Wildcats Tangle with Owls Tonight

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State continues its four-game season-opening homestand tonight at 6:10 p.m., when the Wildcats welcome legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger and the Florida Atlantic Owls to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. For the second week, there is no live television for tonight's contest, with the game slated to air on radio across the 31-station K-State Sports network, including KMAN (1350 AM) and KMKF (101.5 FM) here in Manhattan.

The Wildcats are coming off their school-record 17th straight season-opening victory in head coach Ron Prince's debut last weekend and now set their sights on their 16th 2-0 start in the last 17 seasons.

Tonight's game is the second of a season-opening four-game non-conference homestand for the Wildcats, who enter the contest riding a five-game winning streak vs. non-Big 12 foes. K-State extended its non-league string of victories with a hard-fought 24-23 win over Illinois State last week to hand Prince his first career victory as a head coach.

The Cats' opponent, Florida Atlantic, is coming off a 54-6 loss at Clemson and will be looking to bounce back after managing just a pair of third-quarter field goals in Death Valley last week.

Saturday's game will be the first between Kansas State and Florida Atlantic. The Wildcats have faced Howard Schnellenberger, defeating the veteran coach during his lone season at Oklahoma in 1995. K-State has also faced plenty of FAU's Sun Belt Conference brethren.

Tonight's game will mark the ninth straight season that Kansas State will face a current or former member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Wildcats are 11-1 all time against current members of the league and following this evening's game against Florida Atlantic will have faced all but one current conference member - Middle Tennessee State.

The Wildcats are riding a nine-game winning streak vs. current Sun Belt Conference teams, including wins over Florida International and North Texas last season. Kansas State's last and only loss against a current member of the Sun Belt occurred during the 1985 campaign, when the Cats dropped a 22-10 decision to North Texas in Manhattan.

Kansas State has also been tough on non-conference competition in general and has posted perfect non-conference ledgers eight times in the last 10 years, including a 3-0 mark last season. In all non-conference games over the last decade (Big 12 era), the Wildcats own a 37-6 (.860) record, with a 33-2 (.942) mark in non-conference regular-season tilts.

Riding a hard-nosed defensive effort that included 10 tackles for losses and special teams units that produced a number of big plays, Kansas State will look to get its third phase of the game untracked tonight against Florida Atlantic.

K-State managed 207 yards of total offense in last week's season opener, but did just enough to help eke out the win, including converting a crucial two-point conversion with 8:25 to play that proved to be the difference in the game.

Senior quarterback Dylan Meier was solid in his first appearance since 2004, connecting on 15-of-26 passes (58 percent) for 163 yards, but did throw a pair of interceptions.

Tight end Rashaad Norward (5 for 53 yards) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (4 for 62 yards) were the primary targets, with Norwood hauling in a career-high five receptions to pace the Wildcats.

Five other Wildcat receivers got into the pass-catching act as Meier wasn't shy about spreading the wealth in Kansas State's season opener. Three, including Yamon Figurs, recorded multiple-reception games, while true freshman Jeron Mastrud and Leon Patton registered their first career receptions.

The offense should also get a boost tonight as 2005's leading rusher, senior Thomas Clayton, returns to the K-State line-up after sitting out the opener. Clayton saw action in nine games a year ago and finished the season with 637 yards on the ground, including three 100-yard rushing games.

The Kansas State defense witnessed improved play across the board in Game 1, with the Wildcats' front seven making some significant strides.

K-State put consistent pressure on Illinois State's backfield and made a number of plays behind the line of scrimmage. In all, the Wildcats combined for 10 tackles in the backfield, including three sacks by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Ian Campbell.

Campbell lived in the Redbirds backfield and recorded career highs across the board in his first career start with eight unassisted tackles including a nation-leading five behind the line of scrimmage. The sophomore's sack total was second-most in school history as he chalked up the most sacks by a Wildcat since Andrew Shull's three-sack performance vs. Baylor in 2003.

Kansas State also got anther huge performance from Butkus Award candidate Brandon Archer. The team captain totaled a career-high 13 tackles including one for loss. Tackling machine Zach Diles also was a key performer in his starting debut, totaling 10 tackles and his first career interception in the victory.

The Wildcats aggressive play on defense also extended into the K-State secondary as the Wildcats were credited with six break-ups. All four starting defensive backs collected at least one PBU, including junior Justin McKinney, who had a pair.

Florida Atlantic, which is in just its sixth year of football and its second year at the Division I-A level, takes the road for the second leg of its season-opening five-game road trip this week as the Owls make the trek from South Florida to Manhattan for tonight's game.

FAU returns 42 lettermen and 17 starters from last year's 2-9 team, including preseason all-league selection at defensive tackle Jervonte Jackson, and will be looking to make some noise in their second full season in the Sun Belt Conference.

Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic's legendary head coach who won a national championship at Miami (Fla.) in 1983 and started the FAU program from scratch when he was hired in 2000, will be looking for his Owls to regroup after suffering a 54-6 loss at No. 18 Clemson.

Quarterbacks Sean Clayton and Rusty Smith each passed for over 100 yards, as the duo completed 20-of-43 passes for 216 yards. In all, the tandem connected with 11 different receivers, including Frantz Simeon and Jason Harmon who led with three receptions each.

The running game was another story for FAU in its opener, however, as the Owls amassed just 47 yards on 34 attempts (1.4 ypc) with nine different players logging attempts. Pierre Charles, the program's leading returning rusher, totaled 31 yards on the ground.

Twenty-three Owls recorded defensive statistics with linebackers Cergile Sincere (12 total tackles) and Andre Clark (10 total tackles) both finishing with double-figures in tackles.

The only scoring on the day was provided courtesy of place-kicker Warley Leroy, who connected on field goals of 23 and 32 yards during the third quarter.