January 29, 2023

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OPINION: The way forward for Ok-State soccer — extra Large 12 championships?

Fireworks mark the tip of the annual Sunflower Showdown on Nov. 26. Kansas State
beat the Kansas 47-27, securing Ok-State’s ticket to the Large 12 Championship recreation. (Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State soccer is taking part in in a convention title recreation for the primary time in practically twenty years. It’s a exceptional milestone for head coach Chris Klieman, but additionally units the bar for future Wildcat groups. 

Yearly from 1999 to 2020 when a Large 12 title recreation was performed, it featured both Oklahoma or Texas. Nonetheless, each will likely be leaving the convention for the SEC within the coming years, opening the door for packages like Ok-State. The Wildcats have been one of the vital profitable groups within the convention since its founding in 1996, rating third in whole wins — solely behind Oklahoma and Texas. 

For the reason that two universities introduced their departure from the Large 12, their dominance within the title recreation has ended. Final season, Oklahoma State and Baylor snapped the streak, adopted by Ok-State and TCU this season. These are the principle 4 groups that can look to imagine the dominant roles beforehand held by Texas and Oklahoma. Ok-State may need the sting, not solely due to their successful historical past, but additionally their teaching workers. 

“We get a possibility to play among the finest groups within the nation,” Klieman mentioned in his press convention on Tuesday. “We earned the chance to get so far.”

Klieman, in simply his fourth yr as head coach, already has the Wildcats taking part in for a convention title. For reference, Invoice Synder, Klieman’s hall-of-fame predecessor, made two championship video games in 27 years with this system. 

Whereas that is Klieman’s first large recreation with Ok-State, he’s no stranger to championship video games. In his five-year tenure as head coach at North Dakota State he received 4 nationwide championships. With Klieman on the helm, Ok-State has the chance to construct upon this season and create a resume that features a number of Large 12 championships. 

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Offensive coordinator Collin Klein can even play a key function in sustaining convention success. Klein, in simply his first season calling performs, is breaking college information — similar to he did because the Wildcat’s quarterback. 

The Wildcats have totaled 375 yards or extra in each Large 12 recreation this season — a workforce first. Klein has additionally solely improved over the season, averaging 40.2 factors per recreation over the past 5 contests. That common ranks first within the Large 12 and fifth within the nation amongst Energy 5 colleges. 

“When issues aren’t going proper I believe it’s straightforward to get annoyed and out of rhythm and that may make issues worse,” Klein mentioned after an offensive wrestle in opposition to Tulane early within the season. 

Since that time, Klein has put an emphasis on the little issues profitable groups do in important conditions. 

For a majority of the final 5 video games, junior quarterback Will Howard has led the Wildcats. Given subsequent season will likely be his senior yr, there may be nonetheless one other yr for Klein, Klieman and Howard to enhance collectively. Enchancment, nevertheless, received’t be straightforward as a result of they’ve already set a excessive commonplace with the Large 12 Championship recreation.

The usual goes past subsequent season as nicely. In response to EMAW On-line, the 2023 recruiting class is rated twenty eighth within the nation. That is the very best a Wildcat class has been ranked since 2008. The group is headlined by 4-star quarterback Avery Johnson, the very best rated Kansas highschool participant, in accordance with 247 Sports activities. With this recruiting class and Johnson presumably taking the reins shortly after Howard, the chance exists to be extremely aggressive within the convention for years to come back. 

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Whereas Ok-State hasn’t made it to Arlington for the previous twenty years, their drought is over, and a brand new drought needs to be out of the image for a very long time.