AMES, Iowa (AP) Kansas State certainly has its issues following a 32-28 win over Iowa State on Saturday.
It also has mental toughness and a star quarterback in Jake Waters – two things that could go a long way in the Big 12 this season.
The 19th-ranked Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) allowed 28 straight points to an offense that scored half that many against an FCS team a week earlier. But they also held Iowa State scoreless in the second half, and Waters led Kansas State on an 80-yard, game-winning drive in just 91 seconds.
”There was a lot of character involved with playing the last five minutes of the game the way that they did,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.
Kansas State’s strong finish was bookended by an encouraging start.
It was the middle of the game that got away from the Wildcats.
Kansas State needed just five plays to take a 7-0 lead, and it held Iowa State (0-2, 0-1) without a yard on its first series. The Wildcats then quickly drove to the Cyclones 10-yard line before stalling out.
Kansas State settled for field goals on back-to-back drives in the first quarter. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time since the Wildcats held a staggering 171-9 advantage in yardage, but it would soon come back to haunt them.
”After the first drive, we turned around and have to kick two field goals. It was a 13-0 ballgame instead of a 21-0 game. That made a huge difference. I think that’s where the real letdown was, right there,” Snyder said.
Iowa State’s stops gave it hope that a comeback was still possible.
The Cyclones spent the next 15 minutes doing whatever it wanted against Kansas State’s inexperienced defense.
Quarterback Sam Richardson led Iowa State on an 85-yard scoring drive to end the first quarter. The Wildcats then let Jarvis West run a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown, and West’s perfect pass off to freshman Allen Lazard off a reverse put the Cyclones ahead 21-13.
Kansas State’s defense gave up its third touchdown in less than 14 minutes late in the first half, with DeVondrick Nealy capping a 75-yard drive on a short TD run.
But to its credit, Kansas State responded.
The Wildcats got a touchdown back before halftime and stuffed Iowa State on a 4th-and-1 in K-State territory to start the second half.
Kansas State outscored Iowa State 19-0 over the final 31 minutes, and Waters took control with his arm and his legs.
Waters threw for 239 yards and rushed for 138 more as the offense averaged nearly seven yards a play without turning the ball over.
”Another side of me kind of came out. I haven’t really shown that a lot. I just wanted it so bad,” Waters said. ”I just knew that we had it in us.”
The Wildcats have a few extra days to sort out their defensive issues before their biggest test so far.
Auburn visits Manhattan on Sept. 18 in one of the marquee matchups of the young season.
”We had a lot of toughness to win a ball game and we didn’t quit. We finished like we wanted to,” running back Charles Jones said.
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