After leading Kansas State to a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Iowa State and surviving the out-of-control celebration that followed, Skylar Thompson had to answer a question from Bill Snyder.
Was he nervous?
Did Thompson doubt himself at any point before he threw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber on the final play of Saturday’s game at Snyder Family Stadium? Was he worried when Iowa State led 19-7 early in the fourth quarter? Was he concerned when K-State’s offense appeared comatose much of the day?
His answer: No.
Snyder smiled and let the redshirt freshman quarterback get back to enjoying the second fourth-quarter comeback of his young college career.
“I am not scared,” Thompson said. “I am fearless of the moment. When all eyes are on me, I don’t think about it. I almost invite that, because I love being in the moment and having everybody looking at me to make a play and to win the game … I never doubted it once. I never doubt us until the clock hits zero.”
That much is obvious.
Thompson continues to deliver in the clutch. This was simply his latest chapter. By completing 15 of 21 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, he led the Wildcats to their third unlikely victory in four games. First, he erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and led K-State to an overtime victory at Texas Tech. Then he torched heavily favored Oklahoma State for 297 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in a 45-40 victory. Now, he has won a game in walk-off fashion.
“He is a fighter,” K-State receiver Zach Reuter sad of Thompson. “He will not give up, and it was pretty awesome how he fought through the adversity that we had to go through and came out and made those plays that we needed. He has a leadership swagger going on that we can feel.”
K-State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) rallied around him for a memorable victory over Iowa State (7-5, 5-4) that will send the Wildcats into their bowl with loads of momentum. It also moved them into a tie for fourth in the final conference standings.
Not where they expected to finish, but not bad considering they started 3-4.
“I don’t think giving up is in their vocabulary,” Snyder said of his team. “I think they always fight.”
They needed all the fight they could muster to maintain their Farmageddon dominance over the Cyclones. K-State has won 10 straight in the series. This one might have been the wildest of the bunch.
It didn’t seem like it was going to happen most of the afternoon. Iowa State thoroughly controlled the game for the first 45 minutes, out-gaining K-State 326-99 in the first three quarters and taking a 19-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But Thompson led the Wildcats to touchdowns on their final two drives.
First, K-State went 68 yards in 13 plays and scored on a pass from running back Alex Barnes to fullback Winston Dimel. The trick play worked to perfection, catching the Cyclones off guard near the goal line.
Then, K-State’s defense forced Iowa State to punt at midfield, and the Wildcats took over at their own 13 with 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining.
The two-minute drill is hardly K-State’s forte, but Thompson got the Wildcats into the red zone with a trio of passes to Zach Reuter. Then he found Dominique Heath just short of the goal line with 11 seconds remaining. Iowa State called a timeout, and Thompson overthrew Byron Pringle on a fade route.
That left time for one play, and Thompson took advantage. He took the ball on a shotgun snap and rolled to his left, but couldn’t find any open receivers. So he reversed field and rolled to his right, eluding two Iowa State pass rushers. As he approached the right sideline, he spotted Zuber in the back of the end zone and hit him with a laser.
The clock hit zero and K-State won. K-State players poured onto the field to celebrate.
“I always knew that we were going to get into the end zone, because Skylar is a great quarterback,” Zuber said. “Skylar is going to keep the play alive and his going to win no matter what. He is a winner.”
The clock hit zero and K-State won.
It was far from a perfect effort. The first three quarters went quite poorly for the Wildcats. But it showed their resolve.
“I can’t say we did it for four quarters tonight, but we did it when we had to,” Snyder said. “That’s a significant thing.”
For the second time in three tries, the Wildcats came back to beat the Cyclones when it looked like they were doomed.
Former ISU coach Paul Rhoads was fired shortly after blowing a 35-14 halftime lead here two years ago.
“I will give credit to Kansas State,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “Their kids kept playing in the football game and I thought our kids did too. But it comes down to detail and unfortunately when we had the opportunity to pull away, we did not do it.”
As the game went on and K-State made its comeback, you could argue Iowa State players got nervous.
That wasn’t an issue for Thompson. He stayed calm the whole way.
“He has toughness and a never-give-up mentality that he takes into everything he does, like that last drive,” Barnes said. “It is special to see him do what he has been doing in practice and translate it into games. The kid has got a special arm and that ‘it’ factor. He showed it today.”
ISU—FG Ga.Owens 36, 7:52
KST—Thompson 3 run (McCrane kick), 12:54
ISU—FG Ga.Owens 22, 1:33
ISU—Murdock 9 pass from Kempt (pass failed), 8:34
ISU—Butler 3 pass from Kempt (Ga.Owens kick), 13:46
KST—Dimel 3 pass from Barnes (McCrane kick), 6:07
KST—Zuber 1 pass from Thompson (run failed), :00
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Iowa St., Croney 13-63, Warren 4-17, Montgomery 4-14, Kempt 7-11, Lanning 1-9, Ryen 1-1. Kansas St., Warmack 10-42, Silmon 5-32, Barnes 7-23, Thompson 8-12.
PASSING—Iowa St., Kempt 24-36-0-264. Kansas St., Barnes 1-1-0-3, Thompson 15-21-0-152.
RECEIVING—Iowa St., Lazard 6-95, Ryen 5-36, Murdock 4-37, Croney 3-15, D.Jones 2-43, Butler 2-23, Eaton 1-9, Montgomery 1-6. Kansas St., Zuber 7-56, Heath 3-23, Reuter 2-38, Dimel 2-7, Warmack 1-24, Barnes 1-7.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett