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Clutch Martinez reception leads Cats to win

You think we’re kidding.

Josh Hayes was the best player on the field tonight, however.
Josh Hayes was the best player on the field tonight, however.
Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kansas State’s offense struggled, but Adrian Martinez threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Brooks on K-State’s third play of the game, the defense kept Iowa State out of the end zone for sixty minutes, and the Wildcats hung on to first place in the Big 12 with an excruciating 10-9 victory at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

K-State (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) got on the board first after the Cyclones had to punt it away on their first possession. Martinez, under pressure, avoided a sack and chucked the ball downfield to an open Brooks. With an escort from Kade Warner, Brooks raced 81 yards for a touchdown. Prior to that play, the longest pass completed by Martinez this year had been 28 yards.

Hunter Dekkers gashed the Wildcat secondary as Iowa State (3-3, 0-3) answered, but the Wildcats stiffened in the red zone and the Cyclones had to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Jace Gilbert.

Martinez found Brooks again for 21 yards on the first play of the next drive, pushing Brooks over 100 yards on the night, but two failed runs and a badly thrown pass forced the Cats to punt. Ty Zentner was run into, but since it wasn’t roughing — although it should have been — Chris Klieman opted to decline since Austin Moore had downed the punt at the four yard line.

The Cyclones ground their way down the field, with the Wildcats giving up chunks so badly that Josh Hayes had six tackles on the drive. But again, the defense held up inside the 30, and Gilbert had to convert from 44 to bring Iowa State within a point at 7-6.

The Cats had to punt after getting into Cyclone territory, but the Wildcat defense responded with a three-and-out. On third-and-10 from the K-State 32, Martinez again avoided pursuit and found a wide-open Malik Knowles for 68 yards. The problem? Anthony Johnson punched the ball out of Knowles’s arm at the one-foot line, and Iowa State recovered in the end zone.

A 24-yard run by Dekkers got Iowa State near midfield, but they had to punt. Martinez finally started to find some running room, but a huge sack by Will McDonald put the Cats in a 2nd-and-22 hole at their own 17. Martinez got almost all of it on two runs, forcing a decision on 4th-and-3 at the 32. Klieman chose to punt and a shank resulted in only a 29-yard swing.

But Felix Anudike-Uzomah finally found his way into the Cyclone backfield, driving Dekkers back 11 yards with a sack. After that, both teams seemed content to let the half expire.

After trading three-and-outs, K-State began driving the field effectively and burning some clock. But the drive stalled just inside the red zone, and Chris Tennant missed from 33 to leave the scoreboard unchanged. The Cyclones did much the same, except Gilbert converted from 43 and Iowa State took the lead 9-7.

A pass interference call gave K-State a small boost, but after the quarter ended they then went three-and-out after trying a Martinez run on 3rd-and-2 which was so obvious even the TV announcers called it beforehand. Result: punt. But the defense forced a three-and-out, so the Wildcats got another chance just short of midfield.

Martinez completed a 12-yard pass to Knowles; Knowles completed an 11-yard pass to Martinez on a fake jet sweep. Ultimately, K-State had to settle for a 30-yarder from Tennant, which was good and put K-State back up 10-9. But Ben Sinnott was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, costing K-State 15 yards on the kickoff.

Which Zentner uncharacteristically yoinked, bouncing it to the Iowa State 33 and allowing a runback to the Wildcat 49. The defense was having none of it, though, and forced a three-and-out to give K-State the ball at their own eight with 5:37 to play.

Giddens ran for four, then five, and then the coaching staff called a QB run. As earlier, the TV announcers anticipated it. And so did Iowa State, as Martinez was stopped for a loss of three. Punt.

The defense wrecked Iowa State on first, second, and third down. The Cyclones, facing 4th-and-7 from the Wildcat 49 with only 2:36 to go, had no choice.

Dekkers threw a pass which Xavier Hutchinson had, in bounds, for a first down... but he dropped it, and the Wildcats took over. Martinez and Giddens ran out the clock and the Wildcats survived.

Martinez was 12-19 for 246 yards and a touchdown, and PFF’s probably going to credit him with another. He ran for 77 yards, leading the team.

Knowles and Brooks were off the hook, although Knowles is going to have to live with that horrible fumble at the goal line. Knowles went 5-108, Brooks was 4-119.

Giddens ended up being K-State’s second-leading rusher with 32 yards on 8 carries; Vaughn was only 10-23 before departing with a knee issue.

K-State outgained the Cyclones 388-276. The Cats did manage to run for 131 yards, throwing for 257; Iowa State was limited to 78 on the ground and 198 through the air. Knowles’s fumble was the only turnover of the game. Except for poor timing, penalties were not a factor; K-State only committed 3 for 25 yards, Iowa State was 5-40. Time of possession was almost dead even, 30:22-29:38 in K-State’s favor.

What We Learned

1) DJ Giddens finally got some action, just too late.

In a game where Vaughn was being shut down almost entirely and also got hurt somewhat, Giddens only had one carry before K-State had no choice but to put him in, and on the most crucial drive of the game, on 3rd-and-1 after Giddens had gotten the previous nine yards, the staff called a QB run which got eaten, as mentioned above.

We’ve argued at length that he actually needs to be a part of the offense precisely because of the change of pace he brings and to give Vaughn some rest; getting him some action to keep him fresh would also be a genius idea.

2) Martinez CAN throw the ball!

Most of K-State’s passing yardage came on two plays. But both plays were perfect plays by Martinez, and he also had several other nice short-yardage passing plays when they mattered.

3) Martinez also just doesn’t loosen up unless he’s got a safe lead.

Hate to say it, but the evidence is all there. The only time he’s been loose for 60 minutes was Oklahoma, where K-State jumped out fast from the gate.

4) Josh Hayes is a beast.

Hayes had eight tackles in the first quarter alone, including a sequence where he recorded the tackle on four consecutive plays, five of six, and six of eight. Even beyond that, he was everywhere; he almost had a pick, too.

5) For the offense, the biggest test is over.

They sort of failed, and we have serious questions about the predictablity of K-State’s third-and-short playcalling. The chunk plays made the yardage look Not So Bad, but the offense was ineffective overall.

But they won’t play a better defense this year, and they came away with the win.

Players of the Game

There’s not even a debate this week. Phillip Brooks on offense, Josh Hayes on defense. Those two guys effectively won the game if you want to count on clutch plays.


Blessed relaxation. The Wildcats cannot lose next week, because they’re idle. They come back on the 22nd in what surprisingly may well be the deciding battle for the Big 12 title as they travel to Fort Worth to take on the TCU Horned Frogs.