MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State quarterback Will Howard has earned a reputation for having an NFL-caliber arm, and it was on display in a season-opening 45-0 rout of Southeast Missouri State on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Howard is hardly known for his legs.
Or his receiving ability, for that matter.
Yet along with throwing for 297 yards and two scores, Howard added TDs running and receiving for a rare trifecta, while the No. 16 Wildcats got another dominant defensive performance in pitching a shutout on a hot night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“We’re doing what we have to do to score points and win,” Howard said of his all-around performance. “Let’s go. Let’s do it.”
DJ Giddens ran for 128 yards and Treshaun Ward, a touted transfer from Florida State, had a TD run, helping the reigning Big 12 champion Wildcats cruise past one of the better teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Paxton DeLaurent had 213 yards passing for the Redhawks, who managed just 227 yards of total offense on a night when the temperature at kickoff was 100 degrees — the third-hottest on record at Kansas State.
“We knew we were going to have to play a lot of guys,” Wildcats coach Chris Klieman said. “We were going to play a lot of younger players, redshirt freshmen and some new players, and then a ton of freshmen. Pleased for those guys. Hit some home runs on the recruiting class because a lot of young guys played for us.”
An old one led the way, though.
Howard took over as the Wildcats’ starter midway through last season, leading them to upsets of two top-10 teams, including a victory over College Football Playoff participant TCU in the conference title game. And in Howard’s first opener as the clear-cut No. 1, the senior QB picked up where he left off by leading Kansas State on five first-half touchdown drives.
He capped the first with a 33-yard pass to Jadon Jackson, the second with a keeper from a yard out and the third with a 37-yard strike to RJ Garcia. Ward pushed the lead to 28-0 before Howard finished an 89-yard march with the most improbable of scores: an 8-yard reception from Ward, who had taken the handoff before throwing it back to Howard.
“Just being Will. That’s what he does every time he plays,” said Garcia, who had five catches for 119 yards to go with his TD reception. “He just gives you a sense of confidence out there.”
Bo Nix accomplished the feat for Oregon last year — TDs throwing, receiving and running — in a win over Colorado. Desmond Ridder did it for Cincinnati during a blowout of Southern Methodist in 2021.
The only blip on Howard’s otherwise exceptional performance came when he was hit while throwing. The pass sailed high across the middle and was picked off by the Redhawks’ Antonio Taylor, though their ensuing drive went nowhere.
Chris Tennant tied a career-long with a 51-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 38-0 lead at the break.
Southeast Missouri State coach Tom Matukewicz, who grew up in nearby Silver Lake, called Kansas State a program “I grew up idolizing.” But that didn’t mean the Wildcats took it easy on him in what amounted to a homecoming.
The Redhawks, who qualified for the FCS playoffs a year ago, had modest success through the air when DeLaurent was given time to look downfield. But they accomplished nothing on the ground with Geno Hess, the school’s career record-holder for yards rushing; he lost 4 yards on 10 carries.
Kansas State gave Howard the rest of the night off late in the third quarter, allowing highly-rated recruit Avery Johnson to make his debut. He capped a 79-yard drive by dashing through the Southeast Missouri State defense on a 7-yard scoring run.
“He did some really good things,” Klieman said. “We’ll kind of evaluate and see how he did, but I was so happy for Avery, so pleased for him to get into the end zone for his first game. There was no doubt you could hear the ovation when he came in.”