The Kansas State Wildcats kept the Chris Klieman era rolling with an easy 52-0 victory over the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Here are some thoughts, quotes, awards and grades from the game.
Player of the game
James Gilbert. It’s easy to see how Gilbert arrived at Kansas State with well over 2,000 rushing yards to his name. The Ball State graduate transfer is hard to bring down.
Gilbert once again showed fans why he is the lead running back of K-State’s backfield by rushing for 103 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. He has eclipsed the century mark in each of his first two games with the Wildcats. He was best after contact against Bowling Green. Brown ripped off two long gains of 17 yards and then busted one for 51 yards when he eluded a tackler at the line of scrimmage and spun to the outside.
Best of all, his quarterback is showing supreme confidence in him. Skylar Thompson has checked out of passing plays in back-to-back weeks and handed the ball to Gilbert. Both plays ended with touchdowns.
Play of the game
K-State faced a fourth-and-three from the Bowling Green 34 late in the second quarter and decided to go with an unorthodox play call. In most situations, you would expect the Wildcats to keep the ball on the ground or attempt a short pass to simply keep the chains moving.
But in this situation Thompson thought he could connect with receiver Malik Knowles for an even bigger gain, and K-State coaches let him try. Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham sent Knowles streaking into the end zone on a fade route against man coverage, and Thompson lofted a pass his way. Knowles came down with the catch and K-State led 38-0.
Stat of the game
K-State did just about anything it wanted to do on offense and finished the afternoon with 521 yards of offense (333 rushing, 188 passing). The Wildcats were also highly effective moving the ball in their opener. This is new territory. K-State has never before started a season by eclipsing 500 yards in back-to-back games.
Quote to note
“This culture they have here and their technique is dead right. They will even get more talented players under Chris Klieman’s regime here and they are going to be a really good football team.” -- Bowling Green coach Scot Loeffler.
Offense: A+. It was another successful day at the office for Skylar Thompson. The K-State quarterback completed 10 of 13 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. He showed a great connection with Malik Knowles, who finished with five catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. That was good to see. The running game was once again electric. Aside from punting for the first time in 2019, there’s little to complain about here.
Defense: A+. When you pitch a shutout, you get a perfect grade. That’s how the system works. Daniel Green showed the Wildcats have more depth than expected at linebacker by leading the team with four tackles and forcing a fumble. Six different K-State players had tackles for loss. The only worry here is how little time Scottie Hazelton’s unit has spent on the field this season. They only defended 44 plays on Saturday, a week after seeing 41. How will they respond against better teams?
Special Teams: C. Blake Lynch connected on a field goal and Devin Anctil had a 51-yard punt. Those were positives. Phillip Brooks had some problems catching the ball on punts. That was a negative. Klieman says he has too much confidence in Brooks to worry about a single bad game, but that could be something to monitor.
Coaching: A+. Some thought the Wildcats might suffer from a drop-off in energy in this game. K-State players were fired up to play for Klieman in the opener with a packed crowd cheering them on in prime time. The atmosphere was different against Bowling Green. It was a morning kickoff and only 46,075 fans were in attendance. It didn’t matter. The Wildcats were ready to go from the start and won big.
K-State is done playing cupcake opponents. Klieman’s first true test as Wildcats football coach awaits next week at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs easily defeated the Wildcats in Manhattan last season, and they figure to be favored in the rematch while playing at home in front of the cowbells. But the point spread might be smaller than originally expected. K-State has looked dominant in each of its first two games, and Mississippi State lost quarterback Tommy Stevens to an undisclosed injury midway through its 38-15 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday. His availability for the K-State game is currently unknown. Garrett Shrader, a true freshman, finished off the Southern Mississippi game. The Bulldogs rushed for 210 yards on Saturday with running back Kylin Hill picking up 123 of them. Mississippi State has won of its first two games by double digits. This will be a battle of undefeated teams. Klieman had his team ready to dominate against weak competition at home. It’s time to find out how he prepares for the Wildcats for a strong opponent on the road.