ARLINGTON, Texas — Saturday marked the first game of the season for Kansas State.

Its defense already appears to be in midseason form.

K-State nearly pitched its first shutout since 2019, but settled for a 24-7 victory over Stanford at AT&T Stadium.

“I was so proud of how we played,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said at the outset of his postgame press conference. “It wasn’t perfect. We have to continue to improve. We made some first-game mistakes. Had some penalties and stuff. But overall, I was just so happy to see how hard the guys played. You kind of take that for granted — that guys play hard — but today they played extremely hard and made plays when it mattered. So it was a great team win.”

The Cardinal avoided the shutout thanks to a 14-yard touchdown reception from Bryce Tremayne with 3:16 remaining.

It was far too little, and too late, to alter the result, though.

That the contest wasn’t more competitive surprised Stanford head coach David Shaw.

“This game was not indicative of how hard we played, how hard we practiced, and how well we practiced,” he said. “(That’s) disappointing to me, because I put that on my shoulders that we didn’t go out there and execute better. Our guys are going to be sick when they watch this film because the opportunities are going to be there. They’re going to be there. We did not take advantage.”

The Wildcats (1-0) had a well-balanced outing offensively, tallying 344 yards, 200 on the ground and 144 through the air.

Stanford (0-1) finished with just 233 yards (194 passing, 39 rushing) of total offense in the loss, the second straight season the Cardinal lost their opener.

At the half, the Wildcats led 14-0.

They leaned on their “super senior” quarterback to start off this season on the right foot.

Skylar Thompson, now in his sixth year with the Wildcats, scored the first touchdown of the 2021 campaign on a 6-yard keeper. After faking a handoff to Deuce Vaughn, Thompson dashed into the end zone — and made a statement doing it, as he bowled over Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly.

Perhaps the contact wasn’t coincidental: It came just one drive after Kelly picked off Thompson to halt K-State’s opening possession.

After Taiten Winkel knocked in the extra point, the Wildcats led 7-0 with 3:06 remaining in the first frame.

Vaughn made his mark in the next quarter.

Playing back in his home state after starring at Cedar Ridge High in Round Rock, Vaughn sprinted into the end zone on a 59-yard score thanks to a massive hole created by the offensive line.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but K-State got back on the board in the final stanza, first on a 40-yard field goal — the first of his career as a Wildcat — from Winkel, in his debut appearance replacing the rock-solid Blake Lynch.

The Wildcats were back at it less than three minutes later.

Following an interception and 39-yard return from TJ Smith, K-State started at Stanford’s 20-yard line.

The drive ended two plays later with Thompson’s second rushing touchdown of the day, this one from 13 yards, to extend the lead to 24-0 with 7:10 remaining.

Treymayne hauled in the touchdown on Stanford’s next possession to ensure the Cardinal didn’t go pointless for the first time since the 2006 season.

K-State has its home opener next week, hosting Southern Illinois at 6 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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