Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson is helped off the field after being injured Sept. 11, 2021 against Southern Illinois in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The Kansas State Wildcats will feature a new starting quarterback Saturday against the Nevada Wolf Pack.
The Wildcats announced Monday that starting quarterback Skylar Thompson suffered a knee injury in Saturday’s 31-23 victory over Southern Illinois and will be out for the foreseeable future.
Thompson, among Kansas State’s career leaders for passing yards (5,261), completions (402) and touchdowns (30), is in his sixth season in the program. He has been limited to 32 starts in his career because of injuries. He injured his shoulder in the third game of last season and missed the rest of the year.
“I was pretty emotional,” said Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman, explaining his reaction of seeing Thompson get injured Saturday. “He’s a real special kid to me. I kind of had déjà vu in my mind (after seeing Thompson also get hurt in 2020). I’m sick for the kid, devastated.”
Thompson passed for 21 touchdowns and 3,706 yards combined in 2018 and 2019. The last two seasons, though, he has played in just five games. This year he has completed just 12-of-18 passes for 240 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He led Kansas State to a 24-7 win over Stanford two weeks ago, completing 9-of-14 passes for 144 yards and also rushed for 33 yards and two touchdowns.
Klieman said Monday that backup Will Howard will start against the Wolf Pack. The 6-foot-4 Howard relieved Thompson against Southern Illinois and completed 8-of-17 passes for 76 yards with one interception. Last year he was 90-of-168 for 1,178 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions after Thompson got hurt.
The Wolf Pack and Wildcats are scheduled to kick off at 11:05 a.m. on Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.
PACK IN KANSAS: The Wolf Pack will be playing its third game in school history in the state of Kansas on Saturday.
The Wolf Pack has played in Wichita twice, beating Wichita State 42-12 in 1948 and losing to the Shockers 37-19 in 1950.
Stan Heath passed for two touchdowns, giving him a national record at the time with 22 touchdown passes in the regular season in the Thanksgiving Day game in 1948. Tommy Kalmanir also rushed for 161 yards and Dick Trachok had 101 in the victory in 1948.
The loss to Wichita State in 1950, also on Thanksgiving Day, was the last game for the Pack in nearly two years. The Pack did not play football in 1951 and didn’t play again until Oct. 4, 1952.
PACK VS. BIG 12: The Wolf Pack has never beaten a Big 12 team in six tries. The Pack lost to Missouri in 2008 and 2009, Nebraska in 2007, Texas Tech in 2008 and 2011 and Texas A&M in 1950.
The Pack also lost to Texas A&M in 2015 but that was three years after the Aggies joined the SEC. The Wolf Pack also lost to current Big 12 member TCU in 2000 but the two schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference at the time.
The Mountain West is just 21-46 against the Big 12 since the Mountain West began in 1999. Much of that one-sided record is due to a combined record of 3-23 by Mountain West teams New Mexico and Wyoming.
The last victory by a current Mountain West school over a current Big 12 school was UNLV over Iowa State 34-31 in 2008.
AIR FORCE DEFENSE SHINES: The Air Force Falcons turned in one of the best defensive performances in Mountain West history this weekend in a 23-3 win at Navy.
Air Force held Navy to just six first downs, 68 total yards and 36 rushing yards on 34 carries. The Falcons also stopped Navy short of a first down on 11-of-12 third down plays. Navy also had the ball for just 23:12 and after the game fired long-time offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper. Jasper had been on the Navy staff for 22 seasons, the last 14 as offensive coordinator.
“We had 36 yards rushing and we’re a rushing team,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We didn’t get anything going offensively.”
“It felt like we were in quicksand,” Navy running back Chance Warren said.
Air Force is now second in the nation in total defense, allowing just 177.5 yards a game. The Falcons also lead the Mountain West in fewest points allowed at just 8.5 a game.
MOUNTAIN WEST QBs AMONG NATION’S BEST: The Mountain West just might have the best collection of quarterbacks in the country.
Four of the top eight quarterbacks in the country in passing yards are from the Mountain West. Fresno State’s Jake Haener is first at 1,009 yards followed by Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro (second at 891), San Jose State’s Nick Starkel (seventh at 702) and Nevada’s Carson Strong (eighth at 693).
There are also four more Mountain West quarterbacks ranked from No. 22-67. New Mexico’s Terry Wilson is No. 22 at 559, Colorado State’s Todd Centeio is No. 29 at 542, Utah State’s Logan Bonner is 49th at 458 and Wyoming’s Sean Chambers is 67th at 400.
Strong is also second in the nation with 28 completions per game. Centeio is ninth at 24.3 a game and Wilson is No. 11 at 24 a game.
STRONG NOT AIRING IT OUT YET: Has the Wolf Pack played it safe with Strong through the first two games?
Strong, who has just one touchdown pass (43 yards to Romeo Doubs against California two weeks ago) longer than 16 yards, is averaging 12.38 yards on each of his 56 completions. That number is up slightly from last year when he averaged 11.48 per completion but it is just sixth best in the Mountain West right now.
San Jose State’s Nick Starkel leads the Mountain West and is third in the nation at 17.55 per completion. San Diego State’s Jordon Brookshire (16.19), Haener (15.06), Chambers (14.29) and Cordeiro (13.3) also are ahead of Strong. Bonner is tied with Strong at 12.38.