in their favor. But the Wildcats put a stop to that by marching 66 yards in just five plays for a touchdown that gave them a 21-10 advantage.
The drive only lasted 39 seconds. A game can change that quickly.
“Great job by Coach Klein and our offense,” Klieman said. “That touchdown before half was so critical, knowing that we were going to come out and have to kick the ball up to them.”
Will Howard was sensation on the drive, as he reeled off a 15-yard run on second-and-long and then hit Phillip Brooks for a 39-yard touchdown.
Could K-State have won without any points on that drive? Maybe. But they didn’t leave anything to chance thanks to their aggressive approach.
First big game in a while for Phillip Brooks
Phillip Brooks made a case for Player of the Game on offense. The senior wide receiver caught seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. On top of that, he also scored on a two-yard run thanks to a punishing block on the edge from tight end Ben Sinnott.
That kind of stat line has been a long time coming.
Even though Brooks has been a solid player throughout his K-State career, this was his first truly big game since he returned a pair of punts for touchdowns against Kansas all the way back in 2020. He hadn’t scored multiple touchdowns in a game since then.
He only topped this many all-purpose yards once last season.
It was encouraging to see him flash his full talent early on this season. He reminded everyone in attendance of what he is capable of on the football field.
Not to be outdone, Jadon Jackson also delivered an impressive game at receiver. The Mississippi transfer caught four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. His best play of the day came when he hauled in a 40-yard pass against double coverage.
K-State also got three catches for 25 yards from Keagan Johnson in his first game with the Wildcats.
The offensive line needs Christian Duffie back at right tackle
Defenses have been able to pressure Howard much more often than K-State would prefer in the first two games.
It’s not hard to figure out why.
Even though K-State returned all five starters on the offensive line this season, the Wildcats have been without right tackle Christian Duffie as he recovers from an injury to his ankle/foot. Both Southeast Missouri State and Troy were able to take advantage of his absence by establishing a reliable pass rush against the right side of K-State’s front five.
Nearly every time an edge rusher gets near Howard in the backfield it is because of a blown assignment on his right.
Troy was only able to get one sack out its opportunities, but it was able to force Howard into a handful of rushed throws.
The Wildcats have identified their weakness. Carver Willis has started both games at right tackle, but K-State has asked Cooper Beebe to move away from left guard and protect the right side of the line as Willis has struggled.
That position change will work in a pinch, but K-State is at its best with Duffie at right tackle and Beebe at left guard. The offensive line won’t reach its full potential until he his healthy.
K-State flexed its muscles on defense against Troy
Troy was able to put some points on the board against K-State thanks to some incredible catches from its receiving corps, but the Trojans struggled to keep the Wildcats out of their backfield.
K-State finished the day with four sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Khalid Duke led the way for the Wildcats with a pair of sacks and Nate Matlack and Uso Seumalo both added another. Those havoc plays made it difficult for Troy to sustain many of its drives. It was clear the Trojans had no answers for K-State’s defensive line.
But K-State also came up with some impressive plays elsewhere. Will Lee grabbed an interception in the first half and Marques Sigle made some nice tackles in his first game for the Wildcats.
Overall, Troy managed just 286 yards against K-State.
Something for Will Howard to work on
It’s hard to be critical of K-State’s starting quarterback after his first two games of the season.
Howard threw for 297 yards and scored four touchdowns in the opener against SEMO. Then he passed for 250 yards and three more touchdowns against Troy before adding another score as a rusher.
He is playing at an all-conference level and the K-State offense is humming with him behind center.
But it hasn’t been perfect for him. Despite the strong highlight package he has assembled, he has thrown an interception in both of his starts. And they came on similar plays.
In Game 1, he tried to force a deep ball into triple coverage and the SEMO defense came up with an easy interception. He threw a nearly identical pass on Saturday in the second quarter when he thought RJ Garcia was streaking behind the defense for a long gain. But he turned out to be double covered and Troy came up with a pick.
The next time he looks to throw downfield, especially against a quality defense, he would be wise to prioritize safer options.
For now, he thinks both interceptions can be used as learning experiences.
“It wasn’t perfect by any stretch,” Howard said of his performance. “I think we had some rough moments really in that second quarter there. But I think we needed this. This was a game where we learned a lot, and that was a really good Troy team. They won 12 straight and they got one of the tougher defenses I’ve ever gone against. They did some really good stuff schematically. They disguise everything really well. So it was hard to see what they were doing.”