MANHATTAN (AP) - The sideline cracks of "Darren who?" were in jest, of course. Thomas Clayton knew that. But after spending last season as a backup to Kansas State`s leading career rusher, Darren Sproles, Clayton had hoped to prove himself worthy of the starting role he won this summer. So far, so good. Clayton ran for 177 yards and two scores to lead Kansas State to its 16th straight win in a season opener, 35-21 over Florida International on Saturday in the Golden Panthers` first game as a full member of Division I-A. And Clayton, whose game is based on speed and strength, might have some moves he hasn`t shown off yet. "During the two-a-day period, I saw him do some things I hadn`t seen out of him before," coach Bill Snyder said. "I was hoping he would do some of those things today, but we didn`t really get to see it. When he is confident that he can do those things, it just adds to his game." Allen Webb passed for 161 yards and two scores for the Wildcats, but also lost a fumble and threw one interception. He also had several open receivers drop passes. "I don`t think he played that bad," Snyder said. "We didn`t utilize him in all the ways that we are capable of utilizing him. I think he directed things relatively well." Kansas State, coming off its first losing season (4-7) in 12 years, beat a major college team from Florida for the first time in six tries. But it wasn`t easy, even with a 407-236 advantage in total offense. Linebacker Antwan Barnes almost single-handedly kept Florida International (0-1), a fourth-year program, in the game. He forced one fumble and recovered another, setting up short touchdown drives each time, and blocked the punt that Nick Turnbull returned 17 yards to get the Golden Panthers within a touchdown late in the third quarter. And after the game, he couldn`t resist taking one more dig at the Wildcats. "I don`t think K-State was all that," he said. "I`m wondering right now if they`re really a Big 12 opponent." Last year, Clayton had 71 yards on 15 carries. On Saturday, he had more than that on his first career TD run - an 80-yard burst up the middle on the opening snap of the second half. Clayton, who was starting for the first time, appeared to be sandwiched for a loss on the play. But he managed to break a tackle, put down his left hand to steady himself, and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 20-7 lead. "Coach told us at halftime to visualize ourselves making big plays," Clayton said. "That`s what I did. I visualized myself making exactly that play." Four plays after that, Clayton`s 2-yard run - set up by Jermaine Moreira`s 67-yard punt return - and Webb`s 2-point conversion made it 28-7. Two big plays by Barnes kept things close, though. He sacked Webb and stripped the ball away, and Johnathan Sturrup recovered to set up Adam Gorman`s 3-yard TD run. Barnes` block and Turnbull`s return made it 28-21 with 3:46 left in the third quarter, but Kansas State responded with Webb`s 8-yard scoring pass to Jordy Nelson with just over 11 minutes to go in the game. "We could have won the game. We were in it for 60 minutes. We played hard, never gave up," said Florida International wide receiver Julius Eppinger, who caught a first-half touchdown pass from Josh Padrick. "When Clayton made the long run we were down, but our group never gives up." The Wildcats took an early 13-0 lead on field goals of 39 and 33 yards from Jeff Snodgrass in the first quarter and Webb`s 4-yard pass to Victor Mann late in the second. But the Golden Panthers pulled within 13-7 in the final minute of the first half on Padrick`s 12-yard touchdown pass to Eppinger. That came three plays after Kansas State`s Yamon Figurs fumbled on a punt return, and Barnes recovered at the Wildcats` 16. Padrick was 17-for-34 for 154 yards with one interception.