AMES, Iowa — Kansas State might have a quarterback controversy brewing. After Iowa State roughed up Will Howard, the team’s freshman starter, K-State turned to backup signal-caller Nick Ast on Saturday.
Howard completed only 33% (3 of 9) of his passes for 32 yards and an interception before he was pulled prior to the team’s final drive of the first half.
Ast was more accurate, connecting on 60% (6-for-10) of his attempts. But he still only totaled 44 yards through the air as the Cyclones blanked the Wildcats 45-0.
Afterward, head coach Chris Klieman declined to say Howard remained at the top of the depth chart. Ast, a fourth-year junior, has never started a collegiate game.
“I don’t have any idea about that,” said Klieman, referring to who will start under center for next week’s game at Baylor. “We’ll evaluate it over the week.”
Two factors were at play in the quarterback shakeup, Klieman said. One was that Howard “took a pretty good shot” from an Iowa State defender in the early stages of the second quarter. The other was that he felt Ast had earned an opportunity for meaningful reps.
The hit Howard took started it all.
“(I thought) he kind of got rattled a little bit because of that shot,” Klieman said.
Removing him from the game, Klieman said, also was out of concern for Howard’s well being.
“I didn’t want to have Will take any more shots, because we weren’t really doing a great job of protecting,” Klieman said. “They were teeing off.”
After Howard threw an interception later in the second quarter, Klieman said he felt it was time to turn to Ast.
“I just thought, ‘Let’s let Nick have an opportunity,’” Klieman said. “I didn’t think the game was going the right way. (So my thinking was), ‘Let’s let Nick have an opportunity and see what he can do. He’s earned the right. He’s had great practices. He’s been with us the whole time.’ (We) wanted to see what he could do.”
With Ast at the controls, running back Deuce Vaughn said the playbook remains the same. Best he could tell, the biggest difference between Ast and Howard is height, though the two are only an inch apart: Ast is 6-foot-5 while Howard is 6-foot-4.
"Whenever Nick came in, it was kind of just business as usual," said Vaughn, who leads the Wildcats in both rushing yards (425) and receiving yards (370) this fall. "We don't really change anything up. We're going to go and execute the offense. Coach Messingham is going to call the plays, and we're going to have to execute. Nothing really changed in my eyes."