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Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28: The Great Escape

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Somehow, after a complete collapse in the first half, the Wildcats scratched and clawed their way back for a win.

Our hero.
Our hero.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

It all started so well.

Run for eight, run for nine, and a 57-yard bomb to Tyler Lockett followed by a four-yard Charles Jones TD running out of the Wildcat, and K-State was up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game. The defense forced Iowa State three-and-out, and the Cats charged downfield again, aided by a 32-yard completion to Zach Trujillo.

Right about then, things started going very, very wrong. K-State had to settle for a field goal after the drive stalled in the red zone on three consecutive incompletions (and where have we seen that before?). After another three-and-out, K-State again had to settle for three; still, with 3:40 to go in the first quarter, Kansas State had a 13-0 lead.

That's when the defense -- except for Danzel McDaniel, who was playing with his hair on fire -- stopped working, largely led by Jonathan Truman's inexplicable failure to tackle anyone. Iowa State blew down the field, a drive filled with horrible tackling and an awful pass-interference penalty in the end zone on Morgan Burns; the Cyclones capitalized on a 17-yard connection from Sam Richardson to Jarvis West, and Iowa State was back in the game. On the ensuing drive, the offensive line utterly failed to protect Jake Waters, and for the first time this season Mitch Lochbiler was called on to punt.

West ran it back for a touchdown, and the Cyclones had the lead, and things didn't get any better until, after yet another Cyclone touchdown, Waters and Lockett executed the two-minute drill to perfection. The Wildcats quickly hopscotched downfield, reaching the one on a catch by Lockett around which there was some controversy; Lockett's knee touched the pylon before he actually caught the ball, and there's question about whether that rendered him out of bounds. But Waters got the ball snapped before a replay could happen and plunged in on the sneak to bring the Cats back within nine. A successful two-point conversion run was called back due to a holding call on Glenn Gronkowski, so K-State had to settle for a Jack Cantele kick instead and went into the locker room trailing by eight.

That penalty would be huge.

The third quarter went nowhere. The defense did stand up, finally, stopping Iowa State on a critical fourth-and-less-than-one, and getting another key third-down stop to force a punt. But the offense also couldn't get going, outside of Waters gaining yards on scrambles and options. The running backs were unable to gain yards, the passing game was dead in the water, and finally, with 11:35 to go, Iowa State stopped Waters on fourth-and-one at their own 30.

The ensuing Iowa State drive ended on a Randall Evans interception, stripping the ball away from West. Waters completed a pair of passes to Lockett and Deante Burton, and then from the four Charles Jones again scored from the Wildcat. The Cats were obliged to go for two, down eight; Waters was stuffed short, however, leaving K-State down two instead of tied.

Although giving up some yardage, the defense held up -- and only a desperate heave by Richardson while in the grasp of multiple K-State defenders saved the Cyclones from a 17-yard loss on third and long. K-State took over on their own 18 with just under five minutes to go.

Then Waters threw three incomplete passes, and it appeared all was lost.

And then K-State stopped Iowa State and got the ball back.

Waters picked up a first down. Then he hit Lockett deep, getting to the Iowa State 40. Then Waters busted another long run into the red zone, then they just kept running. With Iowa State forced to burn their final timeout on third and one at the 11, Waters struck: running it in untouched to give the Cats the lead. The two point conversion was no good, though it was an irrelevancy; either way, a field goal would not be enough for the Cyclones, and a touchdown would give them the lead.

And on fourth-and-five, the Cat defense caught Richardson in the backfield, forcing a fumble and recovering with 27 seconds to go. Somehow, some way, Kansas State had once again survived a horror show in Ames.

Jake Waters: 239 yards passing, 138 yards rushing (not adjusted for sacks) and two scores on the ground. Tyler Lockett: 6 catches for 136 yards. Charles Jones added 75 yards and another pair of scores. The defense performed in the second half, which is a vitally important data point.

This should have been a rout. We'll have to settle for a win. Survive and advance. For now, celebrate, and we'll have more later.