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K-State Plans to Use Veteran Howard, Freshman Star Johnson at QB Moving Forward


By Dave Skretta


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas State coach Chris Klieman plans to use both veteran Will Howard and Avery Johnson at quarterback going forward after the freshman standout came on against Texas Tech last weekend and matched a school record with five touchdown runs.

The Wildcats were struggling to move the ball against the Red Raiders with Howard, who replaced the injured Adrian Martinez last season and led them to the Big 12 championship. But when Johnson entered the game, the dual-threat quarterback energized Kansas State, which wound up overcoming a third-quarter deficit for a 38-21 victory.

“What we learned from this past Saturday is that we’ve seen Will play at a really high level and be successful, and then we saw Avery play at a high level and be successful,” Klieman said Tuesday. “So we feel comfortable with both guys.”

Howard, who has started the first six games for the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 Big 12), has struggled at times this season. He has thrown for 1,310 yards with nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions. That includes three picks two weeks ago at Oklahoma State, when the senior quarterback was just 15 of 34 for 152 yards and a touchdown in the 29-21 loss.

That defeat, coupled with a loss to Missouri in which Howard also struggled, left the Wildcats in a tough position in the Big 12 race. They face TCU on Saturday night in a rematch of last year’s conference title game, then play conference newcomer Houston before a showdown with third-ranked Texas that could help decide who plays in this year’s championship game.

Kansas State listed both Howard and Johnson as the starter for the Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2), but Klieman said there will be no decision on the amount of playing time each will receive until the game plan is finalized later in the week.

“If you thought it would be a 60-40, 50-50 or a 90-10 split, we have no idea,” Klieman said. “We’re going to go through the game plan and see who, where and what gives us the best opportunity.”

Johnson is known for his blazing speed — some say he’s the fastest on the roster — and that showed last Saturday, when he carried 13 times for 90 yards and those five scores. But he also was 8 of 9 for 77 yards through the air against the Red Raiders, and he is 11 of 13 for 132 yards when figuring some playing time against Southeast Missouri State and Missouri.

“We saw the speed instantly, out there running in the summer. ‘This kid can roll.’ And we got into fall camp and it was like, ‘OK, he can throw too,’” Kansas State wide receiver Jadon Jackson said. “He’s something special.”

Johnson got a jump on his college career last fall, when he helped lead Maize High School to a second straight Kansas state title before graduating early. That allowed him to enroll at Kansas State at the semester and take place in spring ball.

“First two months he was a little quiet and things like that,” Wildcats running back Treshaun Ward said. “As he got comfortable for us, he started talking more. He’s on the right track to be a leader, and he’ll be an incredible leader, too.”