By: D. Scott Fritchen, KStateSports.com
MANHATTAN, Kan. – There’s no telling what might happen when Kansas State and Iowa State get together on the football field, but this edition of the Farmageddon game between rivals was one for the books during Senior Night at snowy Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Will Howard threw for 288 yards and one touchdown and DJ Giddens scored a touchdown while running for 114 yards, but the No. 19 Wildcats saw their last-gasp comeback effort fall short in a 42-35 loss to the Cyclones amid snow showers that blanketed the field throughout the contest.
K-State, 8-4 overall and 6-3 in the Big 12 Conference, now takes this week to regroup and learn its bowl opponent and destination after Iowa State, 7-5 and 6-3, became the first opponent to win in Manhattan this season and set the school record by winning four consecutive conference road games in a single season.
“The locker room is pretty down right now,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said, “especially all those seniors who put so much time and effort into this. We so wanted to go undefeated at home. It hadn’t happened in a long time.”
K-State last went unbeaten in Manhattan in 2012. The Wildcats had outscored their first six opponents, 272-72, in home games this season.
K-State had won 12 of the last 15 games in a series that dates to 1917.
No trends were safe against Iowa State.
“It was weird,” Howard said. “It was definitely a weird flow of a game. I knew it would be given the circumstances and conditions. It’s a rivalry game so you never know what’s going to happen.”
In an unusual game of comparisons, K-State outgained Iowa State 497 yards to 488 yet did so in dramatically different fashion. The Wildcats lit up the scoreboard behind long, methodical drives and ran a school-record 102 plays from scrimmage while possessing the ball for more than 42 minutes.
Iowa State did its damage in fast order. Abu Sama took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage and dashed 71 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of five Iowa State scoring plays that covered at least 60 yards.
Sama had 16 carries for 276 yards and three touchdowns covering 71, 77 and 60 yards. Quarterback Rocco Becht threw three touchdowns that covered 79, 33 and 82 yards.
“It was as simple as tackling,” safety Marques Sigle said. “We just weren’t finishing. And they were.”
K-State took the lead for the first time at 20-14 when Howard found tight end Ben Sinnott with a 15-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Sinnott had 10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown, marking the most receptions by a K-State tight end in a single game in school history.
“We knew we had a good game plan and that we could really do good things against them,” Sinnott said. “Just how everything worked out, it was really frustrating. To not be able to win for all the guys leaving, it was really frustrating.”
Howard’s touchdown pass gave him 24 for the season to tie Ell Roberson (2003) for most touchdown passes in a single season.
K-State and Iowa State traded scores the second half. Iowa State went ahead 21-20 on a 79-yard reception by Jaylin Noel. Howard pushed the Wildcats back on top at 28-21 on a 5-yard rush. Sama scored his third touchdown of the game on a 60-yard run to tie it at 28-28.
Treshaun Ward capped K-State’s most productive drive of the second half on a 2-yard scoring run that ended a drive that encompassed 11 plays and 75 yards to make it 35-28.
However, Iowa State tied the score on a 33-yard catch by Jayden Higgins and then scored the game’s final points when Noel caught a short pass and raced down the Iowa State sideline for an 82-yard score with 8:04 left to play.
Howard led K-State on a final charge that seemed destined to tie the game again. But the Wildcats fell just short after 18 plays and 80 yards when Howard was unable to connect with Phillip Brooks in the end zone on fourth down from the 18-yard line in the final minute.
“We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game and that’s what we want,” center Hayden Gillum said. “It hurts. You want to win every game. Every loss hurts. You just want to win. This was the last one and we had the opportunity to go undefeated at home. I’m grateful for all the fans that came out and supported us in the snow because I know that wasn’t easy. It’s a tough feeling.”
K-State’s four losses this season have been by 3, 8, 3 and 7 points. They now must wipe away this one and await their opponent in the postseason.
“It’s a shame,” Klieman said. “I was so hoping for those seniors that they had the opportunity to win. What we talked about in the locker room was this one is going to hurt, and we don’t have a lot of things this week and then we are going to play in a really good bowl game, and we’ve got to be able to reset in another week once we find out who we play. Then we’ll get them back together and find a way to play a really talented team, whoever we play, and have a lot of fun with this group.”