MANHATTAN — One of the most competitive Kansas State quarterback battles in recent memory — and perhaps ever — is underway, and Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton seem to be loving every minute of it.
“The fun of this game is competition,” said Thompson, the sophomore who played hero in a number of Wildcat wins last season. “It’s wide open right now and I’m just trying my best to do my best to help the team and have fun with it. At the end of the day that’s what this game’s about, having fun, and I try to bring that to practice each and every day.”
“We compete in everything we do, whether it be a workout, whether it be running at the end, whether it be meetings, answering questions or anything. We compete,” added Delton, the junior who was MVP of K-State’s 35-17 Cactus Bowl win against UCLA. “Competition has been, I think it’s been positive for our team. We don’t dislike each other or anything. It’s been pretty positive.
“We’re buddies and stuff, so it’s been constructive. I feel like we’re going the right direction. I feel like it gives our team the best opportunity to succeed in the fall.”
Delton vs. Thompson — or is it Thompson vs. Delton? — is the juiciest K-State QB showdown since at least 2013, when Jake Waters and Daniel Sams vied for the job. Both signal-callers spent considerable time replacing injured starter Jesse Ertz a year ago, and both enjoyed considerable successes.
Delton completed 49 of 85 passes for 637 yards and is regarded as the better runner after rushing for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. The Hays native was spectacular in his Cactus Bowl relief appearance, earning offensive MVP honors after rushing for 158 yards and three TDs.
“It was very satisfying towards the end of the year to play in the Cactus Bowl and have success as an offense like we did and beat UCLA,” said Delton, who missed several games while recovering from concussions. “I won’t say it made it worth it (sitting out so many games), but it kind of made up for some of the time I missed. It was definitely one of the best feelings I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
If not for Thompson, though, the Wildcats might not have made it to the postseason. The Independence, Mo., product guided K-State to a dramatic walkoff win against Iowa State in the regular-season finale and also directed key wins against No. 10 Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
Thompson, who came on when Delton was sidelined by concussions, finished with 689 passing yards and five TDs on 51-of-83 accuracy while adding 267 rushing yards.
“There isn’t a No. 1 right now, but between the two of them we’ll have a No. 1,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I like their attitude, their approach towards it. They are very, very competitive, but they help each other by the same token. They’re there for each other, so there’s that communication and selflessness that’s significant.”
Delton said repetitions during spring drills have been “dead even” between the two, and that same term could be applied to the competition as a whole. The battle likely will continue deep into August as K-State prepares for its Sept. 1 season opener against South Dakota.
Between now and then, Snyder along with offensive coordinator Andre Coleman and co-coordinators Collin Klein and Charlie Dickey will try to identify which QB shows the most consistency and which one is most adept at reading defenses and getting the Wildcats out of the wrong plays and into the right ones.
“Both of them have proven that they can throw the ball well, they can be accurate, they can go through their progressions — although progressions is the hardest thing for a quarterback to learn, so they always need great improvement on that,” Snyder said. “They’re good about those things. They’re good about making decisions in the running game et cetera. It’s just the consistency of it and being able to do it snap after snap after snap after snap.”