On a wild and crazy day of Big 12 football, Kansas State became the final undefeated team in the conference with a hard-fought 27-21 victory at Iowa State.
The Wildcats were off their game a little bit, and certainly made more unforced errors than usual, but senior quarterback Collin Klein and their defense were more than good enough for them to win in a tough road environment.
How did it happen? Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
1. Unlike other teams across the Big 12, K-State won despite a sub-par effort
That speaks volumes to what the Wildcats accomplished on Saturday. West Virginia played its worst game of the season and got destroyed by Texas Tech. Texas played its worst game and got humiliated by Oklahoma. Baylor played its worst game and got blown out at home by TCU. But when K-State committed as many penalties against Iowa State (9) as it did in its first five games combined, and gave the Cyclones two chances to win the game in the final moments in front of a record crowd of 56,800 at Jack Trice Stadium, it held strong. It is now in sole possession of first place in the league standings, and can take a commanding lead in the conference race with a win at West Virginia next week. The Wildcats already own an impressive win, and tie-breaker, over fellow contender Oklahoma.
2. Kansas State’s defense is underrated
The Wildcats don’t rank at the top of the Big 12 in any defensive category, but they once again proved they have one of the best defenses in the league by holding the Cyclones to 231 yards and 21 points. Arthur Brown didn’t play his best game on Saturday, but he is one of the best linebackers in the nation. Ty Zimmerman has intercepted a pass in three straight games and Randall Evans is disrupting teams in the middle. K-State’s zone pass coverage has too many holes and gives up too much yardage for some to consider it an upper-level unit in the Big 12, but it hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game this season. That is so valuable in the Big 12. K-State’s offense knows all it needs is 22 points to win a game.
3. The question now is, how does West Virginia respond?
Before Texas Tech proved the Mountaineers and their high-powered offense were beatable Saturday afternoon, I asked K-State football coach Bill Snyder how he planned to prepare for Geno Smith and West Virginia this week. “I’m going to send someone out there to kidnap their quarterback and three or four of their wide receivers as well,” Snyder responded. “They are all pretty doggone good. We’ve got to go to school and figure some things out. We’ve done some research on them earlier, as we do all football teams. They are a dynamic football team.” That is still the case today, but Texas Tech certainly provided a blue print for how to hold down that offense. Smith completed 29 of 55 passes and only led WVU to two touchdowns. Of course, Texas Tech made Oklahoma look bad last year a week before the Sooners traveled to Manhattan and handed the Wildcats their first loss. OU responded with rage that day. Can West Virginia do the same? No one knows. Next week’s game loses some hype now that one of the teams has a loss, but it still has huge Big 12 title implications. West Virginia can make it a three-team race if it wins. Will that give it added motivation? K-State can take a commanding lead with a road victory.
A few that were good:
1. Collin Klein
This was arguably his best game of the season. He threw for 187 yards, rushed for 105 yards, scored three touchdowns and boosted his Heisman Trophy chances with Geno Smith’s poor game against Texas Tech. Unlike K-State’s other victories, Klein didn’t get as much help from his supporting cast against the Cyclones. John Hubert was held to 82 yards and the offensive line committed penalties and allowed him to get sacked twice. But he continually came through with clutch plays and carried his team at times. He found Chris Harper four times for important completions, but was most impressive scrambling out of the pocket for first downs. He showed great patience, waited for holes to open up and made defenders miss from there.
“Something just opened up and you run faster than the people who are chasing you,” Klein said.
2. Ty Zimmerman
The junior safety intercepted a pass in his third straight game, and he picked the perfect time to come up with a turnover against Iowa State. Tramaine Thompson had just fumbled a punt, giving the Cyclones terrific field position in the second quarter. But when they tried to take advantage of that momentum swing with a pass into the end zone, Zimmerman intercepted the ball on the next play and helped K-State go into halftime with a lead.
“We talked in the huddle about a quick defensive change and we made sure to get a stop or turnover to switch the momentum,” Zimmerman said. “And that’s what happened. We were really fortunate to get that.”
3. Chris Harper
The senior receiver made four catches for 51 yards, and continually gave Klein an open man to throw to in key situations. Iowa State cornerbacks played off the line off scrimmage against him, and he took advantage.
“They were just playing real soft,” Harper said. “The whole game they were playing 10 yards deep. I guess they thought I was pretty fast. I’ll take it. Play deep off me, please.”
4. Meshak Williams
K-State didn’t get much pressure on Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett on Saturday, hurrying him twice with no sacks, but Williams still made it hard for him to throw by deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage. He knocked down two passes, and made Barnett think about him every time he threw over the middle.
5. Ryan Doerr
Iowa State had to start drives in the second half on its own 1 and its own 3. Doerr and K-State’s punt-coverage team gave the Cyclones some of the worst field position imaginable.
6. Randall Evans
The hybrid defensive back followed up a strong game against Kansas, in which he tipped two passes that led to interceptions, with another impressive showing at Iowa State. He led the team with nine tackles.
A few that were bad:
1. Braden Wilson
The fullback was flagged twice for holding and failed to open holes or deliver big blocks like he normally does. K-State gave him the ball a few times, too, and he didn’t do much with it, gaining nine total yards.
2. Keenan Taylor
The right right guard committed a costly tripping penalty in the first quarter, which led to a field goal instead of a touchdown, and K-State’s offensive line seemed weak at times on the right side. Klein was sacked twice, with pressure coming at him on the right. Adding insult to the performance: K-State’s offensive line was flagged for holding on one of the sacks.
3. Tramaine Thompson
K-State’s receiver/punt returner had a tough time fielding an extremely high punt from Iowa State in the second quarter, and couldn’t catch it cleanly. The ball floated over his head and bounced off his hands, leading to a fumble. He played well within the offense and made a good play on a 23-yard catch on an under thrown pass from Klein, but his fumbled punt was a mistake the Wildcats don’t tolerate.
4. Arthur Brown
K-State’s best defensive player was a little off on Saturday. Barnett fooled him with a simple juke move in open space and picked up a first down on a quarterback scramble, and he was mostly ineffective on blitzes. The Cyclones did a good job of avoiding him on offense, so K-State coaches asked him to do some different things. He also suffered an injury to his left ear, and left Ames with a bandage over it.
5. K-State linebackers
Brown wasn’t the only player in the middle of K-State’s defense who struggled to make big plays against Iowa State. Justin Tuggle, Tre Walker and Jarell Childs combined for three tackles. Childs did have one nice play in which he hurried Barnett into an incomplete pass, though.
Key play you may have overlooked
There’s no telling how the game would have turned out without Zimmerman’s interception at the goal line. Had Iowa State scored a touchdown on a short field and capitalized on a Thompson fumble, it would have taken a 14-10 lead and had all the momentum. It eventually went ahead 14-10 anyway, but K-State used that extra time to regain its composure and take a halftime lead.
It had to be a frustrating day for Bill Snyder. His team committed an uncharacteristically high nine penalties and communication problems led to three wasted timeouts early in the first half. Things were not going exactly as planned. But his players showed enough discipline to get the win, and the defense played well when it mattered.
K-State entered Saturday’s game losing the time-of-possession battle on the season, but that is no longer the case. The Wildcats held the ball for nearly 41 minutes against Iowa State.
Quote to note
“We had our moments, but we certainly had things that we’d like to have back,” — Bill Snyder.