Kansas State University

Five noteworthy things K-State coach Chris Klieman said ahead of Mississippi State

K-State RB James Gilbert ready for Mississippi State and cowbells

K-State RB James Gilbert ready for Mississippi State and cowbells
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K-State RB James Gilbert ready for Mississippi State and cowbells

Kansas State football coach Chris Klieman held his weekly news conference on Tuesday as the Wildcats began preparations for their third game of the season against Mississippi State.

Here are some of the most noteworthy things he said:

1. K-State is ready for its first true test of the season

To say the Wildcats are eager to play the Bulldogs this weekend might be an understatement.

After opening the season with a pair of blowout victories (49-14 over Nicholls and 52-0 over Bowling Green) in which K-State players faced little to no adversity, they are looking forward to facing a SEC opponent on the road.

Klieman and the Wildcats are ready to prove themselves against a quality opponent in front of a national TV audience.

“It’s a good measuring stick,” Klieman said. “We need this game. We need, as a coaching staff and as players, to find out where we are.”

Mississippi State will serve as a litmus test of sorts for K-State. The Wildcats still aren’t receiving votes in either of the national polls, but that will likely change if they pull off an upset against the Bulldogs. A loss will leave some doubts before K-State shifts to the Big 12 portion of its schedule.

2. Wyatt Hubert update

It sounds like sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert is on track to suit up for the Wildcats on Saturday.

Hubert left the Bowling Green in the first half after taking a knee to the helmet and didn’t return. Klieman has been hesitant to share health updates over the past few days, but he said Tuesday that Hubert should soon return to practice and likely play against the Bulldogs.

“I would hope so,” Klieman said. “He didn’t participate yesterday. We will see him today even if it’s limited, but we are hopeful that he can.”

Klieman also said defensive back Johnathan Durham should be available this weekend. But he’s not sure if linebacker Cody Fletcher will be ready to play while he recovers from a foot injury. Neither defensive player was on the field against Bowling Green.

3. Respect for Mississippi State’s running back

Kylin Hill ran over, around and through K-State’s defense on his way to 211 yards and two touchdowns last season when Mississippi State beat the Wildcats 31-10 in Manhattan.

He remains the engine of the Bulldogs’ offense and has already rushed for 320 yards this season.

Slowing him down will be the top objective for K-State’s defense.

“He is a great player,” Klieman said. “It’s fun to watch him. Hopefully it’s not going to be fun to watch him live, but he is tremendous. Just seeing the way that he runs — he breaks tackles, he beats you with speed, he’s a great jump-cut guy, he does everything. And they are giving him the football enough to make plays. I know that he is going to be a focal point of what we are doing on defense.”

4. Dealing with heat and humidity

The predicted high temperature for Starkville, Mississippi is 93 degrees on Saturday. But it might feel even hotter than that when you factor in humidity.

Klieman understands the conditions may take a toll on players this weekend, so he is hoping to rotate in reserves more than usual during the first half. He wants to make sure K-State’s starters have the energy needed to play their best in the fourth quarter, regardless of humidity levels.

5. Klieman’s first SEC game

During his time at North Dakota State, Klieman helped the Bison pull off upsets against teams from the Big 12 and the Big Ten. But he never had the opportunity to go against a team from the SEC.

Klieman said NDSU officials tried to schedule a road game against Alabama while he was coaching there, but he’s glad they never agreed to a deal.

This will be his first meeting with a SEC opponent.

“I’m obviously excited about the opportunity,” Klieman said. “I have been down to that area. I spoke at Georgia a couple years ago and got to see that environment. It will be a great experience for all of us as a coaching staff ... Our players are excited about the opportunity to go down there.”

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