Banged-up Kansas State limps into Big 12 opener against UCF

Kansas State will be without its top defender when the Wildcats host UCF on Saturday after coach Chris Klieman announced linebacker Daniel Green is out for the season.

Green, who led KSU with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack against Missouri last week, was absent from the team’s depth chart. Klieman said the senior had surgery Tuesday morning.

“It’s been a tough couple of days around here,” he said, “for myself and many of the sixth-year guys, many of the linebackers, because he’s been the heart and soul for those guys and our football team.

“Daniel and I’ve been through an awful lot since the first day I got here and I’ve never seen a young man grow into such a man.”

Green is the third-leading tackler (13) on the team.

The Wildcats could be down several starters against the Knights, with running back Treshaun Ward listed as doubtful and quarterback Will Howard listed as questionable by Klieman.

UCF expects QB Timmy McClain to level up to the Big 12 competition | Analysis

“[Howard] didn’t practice yesterday and he’s limited today,” said Klieman. “We have just got to figure that out as the week progresses. We probably won’t know that one until later in the week.”

Howard suffered an apparent leg during Kansas State’s 31-28 loss at Missouri on Saturday. He remained in the game and finished 25 of 39 for 270 passing yards with three touchdowns. He also had 21 rushing yards on 10 carries.

UCF coach Gus Malzahn said the Knights have to be ready uncertainties.

“We’ve got to be prepared for all the ‘What-ifs? each week,” he said. “So, we’ll cross that bridge when it gets there. We’ve got to prepare for both of the quarterbacks.”

Added redshirt senior linebacker Jason Johnson: “We’re looking at it as he’s still going to play so we’re preparing for him and we’re going to key in on the backup as well.”

Howard has completed 66% (64 of 97) of his passes for 817 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has 59 rushing yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns.

True freshman Avery Johnson took snaps in Kansas State’s games against Southeast Missouri State and Missouri. Klieman indicated he had planned to use the speedy Johnson against the Tigers.

UCF opens Big 12 play with huge road test at Kansas State

Johnson has nine carries for 56 yards and a touchdown in limited action.

“The one thing I’m excited about is if [Johnson] gets that opportunity, it’s not just some gimmick run plays,” said Klieman. “He’s going to spin the ball around and he’s going to be a pure quarterback and he would need to be that for us.”

Ward, meanwhile, is the second-leading rusher on the team with 169 yards on 37 carries with a touchdown. He’s also had seven catches for 72 yards.

Sophomore DJ Giddens, who has been sharing the tailback duties with Ward, leads the team with 216 yards on 36 carries, a 6.0 average.

Klieman doesn’t want the injuries to become a distraction heading into the Big 12 opener.

“The message to the guys on Monday was we can’t let Missouri beat us twice,” he said. “We have to come up with a great game plan no matter who’s playing at quarterback, running back or Mike linebacker. The show moves on and we must continue to battle the adversity we’re facing.”

Kansas State spent time evaluating the Knights in the offseason and through the season’s first three games.

“They’ve had two non-competitive games, so it’s hard to get a great evaluation on a couple of their wins because they were blowouts,” said Klieman. “Boise is really the only game that you can see some things and there’s some things that maybe aren’t what we do offensively and defensively so we have to go back a bit more into last year’s film.”

Klieman was impressed with UCF quarterback Timmy McClain, who stepped in for the injured John Rhys Plumlee last week.

“Gus is a great teacher of the game and teacher of his offense so he’s going to put him in positions to be successful,” Klieman said. “That’s the way we have to look at it. I don’t care if he’s experienced or inexperienced. If you’re playing for Gus, you’re pretty dang good.”

Email Matt Murschel at or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.