Kansas State head football coach Chris Klieman began last week believing Malik Knowles and Walter Neil would be able to play Saturday against Iowa State. He deemed it “a good chance” during his weekly press conference Tuesday. And he even said he was “more encouraged” about their potential availability than he was when they left the victory at Texas Tech with undisclosed injuries.
But when Saturday rolled around, neither Knowles nor Neil took the field in K-State’s eventual 27-17 victory.
Neil, who has started all 10 games he’s appeared in this fall at cornerback, “was not close” to being cleared to play, Klieman said afterward. The prognosis is rosier going forward, however.
“I would assume he’d be ready when we play, whenever it is, in December,” said Klieman, referring to the Wildcats’ upcoming bowl game, which will be announced Dec. 8.
Klieman thought Knowles, a redshirt freshman receiver, “maybe could go.” But the Wildcats held him out, along with fellow wideout Wykeen Gill.
“I think part of that was the weather, too,” Klieman said. “It’s hard to get warmed up and loose.”
Both Knowles and Gill missed two games during the regular season.
Despite battling various injuries since a win at Mississippi State in September, Knowles ranks second on the team in receiving yards (350), touchdown catches (three) and yards per game (35). Gill is fourth in receptions (14), yards (216) and yards per game (21.6) while also hauling in a pair of touchdowns.
The good news for the Wildcats is that Klieman is thankful they have so many other options in the receiving corps, from Chabastin Taylor and Phillip Brooks to Landry Weber, Dalton Schoen and Joshua Youngblood.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Chabastin,” Klieman said. “Obviously, with Phillip making plays and Landry and Dalton and Josh, and with the wind the way it was, we knew it was going to be a game where we’d have to rush the football.”