'It's a blessing': K-State quarterback Jaren Lewis on the playing opportunity against Oklahoma State

Arne Green
Topeka Capital-Journal

STILLWATER, Okla. — Jaren Lewis had a pretty good idea that he would get on the field Saturday for Kansas State's Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State.

The amount of playing time he received in the Wildcats' 31-20 loss came as a bit of a surprise.

For the second straight week, Lewis came on for Will Howard at quarterback in the second quarter and finished the first half. As was the case the previous week against Nevada, Howard returned to start the second half, only this time he lasted one series and Lewis took over the rest of the way.

"We had the same exact plan as last week," said Lewis, a third-year sophomore, who made his college debut against Nevada, leading the Wildcats to a touchdown and field goal in the second quarter. "I didn't exactly know I was going to be the guy throughout the second half.

"Plays were just going in the heat of the moment and the coaches just kept telling me, 'You're up,' and the next drive, 'You're up,' the next drive, 'You're up,' so I just tried to attack every moment I was in."

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Kansas State's Jaren Lewis (5) looks to throw a pass in the fourth quarter during a game against Oklahoma State on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. OSU won 31-20.

Howard, who made his second straight start in place of injured super-senior Skylar Thompson, came out after getting hurt in the opening quarter, according to K-State coach Chris Klieman. After the trainers patched him up at halftime, he decided to give it another go, only to give way to Lewis again.

"He tried to go in the second half and he just couldn't," Klieman said.

So Lewis took the reins and went the rest of the way, and while his uneven performance was reflective of K-State's offensive struggles the entire game, it was the chance he had been looking for. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 148 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

"It's a blessing," said Lewis, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound sophomore from Columbia, Missouri, who redshirted in 2019 and did not see any action last year. "I've just been super humbled to get this opportunity, and just patient, especially through my freshman year and sophomore year, and now it's here.

"I would say just staying patient. It has definitely not been the easiest, but I feel like everybody goes through something like that. It's just adversity, so you've just got to pick yourself up and move forward."

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He had to pick himself up more than once against Oklahoma State, which effectively shut down the Wildcat running game and sacked Lewis twice.

"He did some good things," Klieman said of Lewis, who started the season at No. 3 on the depth chart. "The one pick he probably should have thrown the ball away, because we had a chance to get a field goal or at least points there.

"We weren't getting a bunch of guys wide open, so there were some tight windows and they were rushing the passer really well. And so he did some good things, but it's a great learning experience for him."

Lewis is again listed behind Howard on the depth chart for this Saturday's 2:30 p.m. home game against Oklahoma. There has been speculation that Thompson might be nearing a return as well after suffering a right knee injury against Southern Illinois in the second game of the season.

Kansas State's Jaren Lewis (5) looks to throw a pass in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. OSU won 31-20.

Klieman was noncommittal on a time table for Thompson, who threw warm-up passes on the field during pregame Saturday, but did not suit up.

"He can throw it," Klieman said. "We've got to make sure he can run before he can play, and I don't know if that's two weeks, I don't know if that's the open week, I don't know if that's three weeks. We'll keep progressing."

Lewis' highlight in the Oklahoma State game came with some help from running back Deuce Vaughn, who turned a short pass up the middle at the line of scrimmage and turned it into a 55-yard touchdown.

"Just stepping up in the pocket, trying not to get sacked," Lewis said of the play. "I felt somebody on my foot, but I think I could have gone down because (the defender) had a part of me.

"I just saw Deuce. Who knew he was going to score on that play? I thought it was going to be just a first down, but Deuce is a playmaker, man, (and) you've got to get the ball in the playmakers' hands."

As for his own performance, Lewis called it so-so.

"I thought I threw the ball OK, (but) I definitely left some passes out there on the field," he said.

And how did it feel to play in a packed stadium on the road for the first time in his career?

"It was amazing," Lewis said. "This is an amazing atmosphere. I'm just grateful to be playing."