MANHATTAN, Kan. – Bill Snyder begins his 27th season as Kansas State coach with a tough decision to make at quarterback, so it looks like junior Alex Delton and sophomore Skylar Thompson could split time when the Wildcats host FCS member South Dakota on Saturday. Delton and Thompson each started four of the final eight contests last season after senior Jesse Ertz was lost for the year with a knee injury.
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“I think the first ballgame will tell us an awful lot, perhaps,” Snyder, who is 210-110-1 at Kansas State, told reporters. “There’s some circumstances that take place in the course of a ballgame on Saturday afternoon that can’t occur in a practice or a game. But we’ve seen them both under pressure before, and both of them have done quite well.”
Both quarterbacks have performed well in training camp, making Snyder's decision more difficult, and each possesses a solid resume. Thompson led the Wildcats to late-season victories over Texas Tech, No. 13 Oklahoma State and Iowa State while Delton took over from him and rushed for 158 yards while accounting for four touchdowns in Kansas State's 35-17 triumph over UCLA in the Cactus Bowl.
The Coyotes, members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, advanced to the second round of the 2017 FCS playoffs before losing to Sam Houston State 54-42.
ABOUT SOUTH DAKOTA (2017: 8-5)
Junior Austin Simmons takes over at quarterback for Chris Streveler, who plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL, after throwing four touchdown passes in 28 attempts in a backup role last season.
Senior wide receiver Shamar Jackson, an all-MVFC first-team preseason selection, caught a team-high 53 passes last season (14.3 yards per reception) with four touchdowns and leads a deep receiving corps. Kody Case, who caught 25 passes for 430 yards and five TDs as a freshman in 2017, told reporters
"My favorite part about it is how fast we all play. You don’t give the defense a break. Plus, everyone is ready to go. Fresh legs all the time. If somebody is tired, they can just sub out and the next guy knows all the plays and can make all the catches.”
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (2017: 8-5)
Delton appears to be the strongest runner of the two quarterbacks but will play a supporting role to Alex Barnes, a 6-1, 225-pound junior who rushed for 819 yards and seven touchdowns last season despite dealing with a persistent ankle injury.
“Alex has been unbelievable,” offensive coordinator Andre Coleman told the Wichita Eagle. “He had a great summer and has probably been the most impressive guy in camp. He is committed to the process, committed to the team, he has developed as a leader. It won’t be a surprise to me when he (excels) on Saturdays.”
The linebacking corps is expected to be led by juniors Elijah Sullivan and Da'Quan Patton under first-year defensive coordinator Blake Seiler.
1. The Wildcats are one of five FBS teams to return 65-of-65 starts on the offensive line from 2017.
2. Snyder is 24-2 in home openers.
3. Kansas State has won all four meetings, including a 34-0 rout in 2015 in the last encounter.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 38, South Dakota 10