Takeaways from K-State’s 34-0 opener over South Dakota

Adrian Martinez’s debut in the bill, a big defensive night and Deuce Vaughn doing Deuce Vaughn things
The Kansas State Wildcats blanked the South Dakota Coyotes in their season opener Saturday night.
Published: Sep. 4, 2022 at 12:37 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KWCH) - When going into a game against a lesser opponent as many do in their non-conference schedule, it’s hard to walk away with nothing to pick apart. With that being said, when a team’s defense holds their opponent scoreless and the offense has zero turnovers such as Kansas State did Saturday night against South Dakota, there’s a lot to be happy about.

The defense came out firing on all cylinders, holding the Coyotes to only four 1st downs in the first half. The pass rush was on display Saturday, posting four sacks, including one early from preseason all-American Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Anudike-Uzomah also logged a QB Hurry in the 3rd quarter.

But it was the secondary that shined on Saturday for the defense. South Dakota QB Carson Camp took to the air 34 times but the Wildcats held him to only 18 completions for 139 yards. S Cincere Mason was able to pick up an interception late in the first quarter as well. One of the biggest defensive plays that stuck with fans had to have been CB Julius Brents’ big hit on the receiver in the slot.

The big defensive night not only sparked motivation to keep the shutout but also for the offense to keep piling on the points, said RB Deuce Vaughn.

“Our defense was flying around out there. You see that on the film. You see that during the game,” Vaughn said. “They had me excited on the sideline to get back out there and go for a possession just from the way they were flying around and playing together. . . It was big time. It was cool to see.”

While it was a big night for the defense, the biggest storyline of the opener was Nebraska transfer QB Adrian Martinez’s debut in royal purple.

“It was awesome, a great experience. A new home for me,” Martinez said. “That first third down kind of took me by surprise how loud they were. So I was excited about that. My first touchdown as well, the ref had to warn me not to high-five the crowd, which I should have known better, but you know, good experience.”

It may not have been the gunslinging debut fans were hoping to see from Martinez, only taking to the air 15 times in his three quarters of work. His longest completion was only 10 yards, but the dual-threat did show off his other weapon: his rushing ability. Matter of fact, Martinez gained more yards with his legs before sacks (57) than with his arm (53).

Martinez said that the low amount of deep passes was, frankly, because the defense was allowing the short and run game all night.

“[It was] just taking what they gave us. I think they were not really wanting us to take deep shots and kind of played off a lot. Our run game was working really well and you have to always stay patient and take what they give you.”

The ‘Cats started that run game in quite the memorable fashion: a sweep that Malik Knowles took 75 yards to give KSU a 7-0 lead on the first play of scrimmage.

“I mean, it’s a great tone setter, right? I think it got the crowd going and got our team going. We were ready to play anyways, but having that one pop off the way it did was definitely a big help,” said Martinez.

It’s near impossible to talk about a big rushing game for Kansas State without talking about consensus all-American Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn picked up right where he left off, going 39 yards weaving through defenders for the touchdown on his eighth carry of the game. He would go on to be the leading rusher with 126 yards.

With a big rushing night, Martinez’s job called for more handing the ball off than anything, but he said if the team just needs him to be a bit of a game manager, he will embrace that role if needed.

“If that’s what the game calls for, if that’s what this team needs, that’s what I’m going to be,” he said. “I think we have a lot of playmakers. I don’t need to put the team on my back, per se. I have to do what coach CK wants me to do and what this team needs. Tonight, maybe it was a little bit more of a distributor and game manager type, but we got the win and that’s what matters.”

“I thought he handled everything really well. For the first time, we changed a lot of things offensively. I mean, we were not what you saw last year or even some in the bowl,” Head Coach Chris Klieman said. “I thought our operation was really good. I thought Adrian did a great job with the operational stuff. Obviously, we probably missed a couple of chances. Sometimes there were protection issues and sometimes maybe we just didn’t locate a receiver, but I thought he played really well and I thought he played within himself. You know, the one thing is, we didn’t turn the football over. If you don’t turn the football over and you block a punt and rush the ball for 297 yards good things are going to happen.”