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5 Kansas State players to watch against Iowa State
Consensus All-America RB Deuce Vaughn is coming off his best performance of the season
AMES — Iowa State’s two straight Big 12 football losses share many different story elements.
First, commit a controversial penalty or two that aids the opposing offense. Second, turn the ball over and struggle to score touchdowns after promising drives. Finally, fail to execute consistently in all phases on special teams.
So suffice it to say there’s lots to clean up as the Cyclones (3-2, 0-2) try to reverse that troubling trend at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against No. 20 Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium.
“We’ll learn from it, we’ll grow from it and we’ll continue to push on forward,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said.
The Chris Klieman-led Wildcats (4-1, 2-0) opened as 2-point favorites according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. Below are five Royal Purple-clad players to watch under the lights on Saturday against the Cyclones.
RB Deuce Vaughn
Kansas State’s shifty and speedy top back can do it all.
Vaughn entered the season ranked third all-time in Big 12 history in combined rushing and receiving yards per play (6.1), and leads the conference in rushing this season with 638 yards on 110 carries (5.8 average). He’s coming off his best performance of the season in last Saturday’s win over Texas Tech. Vaughn churned out a career-high 170 yards on the ground in that 37-28 win and has rushed for 100-plus yards in nine of his past 10 games.
Vaughn was a consensus All-American last season — an honor he’ll almost certainly attain again this season.
DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound junior leads the Big 12 in sacks with 5.5 and his next quarterback takedown will vault him into the top 10 in Kansas State history.
Anudike-Uzomah also has forced two fumbles this season along with seven tackles for loss, so he’s a problem as a pass rusher and in run support. Anudike-Uzomah dominated Texas Tech’s offensive line last week, notching three sacks in the Wildcats’ win.
He’ll similarly torment ISU quarterback Hunter Dekkers this week unless the Cyclones’ offensive line improves substantially after allowing five sacks in a 14-11 loss at No. 19 Kansas.
QB Adrian Martinez
Martinez will make his 46th career start on Saturday — and the first 40 came as Nebraska’s longtime (and long-suffering) quarterback.
His transfer to Kansas State has proved to be mutually beneficial, as the 6-3, 225-pounder from Fresno, Calif., perfectly complements Vaughn in the running game. Martinez has thrown more than 20 passes in a game just twice this season, but he owns a three-to-zero touchdown-to-interception ratio and has completed 62.2 percent of his throws.
Martinez rushed for a career-best 171 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over the Red Raiders and ran for four touchdowns in the Wildcats’ Big 12 season-opening win over Oklahoma.
S Kobe Savage
The junior college transfer has been a playmaker for the Wildcats in his first season at the FBS level, rising up for a team high-tying two interceptions while forcing a fumble in his first five games.
The 5-11, 206-pound junior also ranks second on the team in total tackles with 27 and is averaging 10 tackles per game in Big 12 play, including a conference-best 16 solo stops in Kansas State’s two league wins.
WR Malik Knowles
The 6-3, 200-pound pound senior can beat defenders on short passes and on downfield throws, but his NFL-worthy talent shines most in the return game.
Knowles entered 2022 tied for fourth in program history in kickoff return touchdowns with three and already has returned one kickoff 58 yards this season.
He’s also caught 15 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown this season — and sprinted for a 75-yard touchdown in Kansas State’s season-opening win over South Dakota