Sep 11, 2021; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats fullback Jax Dineen (29) looks for room to run against Southern Illinois Salukis linebacker Bryce Notree (54) during a game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State earns tough home win over Southern Illinois

Deuce Vaughn rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns as Kansas State defeated Southern Illinois 31-23 Saturday night in Manhattan, Kan. The Wildcats overcame four first-half turnovers.

It might be a costly victory for Kansas State, as sixth-year senior quarterback Skylar Thompson left the game in the first quarter with what was termed a “lower body injury.” He was running to his right in the open field when he went down in a heap. Thompson did not return to the game.

Southern Illinois (1-1) led 23-21 at halftime.

Kansas State (2-0) jumped out first on a 7-yard touchdown run by Vaughn, capping a six-play, 75-yard drive. The big play was a 43-yard pass from Thompson to Malik Knowles.

Thompson hit Knowles with a 50-yard pass to set up another K-State touchdown. But Thompson went down without being touched and left the game. His replacement, Will Howard, punched it in from the 1-yard line to give K-State a 14-0 lead.

SIU got on the board early in the second quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Nico Gualdoni. Vaughn scored from 1-yard out to give K-State a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter. But things turned bad quickly.

Javon Williams scored SIU’s first touchdown from 4 yards out, but the 2-point conversion failed, making the score 21-9. Vaughn then fumbled on the ensuing drive just outside the 25-yard line. It was recovered by Gianini Belizaire and returned to the K-State 9-yard line. Williams then scored from 1 yard out to cut the deficit to 21-16.

Trying to convert a third-and-12, Howard threw it right to defender PJ Jules, who returned it 41 yards for a pick-6 and the lead.

K-State opened the second half with a 14-play drive (12 runs) to retake the lead on a Taiten Winkel 34-yard field goal. Southern Illinois missed a 47-yard field goal with 11:06 left.

Vaughn scored his third touchdown from 4 yards out with 1:57 to ice the victory.

Southern Illinois was driving for a potential game-tying score when Felix Anudike-Uzomah sacked Nic Baker and forced a fumble with 19 seconds left.