AMES, Iowa — Kansas State dodged bullets shot at its own feet on Saturday, something the sixth-ranked Wildcats hadn’t been forced to do all season. The Wildcats entered Saturday’s road tilt at Iowa State as the least-penalized team in the country, averaging 1.8 flags per game and just 14.2 penalty yards per contest. However, against the Cyclones, K-State was flagged nine times, doubling its previous five-game total on the season.
“We’re not known for making penalties and that killed us today,” K-State linebacker Tre Walker said. “Whether it was a holding or a clipping call, we just can’t make those penalties. That can allow a team to stay in the game. Today it allowed Iowa State to stay in the game.
“We were fortunate that we were able to come back but we can’t continue to do that. We can’t be a mistake-defense or a mistake-offense. We have to be mistake-free, take care of our business and get off the field.”
The Wildcats were penalized nine times for 62 yards, with a large portion of the flags coming at inopportune times.
“It is out-of-character for us to be a highly-penalized team and we were,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “That’s tremendously out-of-character for us. We’ve been the least-penalized team in the country and today we were the most-penalized team in the country. That’s not the right direction for us to be going.”
But here’s the kicker to it all: The Wildcats still created a path to victory in front of 56,800 people — the largest crowd to ever attend an Iowa State home football game. There was adversity — much of it self-inflicted — but the Wildcats overcame it.
K-State’s Tramaine Thompson muffed a punt inside the Wildcats’ own 20-yard line in the second quarter. The defense picked up its teammate, following it up with an interception on the first play of the ensuing drive.
The Wildcats battled electronic issues in getting play calls transferred from the coaches’ box to the sideline, which played a role in the Wildcats burning all three of their first-half timeouts early in the half.
“We had some phone issues down on the sideline,” Snyder said. “We put (quarterback Collin Klein) in a position where he had too many decisions to make and not enough time because we didn’t get the plays in as quickly as we should.”
Again, K-State overcame it.
“Every second is precious, even two or three seconds is critical,” Klein said. “It’s hard because (the play has) to be relayed down from up top to the sideline, sideline to me, me to the huddle and then if there’s any changes or any other communication that needs to happen. I credit our guys and coaches for hanging in there when things weren’t going well. We hung together and got it done.”
That’s been the formula for this team dating back to last season. There aren’t any excuses, the Wildcats just go out and get the job done no matter what is thrown their way.
“Number 10 on our 16 Goals of Success says ‘never give up,’” Walker said. “We don’t give up. I don’t care what you say or what you do to us we never give up. That’s the biggest thing. We handle adversity.”
The Wildcats might not have the fewest penalties in the country following Saturday’s victory. But what has helped make them so successful is they seem to learn from their mistakes. So consider Saturday a learning experience.
“Nine penalties was uncharacteristic,” Klein said. “We’ve been able to keep those under control all year. It got us today. It’s just a reminder and thankfully we were able to learn with a win.
“We’ve got to clean that up. There’s no doubt about it. That’s not how we play.”
No, it’s not. However, there’s an adage that says it’s not how you are when you’re at your best, but how you react when you’re at your worst. The Wildcats fell somewhere in the middle of that Saturday, yet they still found a way to get the job done.
“I think there’s a degree of fortitude with our players,” Snyder said. “We talked about the intrinsic values and I think some of that comes through.”