Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the Kansas State Wildcats and the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks.
Saturday, September 2; 6:00 p.m. (CT); Bill Snyder Family Stadium; Manhattan, Kansas
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson, Stan Webber)
2022 Records: K-State 10-4 (7-2 Big 12), SEMO 9-3 (5-0 OVC)
Rankings: K-State No. 16 (AP), SEMO NR
Series History: N/A
Last Meeting: First meeting between programs
Fun Fact: SEMO was one of the top programs in the country last season at the FCS level. The Redhawks finished off last year with a shared title in the Ohio Valley Conference and earned the 11th-ranked spot in the FCS football ranking coaches poll.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
RB Treshaun Ward
While it’s no secret that the Wildcats lost their historically great running back Deuce Vaughn to the NFL Draft this year, Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman hit the portal hard and landed one of the best running backs in the nation with Treshaun Ward. Ward is a four-star prospect from Florida State who averaged a whopping 6.6 yards per carry last season on 95 attempts. After returning the entire offensive line from the previous season including the best lineman in the league, Cooper Beebe, Ward’s debut should be an interesting one to watch in rotation with sophomore running back DJ Giddens.
CB Will Lee
While the name Will Lee may not be known on a league-wide basis yet, the Wildcats are going to need the sophomore corner to step up. After seeing both veteran DBs graduate and enter the NFL Draft in Julius Brents and Ekow Boye Doe, Lee steps into the starting lineup at the wide-open cornerback position. Lee earned the nickname “the blanket” last season, and while the sophomore DB didn’t see a ton of snaps in 2022, injuries to the defensive back room called for Lee to find his way onto the field earlier than expected. With the safety position featuring big names like Kobe Savage, VJ Payne, Marcus Seigel and more, Lee should have some help over the top but with some uncertainty at his position, the development of Lee will be key for the Cats.
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE
QB Paxton DeLaurent
SEMO won nine games last season, keep that in mind. Nine wins don’t happen without an impressive player at the quarterback position. Junior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent had an excellent 2022 season with 2,684 passing yards and 22 total touchdowns scored. While DeLaurent’s numbers as an offensive threat are impressive, where he excels is keeping the ball protected. DeLaurent threw six interceptions last season, and while the level of competition in the Ohio Valley Conference is vastly different than that of the Big 12, the Missouri native could show some flashes in Manhattan.
LB Bryce Norman
The next player to watch for the Redhawks is junior linebacker Bryce Norman who led the team last season with 111 total tackles. Norman made headlines last season as he was named to the Phil Steele Third-Team, HERO Sports All-America teams, and earned First-Team All-Ohio Valley Conference honors. He became the Redhawks’ leading tackler for the second straight season after recording back-to-back 100+ seasons. Norman should have his hands full with the Wildcats’ dynamic rushing attack, but as one of the best linebackers at the FCS level, expect Norman to be on the move.
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
Can this team climb the mountaintop in back-to-back seasons? With a changing slate of Big 12 teams joining the conference in 2023 and 2024, can Chris Klieman, Will Howard, and the boys find a way to make a statement in the new Big 12? While the first game of the season against SEMO won’t tell the tale of the full season, the Wildcats lost a close game in the non-conference schedule last season to Tulane and with tough matchups in back-to-back weeks against Troy and Missouri, Week One could start off a little slower than K-State fans hope for.
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE
Can the Redhawks punch up at Kansas State? Despite winning the Ohio Valley Conference last season with an overall record of 9-3, SEMO was destroyed by the Big 12’s weakest team last season against Iowa State. While I don’t expect the Redhawks to come out and dethrone a Division 1 giant, I do expect the squad to find a piece of success or two given what they learned last season against the Cyclones. The game is much faster in the Big 12 Conference than it is in the OVC, and while I don’t see the squad competing with Chris Klieman’s Wildcats, a semi-competitive outing could position the team for another solid run in 2023, depending on if you believe in moral victories or not.
PREDICTION: KANSAS STATE 37, SEMO 13
While some people may expect to see K-State go out and air the football out down the field with a razzle-dazzle-style offense to kick the season off, I don’t think Chris Klieman is going to be the type to run up the score. K-State’s defense was on fire in the non-conference schedule last year and I completely expect that to continue, but with some question marks remaining in the secondary at the cornerback position, I could see the Redhawks finding a score or two. Expect Howard and the Wildcats to comfortably handle business in the first few drives then let the defense and the run game finish things off.