No matter the result, K-State Football has emphasized the importance of sticking together this season. That will be more important than ever for the Wildcats following a 45-0 loss to No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday.
K-State (4-4, 4-3 Big 12) marched down the field on its opening drive of the game but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-goal against Iowa State (6-2, 6-1).
That set the tone for an afternoon when the Cyclones would limit K-State to 149 yards of total offense.
“Our offense had a great first drive and we couldn’t finish that drive and then kind of sputtered after that,” Chris Klieman said. “Frustrating in all phases. Talked about that to the guys. We need to improve, get better and we can’t worry about things we can’t control.”
Deuce Vaughn collected 94 yards serving as K-State’s primary kick returner. He was involved in the backfield and as a receiver against Iowa State, but couldn’t replicate his success on special teams.
“They have a really good defense. They flew around all day and just made plays,” Vaughn said. “It’s always about that next play, next play, next play. We need to get back to that.”
K-State arrived in Ames without several playmakers on both sides of the football, including a depleted linebacking core that struggled to slow down the Cyclones.
Cody Fletcher led K-State with nine tackles, including seven solo efforts against Iowa State.
“We gave up too many explosive plays,” he said. “The name of the game for Iowa State is shifts and motions to get us out of alignment. For myself, they got me out of alignment a few times and I just didn’t make the play.”
Will Howard got the start at quarterback for K-State, going 3-for-9 for 32 passing yards.
On the first drive of the afternoon, Howard rushed for 13 yards on four carries and tossed a 29-yard pass to Chabastin Taylor to march the Wildcats deep into Iowa State territory.
But a fourth-down stop gave the Cyclones all the momentum they would need on Saturday, as K-State was held in check the rest of the game.
Howard would give way to Nick Ast at quarterback in the second half, as the Cimarron native went 6-for-10 for 44 yards in his first extended action of the season.
“He’s earned the right. He’s had great practices; he’s been with us the whole time. Wanted to see what he could do,” Klieman said. “I didn’t want to have Will take any more shots because we weren’t really doing a great job of protecting and they were teeing off.”
Vaughn led the Wildcats on the ground with 44 rushing yards, leaving Jack Trice Stadium with 138 total yards after his explosive afternoon on special teams.
Chabastin Taylor led all K-State receivers with 37 yards on a pair of grabs against the Cyclones.
The Wildcats are back in action next Saturday for their final road game of the season, a trip to Waco for a matchup with Baylor.
“Just coming together off the field and having a talk with each other like, ‘We need everybody.’ [Because] that one hurts,” Fletcher said. “We’ve just got to move forward starting on Monday and get ready for Baylor.”