Here is everything you need to know about the Kansas State Wildcats’ game against Mississippi State on Saturday.
11 a.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss.
TV: ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Allison Williams)
Radio: K-State Sports Network, Sirius 119/XM 199/Internet 953
Opening line: Mississippi State -6
Kansas State (2-0)
QB Skylar Thompson: Freed from last year’s time-share behind center, Thompson has shined in two games as the full-time starter. In victories over Nicholls State and Bowling Green Thompson has thrown for 363 yards on 26-of-35 passing and three touchdowns, while rushing for 56 yards and a touchdowns on just six carries. Executing a similar offense to the one that won head coach Chris Klieman four national titles at North Dakota State, Thompson has looked every bit the part of a quarterback in control.
RB James Gilbert. Thanks to a pair of relatively easy wins, the Wildcats have been able to spread the ball around. But once the competition gets tougher — as it will on Saturday — Gilbert will be the back that will likely get the tough carries. The backs combined have 554 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year all K-State running backs had 13 rushing scores. Going into Saturday’s game Gilbert has 218 yards on 26 attempts and three touchdowns.
DE Reggie Walker. With 16 career sacks Walker is the pass rusher Mississippi State offensive linemen will be most focused on this Saturday. The thing is, he’s also an adept stripper of the football. Entering Saturday’s game Walker needs just one more forced fumble to tie the K-State career record. He has just one tackle so far this season and the Wildcats haven’t needed much from Walker. That changes on Saturday.
DB A.J. Parker. With an interception and two passes defended already this year, Parker is making himself indispensable in the Wildcats’ updated defensive scheme. His game is coming along. He has two interceptions in his last four games, dating back to last year. If any defensive back will frustrate the Bulldogs on Saturday, it will be Parker.
Mississippi State (2-0)
RB Kylin Hill. Wonder if this just still haunts K-State fans one year later? Hill rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns to carry Mississippi State to a 31-10 victory over the Wildcats in Manhattan, Kansas, last season. All he’s done in two games this season is rush for 320 yards, best in the SEC and second in FBS. If you stop him, you stop the Bulldogs. And with 179 yards after contact, you’d better stick him good.
WR Osirus Mitchell. The Bulldogs may be using two different quarterbacks at times so far, but Mitchell is the guy you have to account for no matter who’s throwing the ball. After two games he leads the Bulldogs with eight catches, 134 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He’s quickly become starting quarterback Tommy Stevens’ favorite target.
S Brian Cole II. After two games it’s Cole, not one of the Bulldogs’ top linemen, who has been getting through the line of scrimmage with the most regularity. Cole has at least one tackle for loss in each of the first two games and ranks tied for second in the SEC in total tackles for loss (3.5). If he’s crowding the line of scrimmage, K-State had better get a blocker on him.
Kansas State (2-0)
So far it’s been sunshine and lollipops in Chris Klieman’s debut season, as the Wildcats have outscored their first two opponents 101-14. The Wildcats have stuck to the ground and been rewarded with a pair of 300-yard rushing games, their first back-to-back games like that to open a season since 1965. The benefit of the two blowout victories is that Klieman and his staff have had the opportunity to play many of their younger players and grow some of their depth, something that will come in handy against MSU and against the Big 12 once league action begins. The Wildcats entered the season with 60 true or redshirt freshmen.
Mississippi State (2-0)
Mississippi State won eight games in head coach Joe Moorhead’s first season as head coach and reached the Outback Bowl. But NCAA violations forced the Bulldogs to void all of those wins. This year the Bulldogs have picked up right where they left, winning their first two games of the season, though they only beat Louisiana by 10 points in a neutral site game in New Orleans. Quarterback Tommy Stevens seems to have solidified his hold on the quarterback job and the defense has, to this point, played well.
Mississippi State 27, Kansas State 21. It’s been a decade since MSU hosted a Power 5 team in Starkville. Neither team has been particularly tested in the first two weeks of this season, but it’s hard to go against an SEC team at home in a non-conference game. One thing is certain — we will find out a LOT more about Kansas State this week and, win or lose, Klieman and his staff get a lot to work on going into their first bye week.
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