Jake Waters scored two touchdowns including an eight-yard run with 1:30 left and 20th-ranked Kansas State overcame a 15-point first half deficit to defeat Iowa State 32-28 in the Big 12 opener for both teams before 54,800 at Jack Trice Stadium in Amesf on a sunsplashed Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats entered the contest as double-digit favorites and early on it looked like they would live up to that billing. After a long pass from Waters to Tyler Lockett set them up in the red zone, Charles Jones running out of the Wildcat offense got K-State on the board first with a 7-0 lead on a four yard run. Kansas State had a real opportunity to blow the game open early but the next two drives stalled and they would have to settle for two Jack Cantele Field Goals of 27 and 41 yards and a 13-0 lead.
Then Iowa State, reeling from a 20-point home loss in its season opener to three-time defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State woke up in a hurry. The Cyclones scored 28 unanswered points in the latter part of the first quarter and in the second quarter. K-State gave up three of the touchdowns to Jarvis West who scored on an 82-yard punt return and also threw for and received one other touchdown each. K-State was also having discipline issues in the first half, committing nine penalties and converting just one third down in six opportunities.
Still K-State got an important score before halftime when Waters snuck in from one yard out. The Wildcats got a break when Lockett appeared to be out of bounds on a pass reception on the previous play but Waters got the scoring play off before officials could review the Lockett catch pulling the Wildcats to within 28-20 at halftime.
In the second half, K-State’s defense after perhaps its worst half of Football since the 2012 season put the clamps down on the Cyclones but there was still frustration on offense when Waters was stopped on fourth down early in the fourth quarter ending a 16 play drive that took eight minutes off the clock but produced no points. The turning point in the game however came when Randall Evans made a spectacular play by stripping the ball from West after a reception with 9:15 left. It took just four plays and 1:14 for K-State to find the end zone when Jones scored for the second time from four yards out. Still Iowa State clung to a two-point lead when Waters was stopped just short of the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt.
After their next drive went three and out, K-State got one more chance on their last drive which began on their own 20-yard line with 3:01 remaining. Thanks to another long pass to Lockett and his own long run, Waters put the Wildcats in position once again despite beginning the drive with no timeouts. Then Waters scored from eight yards out with 1:31 left and even though they missed another two-point conversion, Iowa State would have to drive the length of the field facing a four-point deficit.
They made it is far as the Wildcat 40-yard line before Bradley Richardson was sacked on fourth down and the Wildcats claimed their seventh consecutive victory over the Cyclones. Waters finished the day 16-29 for 239 yards and the two rushing touchdowns while leading the team with 143 yards on the ground. Lockett led all receivers with six catches for 136 yards.
While K-State is not generally known for making up large deficits, Saturday’s game reminded many Wildcat fans of the 1999 conference opener in Ames when K-State rallied from deficits of 21-0 and 28-7 to beat Iowa State 35-28. K-State also wins its fourth Big 12 opener in the last six seasons while Iowa State has not won a conference opener since 2002.
K-State will have next Saturday off before returning to Bill Snyder Family Stadium for its showdown with SEC power Auburn on September 18. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.