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Iowa State 33, Kansas State 20: What was that?

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The Wildcats looked off from the start, and never could quite find their footing against the visiting Cyclones.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The first play of the game was an omen for the rest of the game, as the Kansas State Wildcats fell to the visiting Iowa State Cyclones 33-20.

The Cyclones won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, which Ty Zentner put into the back of the endzone. On the first play from scrimmage, Breece Hall took a simple handoff to the right. What he found there was a giant hole, and 75 yards later, Hall was in the endzone for the Cyclones. He wasn’t touched until 60 yards downfield, and it was barely enough to break his stride.

And things just got worse from there.

Kansas State went three-and-out on the next drive, punting the ball right back to the Cyclones. But at leas the K-State defense woke up, forcing a three-and-out of their own. Then on the second play of the next drive, Skylar Thompson overthrew Malik Knowles and into the waiting arms of ISU’s Greg Eisworth. Six plays later and the Cyclones’ Andrew Mevis knocked a kick through the uprights to push the Iowa State lead to 10-0.

Finally, K-State’s offense got going. After converting a 2nd-and-23 for a first down, Thompson found Phillip Brooks for a 40-yard touchdown pass to get the Cats on the board. The K-State defense then held the Cyclones to another three-and-out, and then the Wildcats marched down the field on the ensuing drive. The Cats made it into the redzone, but a missed defensive pass interference call on an incompletion was followed by a false-start on the Wildcats, and the drive ended with Taiten Winkel missing the 33-yard field goal attempt wide-right.

Iowa State responded with a 14-play, 80-yard drive capped by and 1-yard run by Breece Hall where he shrugged off the one hand that Cody Fletcher was able to get on him to punch it in for the 17-7 lead. The following three-and-out drive by the WIldcats gave the Cyclones a couple minutes before haltime, and sure enough, the Clones drove into field goal range allowing Mevis to hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to take a 20-7 lead to the half.

After halftime, things didn’t get any better. The Wildcats only went four plays before punting to open the half, which was followed by an 18-play, 93-yard drive by Iowa State that took more than 10 minutes off the clock and ended with an 11-yard toe-tapping TD pass from Brock Purdy to Sean Shaw to put the Cyclones up 27-7

The Wildcats then finally responded, with an 11-play, 75-yard TD drive, that ended at the start of the 4th quarter with a 1-yard TD run by Thompson (who actually got to run a couple times on that drive), but then, as par for the course of the game, Winkel doinked the XP off the right upright, and so the Wildcats only closed to 27-13. The Wildcats defense was only able to slow the Cyclones enough to force a field goal on the next drive, but K-State followed with another 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by Thompson’s nine-yard scoring pass to Malik Knowles that was nearly an interception, but managed to bounce into Knowles hands for the Wildcats single “lucky play” of the game.

With only five minutes left on the clock, the Wildcats attempt an onside kick, but it was ultimately recovered by the Cyclones, who took the short field (and three and a half more minutes off the clock), and Mevis knocked in his third field goal to make it 33-20 Cyclones. With just a smidge over a minute left, and no timeouts, the Wildcats made one last effort at the endzone, but were stopped about 10 yards short of a final score.

This game marked the first time the home team has lost in the last five games in this series, and ends an 8-game home winning streak for the Wildcats that started in 2006 (not including the two games in Arrowhead). It’s also just the second time the Cyclones have won in Manhattan since 1990, with K-State’s other loss coming in the disastrous 2004 season.

Five Things

1) For most of the game, the Wildcats defense some much improved tackling, limiting both yards after contact in the running game, and yards after the catch in the passing game. When they didn’t, Breece Hall ripped them apart.

2) That said, there is still a serious problem with the defense. Clearly losing Khalid Duke was a big blow, but it seems like the coaches have struggled to make adjustments to make up for the lost. Blown assignments don’t help, but coming out of a bye week, it’s expected that the Cats would have fixed a few of those things.

3) Slow starts are a serious problem for this team. The offense can’t handle the pressue of playing from behind early. The Wildcats also cannot afford to miss scoring opportunities in the redzone. Coming away with zero points is a sure-fire way to dig a big hole.

4) The Wildcats offense was actually pretty effective against Iowa State’s defense. It was the first time this season that an opponent has put up over 300 yards on the Cyclones first-team defense. The Wildcats 136 yards on the ground was also the most by an opponent against the first string (this is important, because KU ran for 175 two weeks ago, but the first-team defense didn’t play all of that game).

5) Where does this team go from here? The Wildcats seem to be getting worse as the season goes along, not better. We laughed at the early betting line, and moreso when it began to balloon in Iowa State’s favor, thinking this game would be tighter than it turned out to be. The Wildcats are mired in an 8-game conference losing streak, and look little like the team that started the season 3-0. There’s a stretch of four very winnable games coming up, but can K-State take advantage, or will be be sweating out the game on Nov. 6th?

Players of the Game

The offensive line gets the nod on offense, they gave Skylar lots of time to work, and helped pave the way for those 136 rushing yards. After a bit of a rocky start, they’ve become the strength of the offense we expected them to be, and that’s a very good thing.

No one gets a nod for defense or special teams. At times it felt like the Wildcats defense was merely just an inconvenience to Iowa State. Purdy operated without pressure until near the end of the final drive of the game. Hall still manged 122 yards without including the disastrous 75-yard TD run to open the game. And a missed field goal and XP is no bueno.

Next

The Wildcats will head to Lubbock next weekend to take on a Red Raiders team that has shown life on offense, but is still pretty questionable on defense. But they’re still 5-2, and will be looking to lock up bowl eligibility for the first time since 2017.