Kansas State begins a season of high expectations against South Dakota before facing Missouri next week in a showdown against an ex-Big 12 rival. South Dakota took the Wildcats to the wire in their last meeting in 2018. K-State will lean on Nebraska transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez and returning running back Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn is a preseason All-America all-purpose player who had nearly 2,000 yards total offense last season. The Coyotes have arguably the toughest schedule in the Football Championship Subdivision with four games against preseason top-10 teams following their opening trip to Manhattan.
Martinez is coming off shoulder surgery that limited him in spring ball, but the prolific passer has earned raves throughout fall camp. He set 17 school records with the Cornhuskers, including 10,792 yards total offense and 670 completions, but will try to cut down on the turnovers that frequently spoiled his big days. The Coyotes should provide a good early test after three years of rebuilding under defensive coordinator Travis Johansen.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
South Dakota: RB Travis Theis returns to the Sunflower State, where he starred for Pratt High School, after a big game against Kansas to open last season. He ran for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Jayhawks, and went on to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley with 677 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
Kansas State: Vaughn is coming off a season in which he was one of only three players nationally with at least 1,000 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving. He also was fourth in the nation with 22 total TDs. Vaughn has 2,043 yards on the ground and needs 97 yards receiving in his next three games to become the second-fastest player behind Tulane’s Mewelde Moore to eclipse the 2,000-1,000 mark since at least 1996.
FACTS & FIGURES
South Dakota led the Wildcats 24-12 in the fourth quarter in 2018 before losing 27-24. Eight players on the Coyotes’ roster played in that game. … South Dakota QB Carson Camp is entering his third year as the starter and has thrown for more than 3,200 yards with 20 TD passes. … The Coyotes have faced an FBS program every year since 2010, not counting the COVID-19 season in 2020, and has wins over Minnesota in 2010 and Bowling Green in 2017. … Kansas State allowed 21 points per game last season, when it switched to a 3-3-5 system, after allowing 32.2 per game in 2020. … The Wildcats return seven starters on defense, including All-American candidate Felix Anudike-Uzomah. … Kansas State committed four penalties for 41 yards over its final three regular-season games last season. … Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist for Kansas State in 2012, is beginning his first season as offensive coordinator. He held the interim title for part of last season.