BY JACKSON SCHNEIDER
MANHATTAN, Kan. — What started out as a lively, electric environment inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium quickly turned south on Saturday.
Midway through the first quarter, K-State starting quarterback Skylar Thompson came up lame while blocking for teammate Deuce Vaughn on a broken play. After being attended to by K-State training staff, Thompson was assisted to the injury tent with an apparent knee injury.
Despite Thompson's injury, K-State was able to grit out and eight-point win over Southern Illinois, 31-23.
It's not clear at this point just how long Thompson will be out with this injury, but Head Coach Chris Klieman says he'll hope for the best.
"I visited with him at the time and I was pretty emotional, it's a pretty special kid to me," said Klieman on the injury. "I'm sick for the kid. Devastated. We'll pray for the best and we'll pray for the best and see what happens."
Will Howard took over under center for Kansas State, but the issues didn't stop there. Four first-half turnovers lead directly to 13 Southern Illinois points, and a 23-0 Saluki advantage in the second quarter gave K-State's FCS opponent a halftime lead.
"There were ups and downs for sure," said Howard in postgame. "You have to come in and be ready at all times, and you know, we won the game, always happy that we won, but there were things that we, and I, need to clean up and I know that more than anybody."
In the second half, K-State's defense was the story, shutting the Salukis out and forcing two key turnovers, and one that sealed the win.
A sack from Felix Anudike forcing a fumble recovered by Timmy Horne with under a minute to play allowed the Wildcats to kneel out the clock and move on to 2-0.
Linebacker Cody Fletcher assured media that he and his defensive counterparts didn't feel any added pressure to perform due to the offense's struggles, stating, "We believe in our offense 100-percent. They got us a lead, so if they give us a lead, you know, we should win the game because it's on us for sure."
As the old saying goes, "the best part of winning ugly is winning," but all things considered, K-State is left with nothing but questions now. Although Howard held steady in the second half, his play left much to be desired, and many wondering what lies ahead.
Following last year, where Thompson suffered a season-ending injury and a Howard-led K-State team lost its final five games, fans will certainly feel like it's deja vu, but Chris Klieman's faith hasn't wavered in his young quarterback, or his team.
"Yeah, we were down a quarterback, but shoot, we've got good players at all positions and we need to step up and play," said Klieman. "A win's a win, and I'm never going to not enjoy a win, we just have a lot of work to do."
Kansas State will now turn its attention to a Nevada team that's receiving votes in national polls, and already has one win over a power five opponent. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, with live coverage on 1420 AM and 107.9 FM KJCK.