Farmageddon has always been four hours of absolute lunacy. With 12:27 to go in this year’s edition, that description was guaranteed. K-State, the prohibitive underdog, stood with a 38-21 lead over Iowa State and the unbelievable prospect of reaching bowl eligibility after a 3-6 start. It was already insane, and the only way to erase that insanity would of course be even more insanity.
And then Iowa State only took two minutes to pull within ten points.
And then Skylar Thompson was hit in the backfield 104 seconds later and Mike Rose returned his fumble for a touchdown.
And four minutes later, Iowa State completed the comeback with an 18-yard run by David Montgomery, his third touchdown of the night. K-State was unable to answer, and the Cyclones snapped a ten-year losing streak to Bill Snyder with a 42-38 victory at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
The first half had been a see-saw affair. The game started much as it ended, with a disaster. Isaiah Zuber called for a fair catch on the opening kickoff, and muffed the catch; K-State was forced to start with the ball at their own two-yard line. Unable to progress, they gave Iowa State their first possession at midfield, but the Wildcat defense managed to hold on fourth down without even allowing the Cyclones into the red zone. But the offense still couldn’t move the ball, and retired without crossing midfield.
The first collapse of the K-State defense followed, as Brock Purdy’s 41-yard connection with Tarique Milton keyed a touchdown drive which ended with a one-yard pass to Hakeem Butler. K-State then marched downfield themselves, Alex Barnes scoring on a 10-yard run to tie the game.
The teams traded scores again; Iowa State capitalized on a 65-yard play between Purdy and Butler when Montgomery scored his first six of the game on a three-yard run, and the Cats evened up when Thompson ran it in from four yards out.
Then things got crazy.
The Cyclones marched right back down the field, and appeared to have scored on a 2-yard pass to Milton. But the play was nullified on a pick by Butler and, after a sack by Chase Johnston, Connor Assalley attempted a 38-yard field goal. It was wide left, and K-State took over. A devastating sack of Thompson by Willie Harvey led to a Wildcat punt, but Colby Moore stripped the ball from Milton and then fell on the loose ball to give K-State the ball at the Cyclone 34. Thompson threw the ball three times and found his target each time. The final throw was to Zuber for a 6-yard completion, and somehow K-State went to the locker room with a 21-14 lead.
Iowa State did tie the game on the opening drive of the second half, an 11-yard run by Montgomery, but then the Wildcats took over. They had to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Blake Lynch to retake the lead, but Purdy was then intercepted at midfield by Kavion McGee less than a minute later. Chabastin Taylor scored his first career touchdown, a nine-yard catch, and the lead was ten.
The next Cyclone drive ended the same way as the prior one, with a McGee interception. A couple of minutes into the final quarter, Thompson cashed that in with another touchdown pass to Zuber from four yards out, and it seemed like K-State’s season wasn’t going to end tonight.
And then it all fell apart.
The offense has nothing to be ashamed about tonight. The 38 points were the second-most allowed by Iowa State, and the Cats racked up 428 yards on the league’s best defense. Thompson was 18-27 for 183 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions for a 160 QBR. He found eight different receivers on the night, and had 22 net yards rushing after taking away the 17 yards lost on sacks. Barnes had 184 yards on 28 carries and a score; Dalvin Warmack added 39 on six carries, giving the Cats 245 on the ground. Zuber caught seven balls for 65 yards and two trips to the end zone. Even better: against the fourth-best defense in the nation at stopping opponents in the red zone, K-State got inside the 20 six times and scored every single time they got there. This is how the offense was supposed to look when it was working.
The defense? After being the shining light most of the season and absolutely destroying Texas Tech last week, it all fell apart. Iowa State amassed 493 yards, with Purdy going 20-27 for 337. Montgomery managed 149 yards rushing to go with his three scores; Butler caught five balls for 144 and Milton had two receptions for 71. So aside from McGee’s interceptions and the big fourth-down stop, the defense simply wasn’t good.
Speaking of McGee, he’s the clear defensive player of the game, and may well win the league’s award for the week. His first pick was a thing of beauty, and required wrestling the ball away from Landen Akers. The second was more a result of Purdy throwing a strike right to him, but that’s okay.
With the books now closed on the season, a couple of stats stand out. Thompson finishes the year with 2,080 career passing yards. Only one other K-State sophomore has reached the 2,000 yard mark as a sophomore: Josh Freeman, who had a mind-boggling 5,133.
As for Barnes, he sealed the Big 12 rushing title with 1,355 yards. It’s the fourth-best mark by any Wildcat running back ever, behind two Darren Sproles seasons and one Daniel Thomas campaign. Barnes is now fifth on the K-State all-time rushing leaderboard with 2,616 career yards, climbing over two guys he sees every day: Collin Klein and Eric Hickson. He’s 377 yards shy of John Hubert, who’s in second place. He’d have to go nuts next year to catch Sproles, though, as he’d need 2,363 yards to catch the legend.
So that’s it for 2018. There are open questions, of course. Will Snyder return? He hasn’t even thought about it; asked about his status after the game he said it was the “furthest thing from [his] mind right now.” If he’s decided he’s done, it makes sense that he wouldn’t drop that information on the team after the heartbreaking collapse they endured tonight, and he obviously isn’t going to tell the media before his players.
Will players leave? Who knows? One thing we do know, however, is that the three true freshmen who’d played in four games already — Malik Knowles, Phillip Brooks, and Lance Robinson — all chose on their own not to play tonight in order to preserve their redshirt status. That’s not an indication of anything regarding their desire to stay in Manhattan, of course.
For the first time in a decade, our coverage effectively wraps in November. There will be no bowl, no December practices. There will be speculation, until the need for speculation has passed. On the other hand, for a change the coaching staff — whether it’s this one or the next one — can spend the month recruiting, which might very well have a positive effect in 2020.
But for now, we relax, mourn, and move on... while recognizing that we may have just seen the end of the Bill Snyder era.