Skylar Thompson’s injury isn’t season ending. It will, however, put his season on hold for the time being, Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman said Monday.
Thompson, K-State’s sixth-year senior starting quarterback, suffered a leg injury at the 7:21 mark of the first quarter of Saturday’s 31-23 victory over Southern Illinois. He did not return.
During Klieman’s appearance on the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday morning, he said Thompson likely will be back at some point later this fall. Klieman did not officially rule Thompson out for Saturday’s game against Nevada, but every indication was that he would not play.
“Skylar is going to be out indefinitely,” Klieman said. “We don’t believe it to be a season-ending injury, which is what I know I feared Saturday — that he would be lost for the season. We don’t feel it to be that way. But it’s going to be some time. I can’t tell you how long.”
Klieman said Thompson underwent an MRI on Sunday that “confirmed some things” they originally thought about the injury; Klieman declined to provide any specifics about the nature or extent of the injury. Klieman noted that Thompson’s spirits were “a little bit better” when they spoke Sunday evening.
Not that it makes his latest injury any easier to stomach.
“It’s tough, without question,” Klieman said. “What he went through last year, and to be able to come back and play this sixth year and had a great fall camp, I know when he went down, all of us kind of gasped, like, ‘Oh no. Not again.’ It’s part of the game. He knows it, and it’s frustrating, because it’s not fair. Why does it happen to somebody two years in a row? ... You only get so many opportunities to play this great game. He’s going to have some opportunities taken away again.”
Thompson had completed three of his four passes for 96 yards and an interception at the time of his departure.
With Thompson sidelined for now, it means Will Howard moves to the top of the depth chart.
A sophomore from Pennsylvania, Howard took the field immediately after Thompson’s injury. Howard scored a rushing touchdown to cap the drive and led the Wildcats to another touchdown on the following possession.
But he struggled after that, throwing an interception that the Salukis returned for a touchdown and fumbling the ball away in the second quarter that allowed the visitors to rally from a 21-3 deficit to take a 23-21 lead into the half.
Howard finished the game with 76 passing yards, connecting on 47.1% of his attempts (8-for-17) without a touchdown and the aforementioned pick-six interception. He ran eight times for 9 yards and a touchdown.
It marks the second consecutive year an early season injury to Thompson forced Howard into action.
Thompson went down in Game 3 last fall, suffering a season-ending upper body injury in the first half of K-State’s game versus Texas Tech on Oct. 3. Howard came on in relief and helped the Wildcats earn a 31-21 victory.
Howard then started the final seven games of the season. He initially found success, leading K-State to wins over TCU and Kansas. (The victory over the Horned Frogs marked the first time in school history a true freshman quarterback earned a win in his first career road start.) But things went downhill from there: he ended the season on a five-game losing streak, throwing interceptions in all five of those defeats — tossing multiple interceptions three times in that span (three against West Virginia and two each versus Baylor and Texas, respectively).
Howard ended last season with 1,178 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 53.6% passing (90 of 168). He added 364 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries, highlighted by an 80-yard score — on the road against the Horned Frogs — in his debut as the starting signal-caller.
The 80-yard run was the seventh-longest rush in school history (since K-State started keeping detailed statistics in 1969) and the second longest by a quarterback.
While Klieman said Howard will “take the lion’s share” of the first-team reps at practice this week, Jaren Lewis is primed for a bigger role as the backup quarterback.
“We’ll get Jaren Lewis ready,” said Klieman, referring to the third-year sophomore who has yet to appear in a game for the Wildcats. “Jaren is taking a lot of reps and has done a really good job throughout fall camp.”
Klieman said the coaching staff still is undecided about who will rise to the No. 3 spot on the depth chart.
The two options: four-star true freshman Jake Rubley and walk-on Max Marsh, a redshirt freshman from Grand Junction, Colo.
“We’ll bring one of the young guys up from the scout team,” Klieman said.
“We’re still kind of debating back and forth as to who’s going to be that third guy.”