Kansas State University

Why a win at Mississippi State would be historic for K-State against the SEC

Kansas State football is 4-19 against SEC schools.

The Wildcats have been outscored 538-348, losing by an average of 8.26 points per game. They are 0-12 on the road against the SEC. And only one coach in recent history has gone from coaching an FCS team to a Power Five team and then beat an SEC team.

It’s Joe Moorhead, and he will be on the other sideline Saturday afternoon.

Since 2014, only five active coaches have made it to an FBS school after coaching in the FCS:

  • Dino Babers: Eastern Illinois to Bowling Green to Syracuse
  • Willie Fritz: Sam Houston State to Georgia Southern to Tulane
  • Chris Klieman: North Dakota State to Kansas State
  • Joe Moorhead: Fordham to Penn State (offensive coordinator) to Mississippi State
  • Scott Satterfield: Appalachian State to Louisville

Klieman is already in rare air, but he said his group is motivated to go down to Starkville, Mississippi with its No. 1 rushing offense in the country.

“It will be a tough environment, but it’s a good measuring stick,” Klieman said. “We need this game. We need to find out as a coaching staff and as players, where we are.”

Kansas State goes to Mississippi State for its first real test and first road game of the 2019 season. The Cats are 0-3 against the Bulldogs and lost 31-10 last year at home.

Klieman and the players said they aren’t worried about how last year went. The Bulldogs had three NFL Draft picks along its defensive line in 2018, including two who went in the top 26 picks.

Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson threw for just 86 yards and a 41.2% completion rate. Mississippi State had four sacks and an interception.

He said he watched the film Monday night and had trouble getting to sleep afterward.

A win in Starkville would be K-State’s first nonconference Power Five road win since 2011 at Miami. It would also be its first regular season win over an SEC team since 1982 against Kentucky. In 1910, coach Mike Ahearn’s Wildcats beat Arkansas on the road, but that was decades before the Razorbacks joined the SEC.

But K-State hasn’t had a lot of opportunities at SEC teams. Since 2001, the Cats are 2-6 against the SEC and played on the road only twice.

Graduate transfer running back James Gilbert played at Notre Dame and Texas A&M while he was at Ball State. He said he won’t be fazed.

“Any time you get the chance to showcase what you can do on a national level against an SEC team, that’s what you live for; that’s what you live for as a kid,” Gilbert said. “We’re going to seize the opportunity and do our best.

“It’s just one more game. They’re not unbeatable or anything like that. They have some good size. They’re a good football team, but I feel if we execute the right game plan, we can take them down.

Klieman went 2-0 against FBS teams while he was at North Dakota State. He beat Iowa State by 20 in his first game in charge on Aug. 30, 2014.

He said he was close to having another chance.

“There was a game they tried to schedule with Alabama,” Klieman said. “And I’m glad they didn’t do that.”

Klieman never played Moorhead’s Fordham teams while he was at North Dakota State, but he does have some history with his Saturday counterpart.

They have met at a couple of awards banquets and coaching clinics

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for what coach has done, and he’s done it the right way,” Klieman said. “He elevated that program at Fordham and had a great opportunity at Penn State. Now he’s at Mississippi State and doing a great job. So much respect for coach. I look forward to see him and picking his brain a little bit.”

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.