MANHATTAN — Kansas State was running out of options at running back, so what did offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham do?
Why, he stepped out of his own comfort zone and ran the option.
Fortunately for both Messingham and the Wildcats, they had a willing participant in quarterback Skylar Thompson, who ran it to near perfection last Saturday in K-State's dominating 38-10 victory at Kansas.
"That's a play that I've ran for a long time," Thompson said, recalling his days at Fort Osage High School in Independence, Mo. "In high school my high school football coach, that was a big part of our playbook, so I've always been really comfortable running it.
"Whenever Coach Mess was saying that we were probably going to run some option, depending on how they lined up, I was really excited about it."
When not pitching the ball to third-string running back Harry Trotter — or Joe Ervin or Tyler Burns — Thompson ran it 17 times himself for a season-high 127 yards with three touchdowns. As a team, the Wildcats finished with 342 yards on the ground, easily their best performance in five Big 12 games.
"I thought coach Mess and the offensive staff did a really good job of designing the option that we ran a number of times on Saturday," head coach Chris Klieman said. "But then give Skylar all the credit because he executed it as far as tucking it and running for the big game the one time and then even or a third and short, cutting back and making a big play.
"And then pitching it at the right time a couple of times. That's not easy to do, especially with us that we're not an option offense, so we don't practice that more than a few handfuls of times a week."
After the Wildcats struggled early in Big 12 play to move the ball on the ground — the key to their whole offense — they began incorporating Thompson more and more in the run game. And Thompson in turn has become more adept at picking his spots.
After failing to break 130 yards rushing in league losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor, and managing just 94 yards in a victory over TCU, the Wildcats broke loose for 213 in their 48-41 upset of Oklahoma, then moved the ball at will against KU.
Thompson had just 39 yards on 13 carries in the Oklahoma game but ran for four touchdowns. Besides, James Gilbert had 105 yards on 13 attempts and backup Jordon Brown 12 rushes for 63 yards.
With Gilbert out for the KU game and Brown limited to two early carries, Thompson took a more active role.
"He's been doing a great job in the run game," Brown said of Thompson. "I'd describe him as a playmaker.
"He makes plays with his arm and knows when to pull it down and run, so he's been doing a great job with that."
Both Gilbert and Brown said Tuesday that they expect to be ready for this Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at Texas.
Klieman said that as valuable as Thompson is in the run game, the coaches also don't want to push him too hard.
"A number of those were designed runs (against KU)," Klieman said. "When you play man coverage, which is what KU did most of the game, and nobody's open, something that is open is the quarterback scramble and I thought he did a really nice job of moving the chains and made a couple of nice plays in the red zone to keep drives alive for to score.
"(But) we're really conscious of it because we don't want him to take those kinds of extra shots if he can help it."
The resurgence of the Wildcats' run game hasn't all been about Thompson. The offensive line also has put together two of its best games the past two weeks.
But having an extra running threat hasn't hurt.
"I think with the ability to add Skylar as another running element to the offense, it just adds another dimension to us," said center Adam Holtorf. "I think there's a great added benefit."
As long as it keeps the offense humming, Thompson is all in — even if it means some extra wear and tear on his body.
"Usually Monday and Tuesday are kind of slow, but Wednesday and Thursday I get back to normal," he said. "That's just part of the game, though.
"Especially this late in the season, everybody's banged up and hurt in some way, shape or form, but I don't have any injuries or anything like that, so I'm very thankful for that for sure."
Besides, he kind of likes running the ball.
"Whatever the coaches are wanting to do," he said with a smile. "If they want to run me 17, 20 times or 10 times, I don't care.
"Whatever is going to help our team win, that's what I want to do and that's what I'm going to do to the best of my ability. I always have enjoyed running the ball."
Cornerback Parker out
Klieman said Tuesday that the injury suffered by junior cornerback AP Parker in the second half of the KU game was more serious than first expected.
"AJ did suffer a high ankle fracture, so he’s going to be out for the foreseeable future," Klieman said. "I can’t tell you how long.
"We’re still trying to evaluate whether there is surgery or not. Hopefully, I have a better indication of that maybe later on in the week, but I see him out for a significant amount of time."