MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Will Howard threw for 297 yards and two scores, added touchdowns running and receiving to complete a rare trifecta, and led No. 16 Kansas State to a 45-0 rout of Southeast Missouri State on Saturday night in its season opener.
DJ Giddens ran for 128 yards and Treshaun Ward, a touted transfer from Florida State, had a TD run, helping the reigning Big 12 champion Wildcats cruise past one of the better teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Paxton DeLaurent had 213 yards passing for the Redhawks, who managed just 227 yards of total offense.
Howard took over as the Wildcats' starter midway through last season, leading them to upsets of two top-10 teams, including a victory over College Football Playoff participant TCU in the conference title game. And in Howard's first opener as the clear-cut No. 1, the senior QB picked up where he left off by leading Kansas State on five first-half touchdown drives.
He capped the first with a 33-yard pass to Jadon Jackson, the second with a keeper from a yard out and the third with a 37-yard strike to RJ Garcia. Ward pushed the lead to 28-0 before Howard finished an 89-yard march with the most improbable of scores: an 8-yard reception from Ward, who had taken the handoff before throwing it back to Howard.
Bo Nix accomplished the feat for Oregon last year — TDs throwing, receiving and running — in a win over Colorado. Desmond Ridder did it for Cincinnati during a blowout of Southern Methodist in 2021.
The only blip on Howard's otherwise exceptional performance came when he was hit while throwing. The pass sailed high across the middle and was picked off by the Redhawks' Antonio Taylor, though their ensuing drive went nowhere.
Chris Tennant tied a career-long with a 51-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 38-0 lead at the break.
Southeast Missouri State, which qualified for the FCS playoffs a year ago, had some success through the air the few times DeLaurent was given a chance to look downfield. But the Redhawks accomplished nothing on the ground with Geno Hess, the school's career record-holder for yards rushing. He lost 4 yards on 10 carries.
Kansas State gave Howard the rest of the night off late in the third quarter, allowing highly-rated recruit Avery Johnson to make his debut. He capped a 79-yard drive by dashing through the Southeast Missouri State defense on a 7-yard scoring run.
SEMO: It was a rude homecoming for Redhawks coach Tom Matukewicz, who grew up about 35 miles from the Kansas State campus in Silver Lake, Kansas. The defending Ohio Valley champions gave up 588 yards of offense to the Wildcats.
Kansas State: It was an impressive all-around start to a non-conference schedule that slowly builds in quality of opposition. Troy is on deck next week before the Wildcats take a trip to former Big 12 rival Missouri the following week.
SEMO plays Lindenwood next Saturday.
Kansas State plays the Trojans next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll