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Defense carries Cats past Cyclones

By Joshua Kinder

You can’t win if you can’t score.

Kansas State kept Iowa State off the scoreboard for the first 56 minutes of the game Saturday — riding its most dominant defensive performance of the season to a 41-7 rout of the Cyclones at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

“We’re getting better at the right things and those things tend to give you an opportunity to play a little bit better,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I think we played better because we prepared better.”

The Wildcats’ second straight win also evened their record at 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Big 12, as K-State participated in Fort Riley Day at the stadium by modifying its helmet with a camouflage Powercat and stripes — the first change in the current K-State helmet since 1989.

But Snyder wanted the shutout. The defense easily played well enough to get it too — only surrendering a touchdown after backup running back Robert Rose fumbled at the K-State 10-yard line with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game.

“I’m immensely disappointed,” Snyder said. (Shutouts) don’t happen often in college football anymore. Our youngsters played well enough that they deserved the goose egg.”

The last team K-State shut out was Kent State during the 2011 season. The last Big 12 shutout in Manhattan was the 66-0 trouncing of Missouri in 1999. K-State has just two shutouts since the 2006 season.

“We’re a little disappointed,” K-State senior safety Ty Zimmerman said. “That’s something we talked about on the sideline and we can’t even remember the last time we got a shutout.”

K-State’s defensive performance was about as complete as they come, especially for a defense that struggled early on after replacing nine starters this season. Not that the Cyclones were an offensive juggernaut entering the game, but K-State controlled the contest from the first quarter through the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats held the Cyclones (1-7, 0-5) to just 249 yards of total offense — 126 passing and 123 rushing — marking the fewest yards allowed by K-State since the win at West Virginia last season. Iowa State’s longest play of the day was a 16-yard pass late in the second quarter.

“Since we’re in the eighth game of the season, guys are getting more comfortable out there and familiar with situations — playing a little more loose and not as timid to get to the ball,” Wildcat defensive end Ryan Mueller said. “It’s good — I’m glad we’re getting hot now.”

Iowa State used two quarterbacks and neither proved to be very good Saturday, as K-State held the tandem to a combined 17-of-36 passing with three interceptions — one by Zimmerman, another by Dorrian Roberts and then late in the fourth quarter, linebacker Dakorey Johnson, who returned it 39 yards to the ISU 1 to seal the victory.

“Still too many missed decisions, too many plays left out there, not enough production in leadership on the offensive side to get us into the end zone,” Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said.

But as good as K-State was defensively, the Wildcats were equally as good offensively, producing their most balanced effort of the season with 227 rushing yards and 221 passing yards and converting five of their six red-zone chances into touchdowns.

John Hubert led the Wildcats’ charge on the ground, finishing with 15 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns — a 9-yard scamper in the first quarter and a 3-yard run early in the fourth that put K-State ahead 27-0. Hubert broke free for a 54-yard rush up the middle in the first quarter that helped set up the Wildcats’ second score of the game — a 44-yard field goal by Jack Cantele to make it 10-0. Cantele added a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter to push K-State’s lead to 20-0.

“They had more explosive plays that we can’t allow and win the game, especially in the first half,” Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George said. “They had a lot of great plays on first and second down that we couldn’t stop.”

Jake Waters started again under center and played the majority of the first half. The junior orchestrated a pair K-State scoring drives in the first quarter, but stalled out some in the second. That’s when Daniel Sams entered the game and guided the Wildcats down the field on a 12-play, 72-yard drive — capped by Sams’ 1-yard sneak that put K-State ahead 17-0 just before the half.

The sophomore finished the game 4-for-5 passing for 64 yards and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Tramaine Thompson with 7:06 remaining that extended the Wildcats’ lead to 34-0. Sams also rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries. Waters wasn’t bad either, finishing 9 of 15 for 157 passing yards and rushing seven times for 32 yards. But perhaps the biggest number of the day was zero — the total number of turnovers by the KSU quarterbacks.

Sams said he thought this was the offense’s most complete game all season, but there is still a lot of work do to going forward, especially with a date at Texas Tech looming next week.

“I know Coach Snyder and all of the offensive coaches expect more from us,” Sams said. “I think we all expect more from ourselves. We played well today, but we didn’t finish sometimes and we had one turnover (Rose’s fumble). Ultimately, that’s what we don’t want to have. We got the job done today, but we still have room for improvement.”

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