Kansas State’s 31-26 victory over Iowa State on Saturday included all of the positives. Ninth straight win over the Cyclones, one win within eligibility for a bowl game, and maybe even a win away from the Top 25 and conference championship talk. But it was still the third Big 12 victory that came down to a late onside kick.
So it was hard for K-State coach Bill Snyder to focus on the positives after sweating out the final moments in a victory that appeared to be in hand — again.
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On Saturday, the Cyclones (1-7, 0-5 Big 12) rallied from a 31-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to pull within five with 51 seconds to play on a touchdown pass from Jacob Park to Deshaunte Jones. If Iowa State kicker Chris Francis could recover an onside kick, as he did at the beginning of the third quarter, K-State (5-3, 3-2) was in serious trouble.
It didn’t happen, and the Wildcats survived in front of 52,763 fans. But some players walked away disappointed at the realization they failed to play a complete game.
“I am not saying it is so doggone easy to do,” Snyder said. “If it was an easy task, everybody in the country would do it and everybody in the country doesn’t. But that is the only way that you can become successful. You have to start, finish and be consistent in between. That is what we aren’t doing right now.”
Still, the Wildcats were closer than they have been. They were outplayed throughout the second half in a 24-21 victory over Texas and they never separated in a 44-38 victory against Texas Tech. This time, the game appeared all but over after three quarters. They led 17-3 at halftime and kept things going in the third quarter until it was 31-10.
The game simply tightened up from there.
“We let them stay in the game,” K-State right tackle Dalton Risner said. “I am really happy about the win. It is really hard to win here, but at the same time we can’t let teams hang around like that. If we want to be a great team we have to do better.”
Two areas that need improvement: pass defense and offensive consistency.
At times, K-State beat Iowa State on both sides of the ball. At others, K-State went three-and-out and surrendered a safety. Too often, Iowa State receivers ran free for easy catches and big gains. If not for two ISU miscues on potential touchdown passes, the Cyclones would have won.
The Wildcats looked great gaining 389 yards in the first three quarters, then looked bad gaining nine in the final 15 minutes.
“We didn’t distinctly play well,” Snyder said.
Then again, K-State’s defense came up big in clutch situations, such as a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter. Iowa State gained 493 yards, but it also turned the ball over on downs three times and threw an interception.
K-State was the superior team.
“We make plays,” K-State defensive back Duke Shelley said. “We have confidence that if we get them in fourth down we are going to make them come off the field. We don’t lose fourth down. We all have the mindset to come together and make the best play possible. That is what we did today.”
Another positive: the Wildcats handled the Cyclones better than several other Big 12 teams have. Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas all needed late comebacks to beat Iowa State after trailing at halftime.
In this game, Iowa State was the team playing from behind, needing a surprise onside kick at the start of the second half to build momentum and score its first touchdown.
“It’s frustrating we didn’t finish, but, at the same time, we got after them,” K-State linebacker Elijah Lee said after making 11 tackles. “We shut down the run and played well. In Big 12 play it’s tough to get a win on the road. I am just happy we got a win. We can go back and fix all the little things later, but, in this moment, we have got to learn we can enjoy the wins. They are hard to come by and we are in a good spot.”
Jesse Ertz set the tone for this win on K-State’s opening drive when he broke free for a 54-yard run on a quarterback keeper. The Wildcats came ready to play against one of the nation’s worst run defenses and rushed for 247 yards.
Ertz finished with 106 yards on nine carries, Justin Silmon ran for 54 yards and a touchdown, Alex Barnes added 37 yards and a score, and Charles Jones had 37 yards. The average carry was 5.7 yards.
“Our confidence is growing,” Ertz said. “We are starting to establish ourselves in certain areas and understand our strengths and weaknesses. … We want to establish the run game and our offensive line has been great. They were great again today.”
That allowed K-State to control the clock and open up the passing game. Ertz also threw for 151 yards and a touchdown. He put K-State ahead 10-3 in the second quarter on a perfectly thrown back-shoulder pass to Deante Burton from 11 yards, putting it where only Burton could catch it with a great snag.
Burton went on to play arguably his best game in a K-State uniform, catching five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The only thing he could have done better was add a few more in the fourth quarter.
“It is fun right now,” Burton said. “I’m sorry we gave you guys such a heart attack and made it way closer than it needed to be, but it was a fun game. I just want to ride this momentum out until the end.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Kansas State 31, Iowa State 26
TableStyle: SP-byperiodsCCI Template: SP-byperiods
KST: FG McCrane 23, 10:12
ISU: FG Netten 24, 5:23
KST: Burton 11 pass from Ertz (McCrane kick), 14:24
KST: Silmon 3 run (McCrane kick), 8:03
ISU: D.Jones 24 pass from Park (Netten kick), 12:08
KST: Dimel 1 run (McCrane kick), 5:28
KST: Barnes 8 run (Patterson kick), :27
ISU: Lanning 5 run (Netten kick), 13:15
ISU: safety, 6:55
ISU: D.Jones 5 pass from Park (Netten kick), :51
TableStyle: SP-footballstatsCCI Template: SP-footballstats
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Kansas St., Ertz 9-106, Silmon 9-54, Barnes 5-37, C.Jones 12-37, Delton 4-11, Pringle 1-4, Dimel 1-1, (Team) 2-(minus 3). Iowa St., Lanning 10-74, Montgomery 9-39, Warren 6-34, Park 6-7.
PASSING: Kansas St., Ertz 18-28-0-151. Iowa St., Lanning 4-7-0-28, D.Jones 1-1-0-10, Park 19-35-1-301.
RECEIVING: Kansas St., Heath 9-46, Burton 5-72, Pringle 2-14, C.Sutton 1-12, Zuber 1-7. Iowa St., Al.Lazard 8-134, D.Jones 5-43, Daley 4-60, Ryen 3-16, Epps 1-39, Montgomery 1-28, Park 1-10, Butler 1-9.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: None.