K-State rolls Nicholls 49-14 in Klieman’s coaching debut
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Chris Klieman’s debut as the coach at Kansas State couldn’t have gone a whole lot better.
The Wildcats rolled up 573 total yards while holding Nicholls to just 276. Six different players scored a touchdown, including defensive back Jonathan Alexander. Kansas State committed just two penalties and never turned the ball over.
But when asked what he liked most in the 49-14 rout, Klieman replied: “That it’s over.”
“It was a lot of nervous energy. Nobody knows where they’re supposed to be pregame. This first week was kind of a circus,” said Klieman, who led North Dakota State to four national titles in five seasons before taking over for the retired Bill Snyder last winter. “It’s exciting. I’m a competitor by nature and it is fun to win. But I was more excited to see the guys have fun.”
They had plenty to enjoy.
Skylar Thompson threw for 212 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. James Gilbert paced a Kansas State running attack that rolled up 361 yards by going for 115 and a score. Jordan Brown, Harry Trotter and Tyler Burns also ran for touchdowns in a game that was never in doubt.
The Wildcats did it in just about all phases, too. They reached the end zone on their first four possessions, got a long TD catch from Dalton Schoen, went 10 of 12 on third down and ran a mind-boggling 80 plays while holding the ball for more than 41 minutes on offense.
“A lot of good things we saw,” Klieman said, “but I challenged our guys in there, ‘Let’s not be complacent. Let’s not get too excited about one. We need to continue to stack good days on good days.'”
“I mean, offensively we couldn’t get anything going because we never had the ball. The time of possession was just ridiculous,” Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe said. “They are a good football team.”
The Wildcats, who the last few years under Snyder had grown stale offensively, roared out of the locker room with a sense of purpose. They brutalized the Colonels at the line of scrimmage, were largely free of penalties and looked every bit the program from a Power 5 conference.
Trotter, a Louisville transfer, reached the end zone first. Thompson scrambled 17 yards for the second score. Brown, a North Carolina transfer, reached pay dirt next. And Gilbert, the newcomer from Ball State, ran 24 yards to give the Wildcats a 28-0 lead with 6:21 left in the first half.
“Hopefully we can keep it going,” Brown said. “Having three guys (at running back) is always great. If someone gets tired or something, someone can come in without any drop-off.”
In fact, the Wildcats nearly went 5-for-5 on TDs in the first half. But when Schoen hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass, a review showed him bobbling the ball as he fell out of bounds.
That led to their only first-half miscue: Blake Lynch missed the ensuing 37-yard field goal.
Schoen finally got his touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. He breezed past a defender and hauled in a 38-yard reception to give the Wildcats a 35-7 lead.
Jonathan Alexander’s strip, recovery and 25-yard touchdown return punctuated the win, and allowed Klieman to give his backups and third-teamers a chance to play most of the fourth quarter.
“All cylinders were firing today,” Thompson said. “I had a lot of fun today.”
STATS AND STREAKS
The win was the 200th in Bill Snyder Family Stadium for Kansas State. … Klieman has won 22 games in a row dating to his days with the Bison. … Gums paced Nicholls with 75 yards rushing.
Nicholls: After beating Kansas just down the road in their opener last season, the Colonels never really put up a fight. Fourcade threw a pick on their second offensive play, they went three-and-out on their next possession and the Wildcats quickly built an insurmountable lead.
Kansas State: The Wildcats looked a lot like Klieman’s teams at North Dakota State, winning the battle in the trenches and rotating running backs every couple of plays. The result was a team that was fresher and more physical as the game went along.
Nicholls plays the second of four straight on the road, at Prairie View A&M on Sept. 14.
Kansas State hosts Bowling Green next Saturday before a trip to Mississippi State.