It wasn’t 2015, when Iowa State fumbled three times in the final seven minutes to allow Kansas State to cap a 21-point comeback.
That was a case of a team falling apart. Today, it was a team waking up which led to K-State’s thrilling 20-19 win over Iowa State in the season finale at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, in what may very well have been the final home game for the legendary head coach.
Skylar Thompson led K-State in a two-minute drill which will be remembered both for its result and the fact that nobody in Manhattan has seen a K-State quarterback manage the feat in centuries. He wasn’t the only hero, as Zach Reuter -- who had two catches all year coming into the game — snagged balls for 13 and 25 yards. Alex Barnes caught a sideline pass, staying in bounds with his toes. Isaiah Zuber hauled in an 18-yard catch to move into the Cyclone red zone.
D’Andre Payne picked Thompson off in the end zone, but it was a free play as the Cyclones were offside. On the next play, Thompson hit Dominique Heath on a short route. He was unable to get into the end zone, downed at the one, but the clock stopped at 11 seconds with the first down.
And then Iowa State made the mistake which Iowa State always seem to make in Manhattan: Matt Campbell was forced to call time-out, possibly because the Cyclones had 12 men on the field. That gave K-State time to take a breath and prepare.
Two shots into the end zone failed, and on third down Thompson rolled left, had nobody open, swung right, looked like he was going to try to run it in... and Zuber finally wormed his way open at the back of the end zone.
The game was fairly unmemorable for the first three quarters, when Iowa State strangled K-State’s offense so firmly that the Wildcats didn’t even reach 100 yards of offense until about the five-minute mark in the third quarter. And when, with just over a minute into the final stanza, Kyle Kempt found Hakeem Butler from three yards out to put the Cyclones ahead 19-7, it seemed like it was a done deal.
But then the brief series of events which woke up the Wildcats happened.
Butler was flagged for taunting after pointedly depositing the ball in Cre Moore‘s lap after the catch. On the ensuing kickoff, Byron Pringle broke free for a huge return into the Cyclone red zone, but K-State was called for holding and Sean Snyder launched into an outraged tirade which resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Thirteen plays and 85 yards later, K-State was back within a score on the legs of Dalvin Warmack, a couple of well-timed passes — one to Warmack and one to Zuber — and finally a touchdown pass to Winston Dimel... on a jump pass from Barnes. The following Iowa State drive was aided by a couple of flags on K-State which were picked up; a late hit call on Trent Tanking and a pass interference on Duke Shelley. Both calls are arguable either way, and while we might think the no-calls were justified, it’s also hard to fault Iowa State fans for being livid about them.
After all, those no-calls eventually forced the Cyclones to punt with two minutes to go, leading to the final drive.
It was, as Farmageddon always is, insane. Such it has been, such may it ever be. Iowa State is a good rivalry. Had K-State lost this game, we’d be angry for awhile, but we’d always remember: it was a great finish, either way.
We didn’t learn much from this one, so this week we are instead going to name Five Big Damned Heroes.
1. Dominque Heath
Heath was basically all K-State had on offense in the first three quarters, and that was on a punt return. But his 43-yard return in the second quarter set up the only points K-State would score in the first 53 minutes of the game, and in addition to the key reception in the red zone near the end of the game he also caught the first pass of that drive to get K-State moving.
2. Zach Reuter
I mean, he’s got to be, right? What K-State fan is not going to remember that the little-used wideout caught what, at the time, were the two biggest passes of the entire game? When Reuter made the first catch, it felt like K-State had a chance. When he caught the second, the win felt inevitable.
3. Sean Snyder
Look, we argue about whether he should take over, but it’s undeniable that the moment he lost his mind on the sideline, K-State suddenly started playing with fire and urgency. It’s the first time we’ve seen that sort of will to win from the younger Snyder, and while nobody’s going to argue this means he should get the job, it’s sure a point to be added to his score when the competition starts.
4. Isaiah Zuber
On the drive which ended with the Barnes touchdown pass, Zuber caught a short pass from Thompson and got laid out. Some folks wanted a targeting call, but it was a clean hit. Still, it was a hell of a blow to come back from.
All Zuber did after that was catch three passes for 22 yards and the game-winning touchdown. That’s manning up.
5. Skylar Thompson
But of course. Coming into the final drive, Thompson was 8-12 for 77 yards. On that final drive, he was 7-9 for 75. With the gun at his head, Thompson went into superhero mode, and in the process made a huge statement: next year, this is his team. There is no quarterback controversy. Alex Delton may transfer, or he may accept his role. But Skylar Thompson will be the starting quarterback when the 2018 season opens. Bank it.
With the win, K-State is guaranteed a winning season, and with a win in a bowl game 8-5 would feel pretty good given how this season has played out. But whereas four of those five losses were what-ifs for K-State, on this day the tables were turned. K-State had no business winning today, but somehow, someway, they did it to Iowa State yet again.