By Kansas State University Athletics (kstatesports.com)
THE TOP 5
1) K-State opens its 128th season of football on Saturday when the Wildcats host SEMO in a 6 p.m. contest inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Cats are looking for their sixth season-opening win in the last seven years. It is the first time the Wildcats and Redhawks will meet on the gridiron, while it is the first against a current member of the Ohio Valley/Big South Conference since defeating Tennessee Tech in 2009.
2) Senior quarterback Will Howard returns with 15 career starts under his belt, but the 2023 season represents the first time in his career he enters a season as QB1. He led the Wildcats to a 4-1 record during his five starts in 2022, which included a pair of wins over top-10 teams in No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 3 TCU, the latter being the Big 12 Championship.
3) Skill players abound for the Wildcats, including returner DJ Giddens and Florida State transfer Treshaun Ward at running back, All-Big 12 tight end Ben Sinnott, and a plethora of wide receivers. The receiving corps is led by sixth-year senior Phillip Brooks, Iowa transfer Keagan Johnson and sophomore RJ Garcia II. Brooks will also serve as the primary returner on both kickoffs and punts.
4) The K-State defense returns five starters, led by a pair of senior linebackers in Daniel Green and Austin Moore. Moore was the team’s leading tackler last year, while Green is back for a sixth season. Notably, Khalid Duke is moving from linebacker back to his natural home at defensive end to help stabilize the line, but multiple newcomers must fill in throughout the defensive backfield.
5) Known for its special teams prowess, K-State brings back a dynamic punt returner in Phillip Brooks, who will also add kickoff return duties to his repertoire. Sixth-year senior Jack Blumer, who split punting duties two years ago, will serve as the primary punter for the first time in his career, while Chris Tennant is back to handle placements and kickoffs after serving as the primary kick the first part of 2022.
129 – Non-offensive TDs by the Wildcats since 1999, the most in the nation and seven more than the next best team (Alabama).
119 – Total returning career starts by K-State offensive linemen, including all 70 starts from a year ago.
90.9 – Red zone percentage by the Wildcats since 2019, which ranks second among returning Big 12 teams.
75.6 – Career winning % by Chris Klieman, which ranks fourth nationally among FBS coaches with at least 10 years experience.
21.4 – Points per game allowed by K-State over the last two seasons, ranking second among returning Big 12 teams.
CATS IN LID LIFTERS
• Entering its 128th year of football, Kansas State holds an all-time record of 87-35-5 (70.5%) in season openers, including a 29-4 (87.9%) mark since 1990.
• Chris Klieman, who enters his 11th year as a head coach, has earned an 8-2 (80.0%) record in season openers.
• All-time, Kansas State is 94-28-5 (76.0%) in home openers, while head coach Chris Klieman is 8-2 (80.0%) in home openers as a head coach.
• Since 1990, K-State holds a 94-19 (83.2%) record in regular-season non-conference games.
• That stretch includes an 80-9 (89.9%) mark at home. During those 30 years (excluding the one-game non-conference schedule in 2020), the Wildcats have had perfect regular season non-conference ledgers 17 times and unblemished marks at home on 24 occasions.
A WINNING TRADITION
• Kansas State has been one of the best Big 12 teams since the inception of the conference in 1996. The Wildcats are third with 134 victories, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas.
• The Wildcats are also third in the conference in winning percentage since round-robin play began in 2011. They sit at 59.3% (64-44), trailing only Oklahoma (77.6%; 83-25) and Oklahoma State (64.8%; 70-38).
• During that stretch, the Wildcats are 35-19 (64.8%) at home in Big 12 play and 29-25 (53.7%) on the road.
AMONG THE NATION’S BEST
• K-State has a total of 213 victories since 1996, which ranks 23rd nationally and 16th among Power 5 programs.
• Among current Big 12 teams, the Wildcats rank fifth behind Oklahoma (262), Texas (229), TCU (224) and BYU (223).
• Over the last 13 seasons, the Wildcats have won at least seven games 11 times.
• Kansas State has a strong history of being in the postseason, having advanced to a bowl game 23 times since 1993, including 11 times in the last 13 years.
• K-State’s 23 bowl trips since 1993 are tied for fourth among current Big 12 teams.
• In an era when over 80 teams play in a bowl game each year, the Cats are one of just 19 Power 5 teams to play in a bowl game 11 times in the last 13 years.
TAKING DOWN TOP 10s
• K-State picked up three victories over AP top-10 teams in 2022, which culminated with a 31-28 overtime win over No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 Championship. It was the first time in school history the Wildcats took down multiple AP top-10 teams in one season.
• The Cats also defeated No. 6 Oklahoma, 41-34, in Norman, while they shut out No. 9 Oklahoma State, 48-0, at home.
• The Wildcats are now 6-3 in their last nine games against top-10 teams dating back to Nov. 18, 2017, a span that began with a 45-40 victory at No. 10 Oklahoma State. Prior to that, the Cats were just 1-15 in their previous 16 tries.
• Under head coach Chris Klieman, the Wildcats have defeated five teams ranked in the top 10 by the Associated Press. No other current Big 12 team has more than three victories over AP Top 10 teams since 2019 (Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU all with three).
BIG 12 CHAMPS
• Kansas State earned its third Big 12 title with a 31-28 overtime victory over No. 3 TCU in the 2022 Big 12 Championship.
• It was the second for the Cats in a conference championship game as they took down No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-7, in 2003.
• Kansas State earned its first conference title since finishing with an 8-1 record in 2012 as there was no conference championship game conducted that year.
• The Wildcats are in search of winning a Big 12 title in consecutive years for the first time in school history. They are looking to become the second Big 12 program ever to defend its conference title (Oklahoma – 7 times).
• For the first time in six seasons, Kansas State will enter a season ranked in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the AFCA Coaches Poll as they checked in at No. 16 and No. 17, respectively.
• K-State’s No. 16 preseason ranking in the AP Poll is its highest since beginning the 2004 campaign at No. 13.
For the full story, read here at kstatesports.com.