What started as a game became a coronation.
Kansas State, in the first contest under new head coach Chris Klieman, avoided making Saturday more dramatic than needed. Receiving the opening kickoff, K-State went on to score touchdowns on each of its first four possessions against Nicholls at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats took a 28-0 lead into the locker room, and from there, all that was needed was to play out the string of the final 30 minutes.
When the clock struck zero, Klieman walked off the field a 49-14 winner in his debut.
Arriving at his postgame press conference, Klieman joked there was one aspect of the victory that pleased him most.
“That it’s over,” he said with a grin. “You can’t win a game on Monday. You’ve got to stack Monday on top of Tuesday and go from there. ... It was really fun for me to see.”
K-State finished with 573 yards of total offense, nearly 300 more than Nicholls’ 276.
Klieman said he challenged his team “to have a fast start and be on point.” Then the Wildcats went out and did just that.
“We had to be able to run the football,” he said. “Our offensive line really dominated the football game.”
The Wildcats’ (1-0) four first-half touchdowns came in the same manner: on the ground. What differed were the names involved: each touchdown was scored by a different player.
It began with K-State’s opening possession of the 2019 campaign.
Using a variety of formations and play calls, the Wildcats drove to the Colonels’ 28-yard line before it appeared they would have to settle for a field goal. But on the third-and-six scramble by quarterback Skylar Thompson, Nicholls safety Khristian Mims grabbed the signal-caller’s face mask and wouldn’t let go. Officials assessed Mims a personal foul penalty for the violation, giving K-State first-and-10 at Nicholls’ 14-yard line.
Two plays later, junior running back Harry Trotter bounced outside and broke multiple tackles on his way to a 9-yard score — the first touchdown of his K-State career after sitting out last season following his transfer from Louisville — to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead following Blake Lynch’s extra point.
It didn’t take K-State long to get the ball back to its offense. Cornerback AJ Parker picked off Nicholls quarterback Chase Fourcade on the second play of the next possession, returning it 20 yards to help the Wildcats set up shop in their opponent’s territory.
Thompson exacted an ounce of revenge on Mims for the transgression on the previous possession. On second-and-10, Thompson juked Mims, leaving the defender grasping at air as the junior quarterback dashed into the end zone for a 17-yard score with 5:45 left in the first period.
The Wildcats scored two more rushing touchdowns before the half concluded, one by Jordon Brown (a 14-yarder at the 13:35 mark of the second quarter) and one by starter James Gilbert (a 24-yarder with 6:21 to go in the second quarter).
Despite leading 28-0 at the break, the lead could have been even larger; Thompson hit senior receiver Dalton Schoen for a 20-yard scoring strike. But after review, the touchdown was overturned because it was determined Schoen didn’t maintain possession as he fell to the ground.
One play later, Lynch pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide left.
The Colonels (0-1) wasted no time scoring in the second half, taking just five plays to traverse 75 yards. Running back Kendall Bussey capped the drive — which lasted just 2:14 — with a 26-yard touchdown run, helping the visitors from the Southland Conference of the FCS avoid a shutout. Nicholls kept up the momentum on the ensuing drive, stuffing Trotter for no gain on a fourth-and-1, as the Wildcats elected to roll the dice 23 yards away from the end zone.
But those back-to-back drives proved to be the lone highlights for Nicholls, which entered the game ranked among the top 15 in the FCS in both major preseason polls. The Colonels also boasted a quarterback in Fourcade who’s expected to contend for the Walter Payton Award, annually given to the player deemed the top offensive player in the FCS.
From there, K-State reasserted its dominance, punching in three more touchdowns.
One was another Thompson-to-Schoen connection — and this time, there was no need for a review, as Schoen crossed the goal line untouched for a 38-yard score.
The defense joined in the fun on the following possession, as strong safety Jonathan Alexander muscled the ball away from Nicholls running back Julien Gums for a 25-yard strip-and-score. Tyler Burns put the finishing touches on the 35-point victory, scoring from 1 yard out with 6:41 remaining.
The Colonels tacked on a garbage-time touchdown on the following possession — a 3-yard run at the 3:01 mark of the final quarter — with the result already long decided.
Despite the margin of victory, Klieman couldn’t praise his foe enough.
“That’s a good football team we beat today,” he said. “I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Nicholls. They did a good job taking it to us to start the second half. ... I challenged our guys in there not to be complacent, not to be satisfied with just one (win). We need to continue to stack good days on top of good days.”