K-State QB Skylar Thompson praises Malik Knowles after Bowling Green victory
The most encouraging part of Kansas State’s 52-0 annihilation of Bowling Green was the performance of a single player.
His name is Malik Knowles, and he had a game to remember. The redshirt freshman receiver looked like a legit difference-maker while making five catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson targeted him every time he needed a big play, and good results followed on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Best of all, Knowles played that way a week after he had a game to forget.
“This is big,” Knowles said afterward. “It’s a relief. I kind of took it hard this week. This is what I needed to bounce back.”
The Wildcats seem set in the rushing department. They had no problem churning out rushing yards in their first two games against soft competition, but they will need Knowles to get open and make big catches for them to keep moving the chains against stronger foes starting next week at Mississippi State. The Wildcats will take their chances after what Knowles gave them against Bowling Green.
His swagger is back. Some wondered if he lost confidence following K-State’s opening game. He had a decent effort, but many focused on the plays he didn’t make, such as the two passes he dropped in the end zone. Both were difficult balls to corral, but a pro would have reeled them in. Thompson hit him in stride on both plays and Knowles got his hands on each of them. Some thought Knowles may need a little more time to develop the soft touch required to be a No. 1 receiver.
But he silenced those doubters on Saturday. Many of the five catches he made were difficult.
For example: He beat a defender one-on-one with a fade route for a 34-yard touchdown in the second quarter and left his feet for a pair of sideline grabs.
“I have seen that all through fall camp,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said. “It’s been kind of cool, because he makes the tough catches. Sometimes he will drop the one everyone expects him to make. Then he will go out and three plays later in practice you’re like, ‘Holy cow, what a great catch.’ I just think he is playing with a ton of confidence, and it helps when Skylar is confident in him and continues to go back to him.”
That’s not going to change. Thompson views Knowles as the top receiver on the team and has thrown his way accordingly in each of K-State’s first two games.
Thompson paid him the ultimate compliment when K-State faced a fourth-and-3 from the Bowling Green 34. Most assumed the Wildcats would try and pick up the first down on the ground, but Thompson urged K-State coaches to let him throw to Knowles on a fade route. Why go for a first down when a touchdown was available?
Klieman and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham gave the green light and the rest is history.
“He showed exactly what he is capable of doing,” Thompson said. “I was really proud of how he responded to last week, because I knew there was a lot of talk about a couple drops he had, and this and that. I texted him Sunday and was like, ‘Dude, I love you. I am going to keep believing in you, and I am going to keep throwing you the ball. You better believe that and be ready to go.’”
That encouragement was exactly what Knowles needed.
He responded in a big way and gave K-State a valuable extra dimension on offense.
“He made me look great in a lot of different situations today on some throws that I wasn’t exactly perfect with,” Thompson said. “He made a great catch on multiple occasions. The sky is the limit for Malik.”