In what may be a surprise to our Big 12 Conference friends from the South, the two rebuilding programs of Iowa State and Kansas State put on a spirited battle in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday.
The game was the first in a two-year agreement with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, which is providing $1.8 million to each school for agreeing to forgo a home game in order to play at Arrowhead instead. This was Iowa State’s “home game” and next year will be the K-State home game on the NFL field. More than 40,000 fans of the two schools traveled to Kansas City for the game, which was played under mostly grey skies with temps in the low 50s.
The first half saw the Wildcats jump off to a quick 7-0 lead with an 89 yard scoring drive capped off by a two yard run by Kansas State quarterback Grant Gregory. Coming off three straight 100 yard games, Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson had a 36 yard run at the end of the first quarter but reinjured a groin pull and was on the sidelines for the rest of the game.
Nonetheless, the Cyclones marched down the field and cut into the Wildcat lead with a 32 yard field goal by Grant Mahoney with 9:39 to go in the second quarter.
Later in the second quarter, after a K-State three and out, ISU quarterback Austin Arnaud’s used his feet to get several first downs. TE Derrick Catlett found a soft spot in the Wildcat zone and reeled in a 22 yard touchdown pass from Arnaud to bring the score to 10-7 for the Cyclones.
As the first half was ending, K-State moved down the field and took advantage of a controversial pass interference call to set up a 39 yard field goal by Josh Cherry to knot the score at 10 heading into the break.
Iowa State continued to be able to rush the ball with Arnaud and backup RB Jeremiah Schwartz moving the pile. The Cyclone offensive line was having its way with the Wildcat defenders. Arnaud completed the drive with a three yard run to put the Cyclones up 17-10 with 7:27 to go in the third.
After trading punts, Grant Gregory’s elusiveness kept the K-State offense on the field into the fourth quarter. On a critical third and goal on the 16, Gregory scrambled to keep the play alive until he was able to find Lamark Brown in the left side of the end zone, bringing the score to 17 apiece.
On the next offensive series for the Cyclones, Arnaud fumbled near midfield giving all of the momentum to Kansas State. On the very next play, Gregory threw deep to the left side of the field and Iowa State snatched control back with a Kennard Banks interception. The stalemate continued with ISU punting to K-State.
The diminutive and slippery Wildcat Brandon Banks was able to get open behind two Cyclone defenders for a 54 yard touchdown pass with 5:36 to go in the game, bringing the score to 24-17 for the Wildcats. Banks had four receptions on the day for a total of 66 yards.
The Cyclones got the ball back and immediately stalled, punting the ball to K State’s 9 yard line with 4:06 to play. Kansas State was unable to get the necessary two first downs to ice the game and had to punt back to Iowa State with 2:06 remaining.
Iowa State, who had used a no huddle offense all day, started their final drive at their own 36 yard line. After six plays, the Cyclones had a crucial 4th and 5 at the Wildcat 45. Arnaud completed a 22 yard pass on a leaping reception by Marquis Hamilton to put the Cyclones into striking distance. On the very next play, Arnaud fired a pass to the deep right corner of the end zone and Cyclone Jake Williams was able to make the catch, bringing the Cyclones to within one point of K-State with 32 seconds left. However, the Cyclones found another way to lose when the Wildcat’s 6 foot 4 inch Emmanuel Lamur lept high to block the extra point attempt.
Iowa State’s onside kick was unsuccessful and sent the purple-clad fans into a frenzy, while the Cyclone faithful were left wondering what might have been.
It was a hard fought and entertaining matchup between teams with a brighter future ahead of them. No Big 12 opponents should overlook these squads on their schedule.
Thanks to York and Red for making the trek to Kansas City and providing Eyes Of TX with the game recap.