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FARMAFINAL: Iowa State 42, Kansas State 35

Was it the snow, or was it just softness? We don’t know.

Nov 25, 2023; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; A father and his son watch the football game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium.
This isn’t JT, but he probably looked like this.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Abu Sama scored touchdowns of 77, 71, and 60 yards while Rocco Becht threw touchdown passes of 80, 79, and 33 yards, and even 35 points and 497 yards of offense by K-State wasn’t enough as Iowa State knocked off the Wildcats 42-35 tonight in the snow at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Neither team played defense worth a damn tonight, but Iowa State did a superior job of stopping drives and limiting huge plays, while K-State did a better job of moving the ball consistently. The defense giving up massive scoring plays, however, erased any advantage that consistency might have provided.

Iowa State scored on a 71-yard run by Abu Sama on the first play of the game. The Cats went 3-and-out, but Austin Moore recovered a Sama fumble to get the ball back. A few plays later, RJ Garcia was dragged down in the end zone to draw a pass interference call, putting K-State at the Cyclone 12. A poorly-called option on third down forced a 23-yard field goal by Chris Tennant to close the gap to 7-3.

The Cats topped Iowa State again, and shifted running backs to Treshaun Ward. Howard found Ben Sinnott for 13, then Phillip Brooks for 26; the latter play was called back on an illegal man downfield penalty, but Howard found Jayce Brown for 20 to make up for most of it and got the rest back with his legs two plays later as K-State again entered the red zone. Getting a 1st-and-goal at the 5, the offense again stalled, and Tennant had to come on for another 23-yarder.

On the first play of the second quarter, K-State had guys all over Saba and should have tackled him for a two-yard loss. Instead, he scored on a 77-yard run to give Iowa State a 14-6 lead. Two completions to Sinnott and a bunch of yards from Giddens, including a 15-yard run that put him over 1,000 yards on the season, got the Cats down to the Iowa State 3. Two plays later, he bulled in from the one to close the gap to one point again.

Sama busted off another big run, 31 yards, but a bad snap by the Cyclones resulted in an 18-yard loss and the Cats forced a punt. K-State went 3-and-out; after a near-interception by Marques Sigle forced the Cyclones to do the same; then the Cats did it again.

But the punt hit Caleb Bacon of the Cyclones while he was blocking, and was pounced on by Seth Porter to retain possession for K-State. A near-pick by Bacon forced fourth down, and the Cats went for it; Howard found Brown just past the sticks to keep things moving. Another pass to Brown moved the ball to the 15 before Howard just missed him in the end zone then almost threw a pick to Bacon again; Howard then dumped a pass off to Sinnott who bulled his way in for the go-ahead score with 15 seconds left in the half.

After half, Howard’s throws downfield were off-target although a couple of dumps found their mark. The Cats approached midfield before having to punt. But Rocco Becht, who’d been 3-5 for 10 yards passing in the first half, found an open Jaylin Noel for a 79-yard strike to put Iowa State back on top 21-20.

A 44-yard completion to Sinnott set K-State up for another trip into the red zone, and Sinnott again got the Cats inside the 10, and then to the 4 before Howard waltzed in on a bootleg to regain the lead. Brooks scored on a jet sweep to convert a two-point play to make the score 28-21.

Saba broke loose again, and Will Lee just bumped him in the back instead of trying to tackle him; result, 60-yard touchdown run and a tie game. The Cats marched back, aided by big catches from Brown and Will Swanson, and were again in the red zone as the third quarter came to a close. A pass interference call on the Cyclones put the ball at the two, and Ward made it 35-28 K-State a play later.

Becht converted a 3rd-and-5 for a 22-yard completion to Jayden Higgins, then found him again on the next play for a 33-yard score to tie the game again. The Cats had to punt, and then facing 3rd-and-16, with K-State only rushing three and everyone else ten yards off the line of scrimmage, Becht hit Noel for an 82-yard score and suddenly it was 42-35 Cyclones.

Then Howard got picked off by Gerry Vaughn, but the defense finally forced a 3-and-out. That resulted in a punt leaving K-State at their own 3-yard line. Howard went back to throwing passes to nobody, and faced 4th-and-7 at their own 24. With time against them, the Cats went for it, and Howard found Brooks for 10. Then Garrett Oakley for 22. A pass interference penalty saved K-State on 4th-and-8 at the 49 and K-State got down to the 18 before four straight incompletions by Howard left 49 seconds on the clock for Iowa State to kill.

Sama’s final line was 276 yards rushing on 16 carries, and average of 17.3 per touch. When the Cats were actually able to get in front of him, they limited his effectiveness; he had 95 yards on 13 carries aside from those scoring plays, but that was still a mansome performance.

Howard reached the middle of the fourth quarter having completed over two-thirds of his passes, but his inaccuracy down the stretch left him at 24-48 for 288 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Becht was “only” 8-12 for 230, but three touchdowns on top of that left him with an insane passer rating of 310.2.

Giddens had yet another 100-yard game, finishing with 114, but it took him 31 carries to get there. Ward had 48 on 11, and Howard addded 46 on 11 himself; all three scored once. Sinnott had 136 yards receiving on 10 catches with a score; Brown had 5 for 69.

K-State finished with 497 yards of offense, 288 passing and 209 rushing. Iowa State had 488, 230 passing and 258 rushing. Each team was penalized six times, Iowa State for 72 yards and the Cats for 55. Time of possession? K-State had the ball for over 42 minutes, and it didn’t matter. K-State won the turnover battle 2-1, and that didn’t matter either.

WHAT WE LEARNED

1) Abu Sama is a beast, and he needs to transfer somewhere else.

Because we don’t need to see him again. Ever.

2) That said, the secondary needs to run stairs. A lot of them.

You cannot tackle opponents by hitting them with your shoulder. Or shoving them. Or trying to grab them with one hand when you have position on them.

With the exception of Sama’s first touchdown, when he basically went untouched at all, every big play he had involved multiple Wildcats having him in their sights and just failing to tackle properly. The 22-yard catch by Higgins should only have been for nine; again, absolute failure to make a real attempt to tackle him.

3) Someone hasn’t learned their lesson about prevent.

The second Noel touchdown was utterly preventable, and someone should have realized this because K-State’s been burned on that exact defensive formation more than once this year. Perhaps considering what it is you are doing wrong, from time to time, would be more fruitful than asking yourself how you keep getting beat the same way over and over.

4) Weather makes things weird.

Earlier this year in a torrential downpour, Alabama couldn’t move the ball to save their lives against South Florida. Tonight, both teams — possessed of good defenses, mind you — were giving up yards so fast it was like a spinning odometer. Iowa State was doing it in chunks, K-State was doing it methodically, but nobody could stop anyone.

How much of that was attributable to the snow? Who knows? One thing’s for sure though: it wasn’t all attributable to the snow.

5) How bad was this, really? BAD.

Iowa State had scoring plays of 71, 77, 79, 60, 33, and 82 yards. You may note that accounts for every touchdown prior to Howard’s interception; at that point, Iowa State had run exactly two plays inside K-State territory, not counting extra points. Those six plays accounted for 402 yards; Iowa State had 488 yards of offense.

That’s 86 yards on 29 non-scoring plays for the entire game. This wasn’t a failure of stopping a team from moving the chains; it was a failure to stop anyone period six specific times.

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Ben Sinnott gets the nod on offense, as he carried the offense on his back in clutch situations. On defense, nobody really deserves it, but we’ll give it to Austin Moore for his fumble recovery.

NEXT

Some boring bowl game we’re tired of going to, probably.