Wildcats Special in Season Opener

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas State scored two special teams touchdowns and stopped Illinois State quarterback Luke Drone on a 2-point conversion in the final minutes to preserve a 24-23 victory Saturday night in the head coaching debut of Ron Prince.

Trailing 17-16 with 8:25 to go, Kansas State's Marcus Perry popped the ball out of the arms of Illinois State's Jason Horton and into the hands of cornerback Byron Garvin, who sprinted 9 yards into the end zone to give the Wildcats the lead.

Dylan Meier hit tight end Rashaad Norwood for the 2-point conversion to make it 24-17, but the Redbirds came right back, just as they had all game.

Driving 47 yards in just over 5 minutes, Drone hit a wide open Pierre Jackson in the corner of the end zone to pull within 24-23 with 3:02 to go.

But instead of kicking the extra point, coach Denver Johnson elected to go for 2 and the win. Drone dropped back to pass but was quickly swallowed by the Kansas State defensive line to preserve the victory.

Meier threw for 163 yards and Jeff Snodgrass had two field goals for the Wildcats (1-0), who didn't score a touchdown on offense and were out-gained 346 to 207.

Drone finished with 253 yards passing and three touchdowns, including a 3-yard fade pass to Laurent Robinson that gave the Division I-AA Redbirds (0-1) a 17-13 lead with 12:35 to go in the game.

Robinson finished with nine catches for 77 yards, and his 4-yard TD grab early in the second half gave him the school record with 23 career touchdown catches.

The stadium was officially renamed in honor of former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder in a ceremony before the game. But there was little for the Wildcats to celebrate after that.

Meier, who beat out heralded freshman Josh Freeman for the starting job, threw into double-coverage on the game's opening play and was intercepted by Illinois State safety Tom Nelson -- one of two he had in the first half.

The Redbirds then marched 53 yards in 11 plays, setting up Kevin Mazur's 35-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Kansas State didn't manage a first down until late in the first quarter and gained only 23 yards rushing in a sloppy first half.

The Wildcats' first sustained drive was derailed by Yamon Figurs' holding penalty inside the Illinois State 20. A few minutes later, Snodgrass pulled a 38-yard field goal attempt wide left.

Kansas State didn't score until Snodgrass hit a 52-yard field goal with 4:54 to go before halftime, which capped a 13-play, 59-yard drive.

Illinois State appeared headed for halftime tied at 3-3 when Bobby Kelsey out-punted his coverage. The speedy Figurs managed to turn the corner in front of the Kansas State bench and raced 81 yards for a touchdown and a 10-3 halftime lead.